Self-Ordering Kiosks: The Pros and Cons Operators Should Consider

As contactless ordering and automation become all the rage amidst hiring shortages and Covid-19-related concerns, self-ordering kiosks are appearing more and more. 

A self-order kiosk allows customers to order directly on the platform and check out without interaction with an employee. The touch-screen based tool is popular in fast food chains such as standing kiosks or wall-mounted screens, displays the whole menu and highlights selected items and advertising. More flexible adaptations such as iPads or table-mounted screens are present at sit-down restaurants. 

When self-ordering kiosks first emerged in the hospitality industry in 2016, consumers and restaurant operators alike were wary about the applications. Self-order kiosks can reduce labor costs, decrease order wait times, and increase inaccuracy. On the flip side, they can also increase restaurant operations costs for initial purchase and maintenance, and result in a more alienated dining experience. 

But more than ever, the benefits of safety and social distancing are clear. Kiosks can accurately process and queue orders for restaurant workers to prepare without the need to man a front-of-house responsibility. And kiosk platforms are more customizable than ever, allowing customers to sign in for loyalty points, encouraging them to order their favorite add-ons, or feature a daily special. In fact, an Appetize case study showed that in a comparison of cashier terminals versus self-service kiosks, customers increased their orders by 21% in size with 1.4 times more items in their cart. The opportunity for increased revenue may be enticing for restaurant operators, who never have to remind the kiosks of the importance of upselling.  

Restaurants can consider integrating kiosks a few different ways:

  1. Full kiosk order service. Customers order primarily via self-serve kiosks and pick up their order either at the counter with a staff member or at a designated section of pickup shelving labeled by name or number. 
  2. Hybrid. For restaurants serving a mixed audience of tech-savvy millennials, families and older folks, a touchscreen-based platform can help streamline wait times at peak hours while still offering a traditional cashier or server experience. Hybrid can also involve an at-table screen at sit-down restaurants, so customers can browse menus, add items, or play games digitally without calling a server. 

Overall, before implementing the costly (but also potentially highly beneficial) self-order kiosk system, restaurant operators should understand the wants and needs of their audience, the identity of their restaurant in relation to hospitality, and the stopgaps of service and customer experience that they wish to address. 

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