Atlanta-based fast-casual concept Fresh To Order is aiming to increase loyalty while cutting back on labor and food costs with the launch of its SmartMenu kiosk technology.

The SmartMenu, created by Usable Health, offers customers a kiosk where they can see detailed information about menu items, filter the menu by nutritional or dietary needs, and even place their order.

Jesse Gideon, vice president of operations and corporate chef for six-unit Fresh To Order, says the SmartMenu, which is a mounted tablet located at the front of the customer queue, is kind of like a super-powered cashier.

“It’s a cashier that always has a smile on its face, it’s a cashier that’s never late, it’s a cashier that never has a bad hair day, it’s a cashier that always shows up no matter what the weather’s like,” Gideon says. “As long as there’s power and an Internet feed, that cashier is up and running and good to go.”

But Gideon says the SmartMenu even enhances the nutritional expertise of the human Fresh To Order crewmembers.

“It helps a lot with training and the training curve of teaching everybody in the operations all of the nuances and all of the nutritional information that’s in an item,” he says. “It’s impossible for every staff member to know every nutritional data fact on every item that we serve—sodium content, cholesterol, saturated fat—it’s just not possible.”

Gideon says Fresh To Order was looking for a “cooler, slicker, better way” to share nutritional information than posters, pamphlets, and websites. The SmartMenu kiosk, he says, did the company one better by offering a way to cut back on costs as well.

“From an operator’s side, it cuts down on my labor costs as a cashier, it cuts down on my food costs because I’m not making any wrong items from error input,” he says. “Also, just from a perceptional standpoint, it gets guests what they ordered out of the gate.”

The SmartMenu also helps create higher check averages, Gideon says, because it can offer customers upselling prompts. It also remembers customers’ past orders and recommends items based on order history.

But the real highlight of SmartMenu might be its ability to carefully break down the menu by customers’ dietary needs and desires.

“You can never walk up to a restaurant and say, ‘Hey I’m managing my diabetes, what are the top five best items for that on your menu?’” Gideon says.

“That alone is a competitive advantage, because people know, if they want to manage low-calorie meals, if they want to build muscle, if they want to manage diabetes, if they’re watching their sodium intake, if they’re watching their sugar intake … they’re going to come back because they know they can do it here easily.”

By Sam Oches

News, Ordering, Restaurant Operations, Fresh to Order