If you do it right, guest prefer to order themselves. This has been proven by the advent of interactive electronic ordering kiosks, which have quickly become commonplace in European and Asian quick service restaurants.
Americans are finally catching up to their European counterparts when it comes to self-service kiosks. Early adopters like Jack-in-the-Box have already seen the benefits these electronic order takers can provide, including a boost in sales, higher customer satisfaction, and increased order volume.
What’s so great about a kiosk? And what exactly is a kiosk anyway?
Kiosks are electronic ordering systems that provide a touchscreen menu for guests. The newest generation of kiosks integrate directly with the restaurant’s POS system, making order processing extremely easy.
Kiosks add a couple key benefits to a guest’s experience, at least in a quick service restaurant environment:
Improved order accuracy. Whether or not kiosks actually reduce the number of botched orders is up for debate. Regardless, guests feel like orders are more accurate because they are directly involved in the order taking process, and that perception can go a long way towards improving a restaurant’s overall customer service.
Guests buy more. Having an interactive menu that automatically suggests upsells, lists the best menu items first, and advertises specials without forgetting is a potent weapon for restaurants. Guests who use kiosks are more likely to spend more and order more than those who order from a human.
This means a restaurant using kiosks can shift staff from being order takers to order fillers and service providers. In fact, the restaurants that have introduced kiosks did not have to cut any staff because order volume went up significantly.
Ordering kiosks certainly make sense for quick service restaurants, but what about independents? Is there a place for an automated menu and order taking system in the more traditional dining experience?
That certainly remains to be seen. However, here are a couple ideas for ways independents could bring kiosks to bear:
Make waiting interactive. If you’re fortunate enough to be a restaurant that regularly makes guests wait for a table, then a kiosk could become your very best friend. Instead of making customers sit on a bench staring blankly at the wall next to the host stand, invite them to place their order on a kiosk, then time their meal to drop 10 minutes after they are sat.
The potential for slashing your table turnover times with that kind of system is tremendous. That kind of system also gives your servers more time to provide top notch service as well, especially when things get hectic on a busy night.
Make kiosks part of your concept. Remember restaurants with telephones at each table for calling in orders? Their success depended on the novelty of ordering via phone but eventually it proved much too hard to create a quality experience when the guests’ only interaction with staff was through a phone.
Kiosks could be different. If they are used to replace menus at tables servers can still interact with guests while they order, have more time to attend every detail, and benefit from the kiosk’s tendency to make customers order more. All of this could be accomplished without sacrificing face-to-face service, and in fact the iPad has already proven itself to be a great replacement for the traditional menu. Kiosks at tables just takes that concept one step further.
Change the way you take reservations. Especially if your restaurant is in a high foot traffic area, plop a kiosk on the sidewalk in front of your establishment and invite guests to place their order and then come back to dine at a time of their choosing.
Guests that have already chosen their meal are going to be more likely to come back, reducing reservation no-shows. That kiosk would also serve as some great advertising for your restaurant and take some pressure off your host stand and servers on busy nights.
Naturally kiosks are going to have to run their course in the quick service segment before independent restaurants start considering them. But a future where all menus are electronic and interactive is not that far off, and restaurateurs stand to benefit immensely from this new technology.