Interest in and adoption of kiosk technology has steadily increased with both consumers and restaurant chains over the last five years. By 2023, Research and Markets expects the automated kiosk segment’s worth to balloon to $34 billion. McDonald’s is just one of several major restaurants that are doubling down on self-service kiosks – most of the 14,000 McDonald’s locations in the U.S. will have ordering kiosks by 2020. Panera Bread, Wendy’s and Subway have all either implemented kiosk stations or intend to with Taco Bell aiming to have them in all locations by the end of 2019. Other restaurants have incorporated smaller scale tablets at tables to showcase menu specials, order drinks, and make payments through self-checkout screens. And it’s not hard to see why.

In an industry where convenience sits on the throne above all others, customers of all ages want digital interactions in restaurants, especially ones that provide them with a faster and easier dining experience – and kiosks can deliver just that. Kiosks expedite the ordering process. A customer trying to order at a crowded and popular eatery during lunch hour can avoid typical wait time frustrations associated with cashier lines. With a kiosk, customers can take control of placing their order; they no longer have to reciting a list of items to a cashier but instead take their time to approve and place their order which not only increases speed of service but also diminishes customer fears of order inaccuracy. All in all, kiosk technology makes it easier for customers to customize, pay for and pick up their orders – and there is a lot of consumer research to quantify just how much customers prefer to use self-service kiosks at restaurants.

A recent survey conducted by the National Restaurant Association and Technomic Inc. revealed that kiosks were the largest customer order technology utilized in the past year. And further research from Tillster discovered that line length can cause customers to walk away from their favorite establishment in favor of a faster experience. However, if kiosk ordering is available, many customers will stick around; more than 65% of customers said they would visit a restaurant more often if self-service kiosks were offered, and 30% of customers prefer to order from a kiosk versus a cashier if the lines were of equal length.

While kiosks provide guests with better experiences, restaurant brands also reap the benefits from self-ordering kiosks. The perception may be that kiosks replace employees, but the reality is that the addition of self-service technology frees 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. The integration of such platforms not only allow employees more valuable opportunities beyond operating the cash register but also help increase check size and improve service.

With a kiosk, brands can better showcase order options for guests, facilitating increased upsell and cross-sell opportunities. In fact, kiosks, when utilized correctly, can increase check size by up to 30%. Payment kiosk systems never forget to ask, “do you want fries with that?” One study found that at McDonald’s, when guests did their own orders, spent 30% more; and 20% more at Taco Bell. That’s because when prompted to add on extra condiments or drinks, people are more likely to do so on a screen. Kiosks also empower restaurant brands to move more people through their restaurant during peak hours while better-utilizing staff, which ultimately increases check size.
With possible financial gains such as these is not surprising that the survey we referred to earlier from the National Restaurant Association and Technomic Inc. found that more than half (52%) of operators have remodeled in order to add off-premises services, which may include adding in-store kiosks, to-go counters or other similar features. From a technology perspective, half (50%) are adding or updating the technology for their internal use, while 27% are reducing consumer payment friction by adding or updating customer-facing order and payment amenities.

So, are kiosks right for you? Well that really depends on the kind of customers and restaurant that you have. You also need to consider; do you often hear that service takes too long? Do lines to pay at the counter tend to run long during busy periods? Do you have so many menu options that mistakes occur frequently? Ordering and payment kiosks might be able to help you solve some of these challenges.

At the end of the day what restaurateurs need to bear in mind is that for most consumers, making decisions on a screen is now an ingrained habit thanks to the ubiquitous smartphone. Customers frequenting your restaurant are increasingly digital and expect control, choice and personalization when ordering, including in-restaurant. Regardless of whether kiosks are right or not for your establishment, restaurants must be digitally enabled, from ordering to payment, to ensure that they move at the same pace and occupy the same space as their customers.