The Kiosk: Key to the future of fast food? There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the rise of self-order kiosks in dining establishments, especially quick-serve restaurants. At the recent trade show, I saw first-hand the growing demand for these automated ordering solutions. And as digital menu boards approach the point of saturation in many restaurants, kiosks represent the next big opportunity for restaurant-based digital signage.
The rise of QSR self-order kiosks comes as no surprise to folks within the restaurant industry. Some very big names – McDonalds, Wendy’s and Panera to name a few – are piloting kiosks in hundreds of locations across the U.S. And while I think it’s very likely that in several years’ time kiosks will be commonplace in the QSR space, it remains to be seen exactly how and where they’ll be deployed.
QSRs are all about choice and convenience. Customers are typically quite loyal to their favorite restaurants, and they are creatures of habit when it comes to ordering. Accordingly, restaurants are closely studying their customers’ habits, looking for ways to enhance their dining experience without disrupting what’s familiar and likeable to those customers. Beacon-enabled kiosks are capable of recognizing specific customers and delivering personalized messages based on this captured data. Using beacon and Bluetooth technology, kiosks are even capable of suggesting the customer’s “usual” order and enabling the customer to order right from their mobile device.
Unfortunately much of what’s being written about the rise of QSR kiosks suggest that jobs will suffer. We don’t think that’s the case at all. Self-order kiosks simply give customers more choices in how they interact with the restaurant.
Take drive-through windows as an example: giving customers the option of ordering from their cars hasn’t lessened the number of in-restaurant diners. On the contrary, drive-through options have likely increased the overall number of customers who cycle through on a daily basis. I believe kiosks will bring about a similar shift in customer behavior – giving customers greater choice and convenience in how they interact with the restaurant, leading to increased sales.
Restaurants will also enjoy greater efficiency as self-order kiosks take hold in the market. Orders will be taken and filled more quickly, reducing congestion that’s common when people queue to place their orders and receive their meals. Kiosks will also lead to shorter lines at the cash registers, alleviating much of the burden that falls on the restaurant’s counter staff. This frees them up to provide a more relaxed engagement with customers who order at the counter.
It’s going to take some time for restaurants to understand how best to take advantage of this opportunity. But with the right mix of research and real-world testing, these kiosks have the potential to enhance the customer experience, increase traffic and fuel revenue growth for restaurants that embrace this emerging technology.