When it comes to the restaurant business, quick-serves still rule the industry, making up about 83 percent of all foodservice traffic. Yet, this traffic has flattened since 2016, disrupted both by mobile ordering and online delivery services, as well as trends toward chef-driven experiences and “food consciousness.” In this growing competitive environment, quick-serves and their owners are questioning, more than ever, the limits of their model and opportunities for improvement.

Though the self-service kiosk has been recognized as a solution, and has been adopted across well-known brands such as Panera and McDonald’s, quick-service brands are actually quite late to the game. Airports, supermarkets and movie theaters have featured self-service kiosks for years, making square footage more efficient, saving costs, and offering its customers an overall better experience.

Today, the timing could not be more opportune. We’re at an inflection point in both personal and business technology where digital penetration is everywhere, so much that in order to survive and thrive, every company must in some way be a technology company. Quick-serves must invest in technology and digital transformation in order to keep up with both consumer preferences and operational demands. For most consumers, making decisions on a screen is now an ingrained habit thanks to the ubiquitous smartphone. Restaurants must be digitally enabled, from ordering to payment, in order to move at the same pace and occupy the same space as their customers.

The solution is an interplay between optimizing operational efficiency and improving customer experience—the self-service kiosk provides both.

Optimizing operational efficiency

On a most fundamental level, kiosks automate the ordering process, freeing up staff time for higher value services that matter more to the customer, including the preparation of their food, targeted attention for customers in need, and keeping the restaurant clean. Beyond automation, kiosks also streamline the entire ordering process—the screen guides the customer through a clear and linear set of instructions. When they reach payment, kiosks have the ability to offer multiple payment methods on a single machine, from cash to card to contactless, even with the possibility of splitting payment between multiple parties. A kiosk will also never forget to upsell, with built-in marketing capabilities and deals at every stage of the ordering process. It’s automatic and specific, helping customers find cost-savings while ensuring that promotional values are seen.

Improving customer experience

Today, 72 percent of customers expect to be able to customize their orders. But it’s not something they’ll do, or have a positive experience doing, if there’s someone waiting to take their order and an impatient line standing behind them. When in front of a screen, the menu options are closer and feel more personal, allowing customers to have a better idea of what exactly they’re ordering and a sense of privacy that helps lower inhibition to order what they want without the perceived notion that someone is judging them. Further, kiosks can be programmed to cater to specific needs, such as switching to a different language for a foreign customer. The sense of control and optionality that a kiosk gives to a customer translates into real revenue—in fact, customers spend 15-20 percent more on orders when using self-service kiosks over those placed at traditional checkouts.

Kiosks embody the inevitable “digitization” of physical store, whether quick-serves to regular retail; they also solve the fundamental problems at the heart of flattening sales: operational efficiency and customer experience. Brands should actively consider incorporating kiosks into their stores and leveraging the technology to differentiate their services against other competitors. There’s no better time to do it than now.

Devora Henderson is Diebold Nixdorf’s Vice President, Retail, for the Americas region. In this role, she manages a portfolio of innovative solutions that are transforming the retail experience for consumers. Devora previously held multiple leadership roles with Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions and IBM. She most recently served as Vice President, Sales, North America, for Toshiba, where she identified and established strategic, global OEM alliances to drive incremental revenue growth. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in management from the University of South Florida and a Master’s degree from Nova Southeastern University.
Outside Insights, Story, Technology