It’s not about replacing humans with machines, but reassigning labor to customer hospitality.

California-based fresh Mexican concept Sharky’s was already in the process of implementing self-service kiosks in early 2020. Unfortunately, its previous vendor became a pandemic casualty, which left Sharky’s scrambling to get the program up and running in time to meet consumers’ new takeout and off-premises ordering demands.

Thankfully, a member of the Sharky’s executive team heard about a kiosk solution receiving rave reviews from fellow restaurant operators, and reached out to Bite—which was able to get a pilot kiosk program in place within 90 days.

Like most restaurants, Sharky’s is navigating the labor shortage and looking for innovative solutions to solve its staffing problems. Self-service kiosks help make the most of labor costs—not replacing human employees, but allowing them to redeploy their time in more useful ways.

“Some operators may measure their success by the fact that they can replace a human employee with the kiosk, but that’s not our goal,” says David Goldstein, COO for Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill. “We believe deploying that team member within the restaurant to either generate revenue in other ways or find ways to increase hospitality is vital.”

Particularly in California—where 23 of the brand’s 24 franchise locations are located—redeploying staff members is not only part of a “hospitality first” mindset, it’s a critical tool to increase revenue. Goldstein and his team not only wanted the Bite Kiosk venture to be cost-neutral, they wanted it to be a profit center. Initially, it was a matter of guest convenience, but they quickly saw how it could help increase overall sales and ROI.

“California and specifically Los Angeles are dealing with COVID restrictions not present in other parts of the country, so our dine-in business is not as strong as it was prior to the pandemic,” Goldstein says. “To have a team member go around the dining room and ask if customers would like another beer, sangria, or dessert is very helpful and helps offset our labor costs.”

This approach is working: Since instituting Bite Kiosk in two pilot stores in July 2021, 12 percent of Sharky’s orders now come through self-service kiosks. The average price of to-go entrees increased 12.9 percent, dine-in entree orders increased 8.7 percent, and overall check averages for in-person dining increased an impressive 28.9 percent.

“Bite’s suggestive selling tools are very helpful,” Goldstein says. “It shows customers menu items they may not be thinking about.”

Sharky’s currently runs Bite Kiosk in three locations and will roll out the program to its additional 21 stores in the second quarter of 2022. Goldstein says they would have rolled out the program sooner, but the team decided to wait until after September’s quarterly franchise meeting in order to fully inform franchisees about all aspects and features of the Bite Kiosk solution.

Pre-pandemic, the Sharky’s team worried about kiosks taking away from the hospitality level they are known for. Instead, it’s only upped the customer satisfaction factor.

“Guests can order fresh food exactly the way they want it,” Goldstein says. “In the end, that’s always our goal.”

To learn more about how kiosks can help your restaurant, visit the Bite website.

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