Self service restaurants are becoming more prevalent in this day and age due to advancements in technology. People are also living busy lives and queuing in long lines doesn’t cut it for them anymore. Operating a self service restaurant will help your customers choose and pay for menu items without needing to talk to a server.

In light of our current global situation with COVID, going contactless with taking orders and payments will help protect people during these uncertain times. The fewer interactions we have with people outside, the better chance we have of protecting ourselves from the virus.

With both of these factors in mind, transitioning from a traditional restaurant to a self-service restaurant should definitely be in the minds of restaurant owners. In this article, we will discuss the disadvantages and benefits of kiosks in restaurants and their global outlook.

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Benefits of kiosks in restaurants

1. Customers place more accurate orders

Having self service restaurant kiosks to help operate your restaurant will reduce human error by 100%. Gone are the days where the customer complains that the wait staff did not hear their orders correctly. When using the self service POS, customers are asked multiple times if their orders are accurate. There will be little to no room for error in which the customer will say they’ve clicked the wrong menu item if they’re using the self service restaurant kiosk.

benefits of kiosks in restaurants

2. Reduced cost of labor

Depending on the number of self service restaurant kiosks you’ll be using, there will be a reduction in the number of staff you’ll need. For example, a restaurant getting five kiosks will be able to reduce monthly labor expenses by five full-time employees (FTE).

Let’s assume a kiosk costs $2,000 each and you pay your employees $300 a month. For an investment of $10,000 (5 kiosks), it’ll only take you 6.67 months to get your return on investment on the kiosk. One of the most cost-effective benefits of kiosks in restaurants.

self service restaurants

3. Improved user experience

Generally, people like to do things themselves. There are times when we simply don’t want to hear the wait staff or the cashier upselling their menu items. Self service restaurant kiosks provide the customer with the control they want in their buying experience. It can reduce the stress of the customer caused by delays and long lines.

Let us take you on a journey of a traditional versus a self service restaurant experience. A male customer enters a traditional QSR and sees a long queue. The customer is already stressed since he’s in a hurry and it’ll take a long time to move to another restaurant. When he gets to the cashier, he mentions his order as fast as he could. The cashier then promptly suggests upselling items that delay him even more. By the time he’s done, it took him thirty minutes to get his food, and is now late for his meeting. It is very clear that there are several user experience opportunities that can be made out of this single transaction.

Let us now compare this customer experience in a self service restaurant. The customer sees a long line and uses the available self service kiosk. He orders his usual and sees an add-on prompt, without being under pressure to order more, he clicks on an additional large onion ring. After choosing his orders, the self-self kiosk asks him to pay via scanning a QR code. His order is now queued and he’s just waiting for his order. Overall, it was a very stress-free experience.

benefits of a self-ordering kiosk for restaurant

4. Engineered kiosk menu

The next one among benefits of kiosks in restaurants is low design and content editing costs. The restaurant menu being used at your kiosk can be designed to highlight your stars, horses, or dogs. With the menu being digital, the cost to rearrange and reengineer your menu will be lower. You can easily edit and customize the design of your kiosk to your restaurant’s needs.

You can test your kiosk menus from time to time to see which one gives your restaurant the most sales. Customize 4 different menus that you’ll cycle throughout the year. Another factor aside from sales is to see how fast is the turnover of the customers in your self service restaurant kiosk. If you see that they’re taking too long, perhaps put all the best deals on the first page and see if it speeds up the process.

Read our article on menu engineering to know more about it.

benefits of self service kiosks

5. Better employee productivity

While we mentioned a full-time employee can be replaced by a self service restaurant kiosk, there is another way to look at it. Instead of these employees manning the cashiers, they can be deployed elsewhere that will help enhance productivity in both the front of house and the back of house.

A cashier with experience as a server can be deployed in the front of house (FOH) instead to serve employees who might have questions about the kiosk. These employees can be given the opportunity to spread their wings within the organization and get creative with their tasks. An organization that offers growth to its employees can expect better performance and longevity from them.

In addition to having a productive front of house, the back of house gets an upgrade too. A Kitchen Display System (KDS) is usually integrated with the restaurant’s self service kiosk and orders are directly displayed on a screen in the kitchen. There will be less shouting in the kitchen for orders and mistakes will be minimized. The KDS will also help in designing a FIFO system so the kitchen will know which orders to make first.

benefits of a self-ordering kiosk for your restaurant

Disadvantages of Using Self Service Restaurant Kiosks

Since the self-service kiosk trend is fairly new to the market, there will always be disadvantages to using it. Let’s look at the most common disadvantages of self service restaurant kiosk:

  1. Lack of understanding: 

The most obvious disadvantage of using a self service kiosk is if a customer does not understand how to use the kiosk. The benefit of you not having a staff for the kiosk will be for naught as your staff will need to guide the customer to avoid a negative review. 

The demographic in question here is usually those aged 60 and above. They are not as tech savvy as the younger generation. Another issue could be that they fail to understand the language being displayed on the self service kiosk screen. 

  1. Expensive technology:

The initial setup cost for a self serve food kiosk can be heavy on the pocket. Even though stats show that kiosks do boost sales, it may not justify the combined cost of the software and implementation of the hardware in your restaurant.

Moreover, if you opt for customizations to resonate with your branding, it becomes too expensive for most restaurants to afford. So the only thing you can do is to stick to the common templates that make your visuals look similar to other restaurant kiosks. 

  1. Regular maintenance:

Another disadvantage can be hardware and software failure. These are unavoidable and can lead to loss of sales if the kiosks shut down during peak hours. Some customers will not have the patience to wait in line and there’s also the risk of potentially losing return customers. 

To avoid such an issue, schedule regular maintenance for these kiosks. Again, maintenance charges of such systems are very high as they are automated. So it is only affordable if you can regularly pay hardware and software maintenance charges.

  1. Lack of human interaction:

Often customers rely on recommendations while ordering or seek details about a particular menu item to make up their mind about it. With kiosks, the human element is absent making it difficult for customers to pick what to eat.

In such situations, they may feel confused and choose to leave. Alternatively, even if they order through the self service kiosk, they may not find the overall experience great enough(due to lack of personal interaction) to come back.

Overall, we still believe that the benefits of using a self service restaurant kiosk outweigh the disadvantages it brings. There are identifiable solutions to these problems mentioned. A solution for a customer who does not understand how to use it is to make the user interface easy to understand and multi-lingual. It should be simple enough that even the least tech-savvy person will be able to use it without issues.

F&B Industries Adapting to Self Service Restaurant Kiosks

According to research done by Silentmode Sdn Bhd., a Malaysian POS provider, mobile POS shares is projected to grow by at least 15% from 2020-2027. In the coming years, there is a wide expectation that traditional POS will have a reduced market share. The most contributing factor here is the advancement of technology and the COVID 19 pandemic.

Most F&B giants have adapted self service kiosks for their businesses – McDonald’s, KFC, and Burger King, to name a few. If the trend regarding mobile POS holds true, we might see even mom and pop stores shift to a self service restaurant. There have been studies wherein the average check has increased using a self service kiosk. For most restaurants, this is enough reason to do the change.

Final Thoughts

We have seen the success of self service restaurants all around the world. We have seen that it has helped businesses save resources on labor and supply chain. There are verified studies out there that say that there’s been a 20% increase in sales due to the shift to self service restaurant kiosks.

But, is this all a trend? Will we see it having the same type of success in five years? If and when the pandemic ends, will we see people go back to the traditional ways of seeking human interaction? It’s hard to predict what will happen, but we believe a combination of both traditional and self service restaurants is the future.

At the end of the day, the goal is to have success in the industry. Transitioning into a self service restaurant is an innovative way to get more customers. Customers see convenience as their number one priority when dining out and self service restaurant kiosks are here to provide it for them.

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