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The Benefit of Unassisted Sales at Quick-Serve Restaurants

April 23, 2018

In the late 1940s, Maurice and Richard McDonald developed the Speedee Service System. A revolutionary food preparation technique, the McDonald brothers implemented the same kind production line method that manufacturers used in factories. The result was significantly faster service than a traditional drive-in hamburger restaurant.

Fast food service is now ubiquitous worldwide, and nearly every quick-service restaurant utilizes some version of the original Speedee Service System.

Fast forward and the advent of mobile devices and smart phones now empowers consumers to order food with their phones and tablets. Fulfilling an increasing desire for autonomy in their purchasing experience, consumers want their experience in quick serve restaurants to be frictionless and fast. As a result, many quick-serve restaurant customers are moving toward unassisted sales instead of interactions with sales associates, cashiers, and servers.

The advent of self-service

How do quick serve restaurant owners accommodate this shift in technology related to the customer experience?

They use a form of digital signage such as an ordering kiosk where customers can directly order food and pay for their meal. Here are some of the potential benefits of this next-generation quick-service technology.

Customers experience increased control.

Allowing your customers to completely control their ordering experience gives them a heightened sense of satisfaction. In fact, even though little human interaction may be required, consumers often rate customer service higher in quick-serve restaurants where kiosk or order ahead/online ordering is available.

Order customization is in the consumer’s hands.

Quick-serve giant Panera introduced kiosk ordering to improve their customer’s experience by helping them alleviate long wait times during peak hours, such as lunch. In their menu algorithm, the kiosk allows customers the ability to completely customize their order. The value proposition this provides to consumers is tremendous. And as a result, this powerful customer experience strategy has given Panera a great reputation among patrons.

Restaurants can reduce human error in food orders.

Among the most frustrating aspects of a restaurant patron’s experience is receiving an incorrect food order. Unassisted sales puts the ordering power at the hands of the customer. They make decisions about what they want and then review their order. If there is a mistake, they can self-correct it during the order review stage.

Digital menus are more dynamic.

Easily accommodating food changes throughout the day, digital signage is a dynamic tool for display at the quick-serve restaurant. Self-service kiosks push menu changes or updates directly to the customer level. This is particularly useful when a restaurant runs out of menu items.

Restaurants have immediate (and consistent) upsell opportunities.

For any business, asking your team members to upsell is a challenging undertaking. Varying levels of competency and necessary training can undermine efforts to consistently and successfully attach offers to your customer’s meals.

But digital signage can automate sales offers. The algorithms that control the menu display have the same dynamic capability of a shopping cart. This not only helps to upsell customers, but it also reduces the friction they experience when employees attempt to upsell them.

Unassisted sales reduce perceived wait times for customers.

Customers know quick-serve means fast food. They expect the time it takes to order and receive their food to be as seamless and as fast as possible. The longer they wait, the more their perception of the restaurant is negatively impacted.

Ordering from a kiosk has the extraordinary benefit of speeding up the order process, kickstarting the assembly of the customer’s meal, and reducing the customer’s perceived wait time. Ultimately, from the time they enter their order to the time they take their first bite, the customer feels empowered by the unassisted sales experience.

Some restaurants seek to reduce labor costs.

While the factors that impact labor vary greatly from business to business, some restaurants seek to install self-ordering kiosks to reduce labor costs. Wendy’s began installation of kiosks last year, “… to appeal to younger customers and reduce labor costs, according to Wendy’s chief information officer, David Trimm, by allowing customers to circumvent long lines during peak dining hours while increasing kitchen production.” But some QSR’s like McDonald’s say their labor is only redistributed as a result of kiosk ordering, not reduced. “Since the use of kiosks leads to orders being taken more quickly, employees will need to fill orders even faster than they do now,” according to Bradley Cooper of Kiosk Marketplace.

Start with the end in mind

The technology that drives the quick-serve restaurant to better serve customers is constantly changing. Digital signage is a staple within the QSR environment that drives improved customer experiences. Self-service ordering is the latest trend that QSR’s are adopting to reduce customer friction. But the decision to implement this technology should rest on your goals for the solution. In other words, determine what you want your digital signage to do, then design a solution to fulfill that goal. If you believe that customer service in your restaurant could be improved with self-service ordering, perhaps this form of digital signage is the right investment.