The use of kiosks in the food and beverage sector is on the rise, particularly in quick-service restaurants, but what steps can operators take to ensure they maximize their investment and deliver a memorable customer experience?

First things first

Before embarking on a kiosk rollout, operators need to think carefully the reasons why they want to have kiosks in the first place and what they want to achieve with them. Is it just because your competitors have them? Is it about improving the guest experience? Or is it more about operational efficiency and cost savings? For most, the key outcome operators are looking to achieve from kiosks is an increase in average transaction value. If implemented correctly, this should be well in excess of 20 percent and can be as much as 50 percent.

Be sure to think about whom you need to convince within your organization. Trying to reach the decision to go ahead with kiosks but not being able to sell the project or its strategic importance internally to other teams is a challenge often faced by operators. Marketing and ensuring brand consistency concerns the CMO, ensuring the right IT infrastructure is in place concerns the CIO, sign-off on budget will probably involve both the CFO and CEO, and the kiosks’ impact on the day-to-day operations of the store will undoubtedly involve the COO.

Communicating proactively is an essential component of a successful kiosk rollout. Open communications from your frontline staff and management right through to your customers and suppliers is key, both before during and after rollout. This makes it possible to identify and deal with issues before they grow into bigger problems.

X marks the spot

Careful consideration of kiosk placement is a vital step. The goal is to have as many customers use kiosks possible, so this can’t be an afterthought and indeed can dictate whether the project will succeed or not. Positioning kiosks in a part of your restaurant with limited visibility from the entrance, or in a place that hampers other areas of service is counter-productive.

Some top tips for kiosk location include:

  • Make ‘em easy to spot. Kiosks are beacons in their own right and attract attention due to their size. Place them in line-of-sight, so guests see them when they enter the restaurant.
  • Pick the ideal location. Kiosks should ideally be positioned half way to two thirds of the way to the front counter, when measured from the front door, and along the main walk way to the front counter.
  • Give ‘em space to breathe. Always leave at least six feet of queuing space in front of the kiosk.
  • Don’t fall flat. Angle the kiosks at 45 degrees to the way the customer is walking. If they are flat to a wall, the customer often thinks they are advertising boards.
  • Keep ‘em separated. Don’t let the kiosk customers interrupt the flow of customers going to the front counter—this causes disruption to both queues.

Design for success

The kiosk hardware itself needs to be attractive and engaging and it needs to be immediately obvious what it can do for the guest. Using double-sided kiosks is much more cost-effective, typically saving up to 40 percent compared to using single-sided models for the same number of screens. Larger screens can be more eye-catching but don’t make them so big that shorter customers can’t reach parts of them. Some brands, such as Panera, have also been very successful using smaller screens.

Remember that a kiosk is not a POS system, and the menu layout needs to be designed for your customers. Ideally aim for simple, easy-to-understand menus, with items grouped together in a logical manner, but not too many groups and sub-groups. A boring, functional layout often leads to low kiosk sales, so adopt a colorful, eye-catching layout, with appealing graphics.

A well laid out kiosk menu will also include promotions, as well as up-selling and cross-selling options, which are up to 50 percent more effective on kiosks, if displayed correctly. All items and deals available at the main counter must also be on the kiosk … customers will get frustrated if they can’t get what they want using the kiosk.

Rollout checklist

Once the decision has been made to go ahead with a kiosk rollout, there are several things operators and their suppliers need to consider to ensure a successful introduction:

  • Pilot your way to success. Choose one or two test sites for your kiosk deployment and use them to gauge what works and what doesn’t.
  • Check connectivity. Ensure that communications (both hardwired and wireless) are working properly within the store 7–10 days before the kiosks go live. Then check again. 
  • Test, test, test. After the kiosks are installed correctly, make sure you have the appropriate resources to test the software and your operations in plenty of time before launch.
  • Train staff. Make sure your staff are trained to handle any questions customers might have, as well as simple troubleshooting actions such as changing receipt printer paper and understanding the user journey.
  • Communicate. Print eye-catching signs, posters, table talkers and flyers to promote your kiosks and their benefits in and around your stores. You might even decide to use your stores’ digital signs or dual POS screens at the counter to promote your new kiosk service for your customers’ next visit.

Of all the points above, staff engagement is often overlooked can also be the hardest thing to get right. Getting all your employees on board, from floor staff and management to back of house and kitchen staff, is key to making your kiosk deployment a success. Staff can be wary of kiosks, especially if they feel their jobs are being put at risk, so helping them understand the purpose of the technology is vital. In many cases, kiosks are actually implemented to take the pressure off staff during peak hours, and have also allowed operators to upskill staff and expand their roles, rather than reducing headcount.

Appoint ambassadors

Customer engagement can also be a challenge for the early days of a kiosk rollout, so having kiosk “ambassadors” at each location is another important, and often overlooked, element of a successful rollout. This specially trained staffs have the necessary skills to support and encourage guests through their first experience using the kiosks. Using ambassadors in early pilot phases is particularly important and can make a critical difference to the outcome of a pilot. The cost of covering this employee can be covered by the increase in the average transaction value.

Kiosks will not drive massively increased sales from day one, it usually take at least four months to start seeing a significant rise as more and more customers start using the kiosks on their own. It should also be noted that kiosks are designed to support businesses at peak times, when there are too many customers to be served at the main counter at the same time. At these periods, up to 50 percent more customers can be served.

Driving success

Once your kiosk rollout is complete and everything is running smoothly, you’ll expect to start seeing results. While financial return on investment is usually an operator’s number one success metric, it’s rarely the only one. It’s also important for businesses to see that they are directly improving their customers’ lives—whether it’s saving them time or offering a more personalized service, it all makes a difference.

Average transaction values, queue reduction and the number of people using kiosks are also relevant measures of success. But every operator is different, which makes it important to understand and define your specific desired outcomes from the very outset of the project.

One factor often forgotten in measuring the success of kiosks is the store transaction count. If the store is getting more customers served then this on its own is driving the revenues for the store, regardless of average transaction value.

Ultimately, continual review of kiosk performance and whether KPIs and objectives are being met is key for ongoing improvement and the ultimate success of the project. Gather as much data as you can about your kiosks so you can make informed decisions about future improvements or changes to them.

Phil Williams is customer success manager at restaurant technology firm QikServe. Using any channel from kiosks and tablets to web and mobile apps, the QikServe platform delivers powerful solutions from ordering to payment, giving guests the convenience to order and pay for their food and drinks whenever and however they want.
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