There is a very good chance that you spend a lot of your time looking at and interacting with your mobile phone’s touch screen. Weather, news, texting, shopping, gaming – we are all constantly interfacing with software via a touch screen. We don’t just have to do it – we like it. That’s why we are very happy to check in at the airport with our phone or via a kiosk. It is fast, easy and we are in control. Waiting in line to speak to people only slows us down. So it shouldn’t be any surprise that kiosk ordering is taking the restaurant industry by storm.
In 2014, Panera Bread announced Panera 2.0 — a series of integrated technologies that would enhance the guest experience, regardless of how they choose to consume Panera. How? In addition to improving its online ordering feature, Panera pioneered a new way to order in-cafe from kiosks. These kiosks are intended to reduce wait time and human error as it is highly visual and features a product builder to maintain order accuracy. We know what you’re thinking, that was four years ago, what’s happening now? At the end of Q1 2017, Panera announced that, not only did it surpass its target of $1 billion in digital sales, but 26% of total company sales were digital sales. As an early adopter of this technology, it’s safe to say that the risk has certainly paid off for Panera Bread. Unsurprisingly, other fast-casual establishments have caught on.
Despite its longevity in the industry, McDonald’s was quick to realize that in order to maintain relevance, it needed to adapt — quickly. For the past two years, McDonald’s has been diligent in meeting new consumer trends vis a vis, better quality ingredients, more customizable options with its “Create Your Taste” campaign, and even table service. But McDonald’s didn’t stop there. In November 2016, the fast-food giant began testing the use of kiosk technologies in select U.S. locations. Two years later, McDonald’s is still introducing kiosk technology across the nation and repositioning itself as an “experience of the future”.
Even new players, like Shake Shack, have adopted kiosk technology. In this case, Shake Shack didn’t simply adopt the technology and leave it at that. They took it one step further. While in its testing stage, Shake Shack added a new, and potentially challenging, feature to its technology — going cashless. The NYC-based fast casual burger joint opened the doors to its new Astor Place location in October of last year, and already have every intention of adding more kiosks to the roster. Shake Shack CEO Randy Garutti said in a statement that delivery integration and digital innovation will continue to be focuses at the Astor Place location. He said these technological advances will help Shake Shack get to know its customers better and assist them more efficiently.
Despite being part of a new digital age, the implementation of the idyllic kiosk technology initially faced backlash for the potential drastic labor reduction. Executives, from brands like Panera, McDonald’s and Shake Shack, have stated that the installation and use of kiosks are not intended to reduce labor, but to refocus it. Each executive has gone on to say, with some variation, that the sole intention of this labor refocus is to enhance the overall experience for customers by means of table service, customization, assisting customers with using the kiosks, and other behind-the-scenes initiatives.
You may be thinking that kiosks will reduce the service-level your restaurant is known for. Just remember – service is about giving your guests what they want. Kiosks offer convenience and control in a familiar touch interface that your guests are learning to love in nationwide chains. By giving the same ordering interface, you will be giving them the service that they want. And that is a service-level enhancement.