Self-service food kiosks are changing the restaurant industry. Not only are they improving operations but they are impacting customers’ purchasing habits. It is said that consumers typically spend an average of 20% more when ordering through self-service kiosks over those placed at traditional cashiers. In 2016, food and beverage self-service kiosks generated annual revenues of $218 million.

With figures like that being brandished about it’s no wonder that there has been steady growth in the demand for self-order kiosks in the Fast Casual, Restaurant and Fast Food industries. Well-known brands such as Panera, Wendy’s, Subway, Taco Bell, Chilis& Shake Shack (along with many others) have all updated their stores to include digital self-order kiosks. Even fast food giant McDonalds plans to add standalone kiosks to a whopping 1,000 restaurants per quarter in the U.S. over the next two years. Business Insider reports that most of the 14,000 McDonald’s locations in the U.S., will have ordering kiosks by 2020 and once in place, they are projected to increase sales as much as 5 to 6% in the first year they’re available.

There’s no doubt about it, self-service kiosks are slowly becoming the norm but what exactly is it about standing in front of a screen and not a human face that makes people want to spend more? Well, self-service kiosk interfaces have been both carefully designed and incorporate sneaky psychological tricks to encourage consumers to spend more money. Really it boils down to two things, user design and user experience.

When it comes to user design, like the humble paper menu that came before it, a lot of thought goes into the way you choose what foods you eat and kiosks are no different. While kiosks employ traditional techniques such as the Gestalt principle or the rule of 7 in their menu layouts, kiosks have the additional advantage of being much more visual and can be more efficient at promoting your menu items.

They present the opportunity to allocate more menu space to higher value items as opposed to cheaper options and menu layouts also use animated cues to draw attention to specific items. Studies have found that 70% of the time people will pick one of the first three options in a buffet because all subsequent choices are compared to the first option. Kiosks also never forget to up-sell, something not always possible at a manned checkout. A Harvard Business Review article pointed out that not only did McDonald’s see an increase in the average check size when they introduced kiosks but that 20% of customers who initially did not ask for a drink ended up purchasing one when a drink was offered.

When it comes to user experience, self-service technologies can pretty dramatically change what people do and how they act i.e. customers who feel better, spend more! According to a 2017 study that compared sales made via a touchscreen with those made via a desktop computer: “When a consumer uses a touchscreen device, the novelty and fun generated by finger movements create experiential and effective feelings, in alignment with the playfulness and emotional nature of hedonic products.” (Hedonic items are products we don’t need, but that give us feelings of joy or pleasure).

Similarly, self-service technology shifts the focus of control to the customer. They involve less social interaction than ordering from a cashier. With a sense of control and privacy, customers can take their time to customize their order and purchase what they want without the perceived notion that someone is judging their food choices.

While some establishments remain wary of self-service solutions, and probably will continue to be until this type of technology gains mainstream traction, the trend toward automation isn’t going anywhere. And with competition and ability to differentiate increasingly more and more difficult, kiosks, when done right, are one sure way to help increase customer retention, boost growth and productivity of a business.