Self-Order Solutions Take Center Stage at Restaurant Show
Kiosks are quickly becoming an integral part of the QSR and fast-casual space. Here are some factors to consider when planning for a self-order solution by Olea Kiosks, Inc.
The 99th annual National Restaurant Association trade show wrapped up its four-day run May 22, but one of the hottest topics of the event wasn’t food. It was technology.
Mobile order and pay garnered quite a bit of attention, as did product vending solutions. One of the real stars of the show, however, was self-order kiosk technology thanks to their demonstrated ability to increase customer throughput and increase sales by automating suggestive selling.
Still, it’s not enough for a restaurant operator to just install a kiosk near the counter and wait for the orders to roll in. The design of the kiosk itself goes a long way toward encouraging customers to use the devices. In conjunction though the restaurant needs to ensure kitchen output matches up with kitchen input. Bakery café chain Panera Bread updated their kitchens first and then added kiosks and multi-channel ordering. The objective is more orders taken and fulfilled, faster.
There’s little doubt that self-order kiosks will be an central component of the QSR and fast-casual restaurant landscape going forward. McDonald’s expects to have self-order kiosks in most of its 14,000 restaurants by 2020, while Wendy’s currently has them in many of its 6,500-plus locations. Other fast-food operations are following suit, creating their own variations best-suited for their restaurant environments. More compact and less costly designs that are cost-effective to deploy are starting to become commonplace.
On the fast-casual side, Panera made self-order kiosks an integral part of its “Panera 2.0” effort, which it began rolling out in 2014. Before the company was taken private last year, officials indicated that sales increases at restaurants outfitted with the initiative were outpacing sales at those without the technology.
It’s evident that these companies and others wouldn’t be investing millions of dollars in self-order technology unless it had been proven to offer tangible benefits. To maximize those benefits, though, deployers should take a few critical factors into consideration when planning to incorporate self-order kiosks into their operations.
The user interface
Key to encouraging customers to use self-order kiosks on a regular basis is a clean, simple user interface. The order flow must be intuitive and easy to navigate. Choices should be presented logically, with similar items on the same page and accompanied by professionally shot images. Add-ons should be suggested where appropriate. Also, it should be easy for the customer to go back and make changes if they decide on a different selection.
Enclosure & mounting
It’s likely that some customers will need some degree of education to encourage them to use a self-order kiosk. For freestanding kiosks, the enclosure and attractor screen should include messaging that illustrates the kiosk’s purpose. Tablet-based kiosks should consist of nearby signage along with the attractor screen inviting users to bypass the line.
More importantly, self-order kiosks need to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Are the devices usable by someone in a wheelchair? What about a blind or visually impaired customer? Accessible by all should be ensured.
The last thing a restaurant deploying self-order kiosks wants is to be branded with the reputation that they don’t care about the disabled. On the flip side, the disabled will likely be a growing customer base if you support ADA. When it comes to self-order kiosks, ADA compliance is a minefield best navigated with the assistance of an experienced kiosk vendor, and possibly your legal department.
Service & support
A kiosk is a collection of electronic components and as with any such device it will eventually need service, whether that be a simple cleaning or the replacement of a part. Can the unit be serviced easily and with a minimum of effort? Can parts be swapped out quickly, keeping downtime to a minimum?
Just as important, does the kiosk vendor offer phone support to assist deployers with service issues by phone, and service programs designed to resolve problems quickly when a site visit is required
The rest of the operation
One of the main reasons a restaurant operator will consider deploying a self-order kiosk is to alleviate congestion at the counter and increase order throughput. The misconception that self-order kiosks will help cut labor is just that: a misconception. Many restaurants that have deployed self-order kiosks reported an increase in sales, requiring more, not fewer employees to accommodate this influx.
However, increasing the rate at which orders arrive at the kitchen creates another problem. If the kitchen can’t keep up, the result will be long ticket times, crowding by the food pickup area, and ultimately, dissatisfied customers. People tend to order more when they order from the computer as well (25% more).
Consider, for example, the experience encountered by Starbucks when it released a mobile ordering app in 2015. The app led to a flood of orders, which in turn led to congestion at the drink hand-off area. Furthermore, many customers came in, saw the long lines, and naturally turned around and left.
To solve the issue, Starbuck’s added employees and implemented new systems that enabled stores to handle the additional orders. When Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants faced similar problems, they began implementing a second make line devoted solely to digital orders.
How restaurants handle orders coming in via self-order kiosks will likely be determined by customer flow and the design of the store itself. This could translate to different kiosk form factors being needed.
Much like anything else, a best practice is to train employees on how to utilize the kiosks. This is made much easier by deploying a kiosk that utilizes the same components used in the restaurants already. Still, training is important.
Think of it this way: If a restaurant installed a new point-of-sale system, they would train each employee on how to use it. Kiosks are no different. Employees should know how to direct traffic to the kiosks during rush hour properly, and how to service the units in a timely manner.
If employees recognize kiosks as a tool for them to use, rather than their competition, it is likely the devices will produce a much faster return on investment. Employees will be more willing to push customers to the kiosks, generating more usage and increasing average ticket size.
At the end of the day the best way to provide a self-order solution that improves the guest experience, simplifies the restaurant operation, and increases sales is to work with a kiosk vendor who is experienced in the deployment of self-order kiosks and has a track record of success. Olea Kiosks stands ready to help.
The Austin Kiosk from Olea Kiosks, for example, is a versatile solution available in multiple form factors so deployers can choose the one that best suits their needs. The kiosk is available in countertop, wall mount, and freestanding versions – all utilizing the exact same components to ensure that customers are always greeted with the same technology.
For more information call 800.927.8063 or send an email to [email protected]