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How a Kiosk-centric Approach Is Modernizing Restaurants

May 4, 2018 - Digital Menu

Ordering a burger from a human cashier may become a thing of the past at most McDonald’s restaurants.

During the company’s quarterly earnings call on Monday, McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook said the fast-food chain had embarked on ‘an aggressive plan and one of the most significant transformations in our history.’

Easterbrook went on to say that since the start of the year, the company had rolled out its ‘Experience of the Future’ technology to nearly 1,000 locations in the United States. McDonald’s plans to bring the kiosk-centric modernization of its restaurants to an additional 1,000 locations every quarter.

What’s spurring the aggressive push towards self-service kiosks? Well, McDonald’s does not break out its revenue by kiosks but at one of their franchisees’ stores they experimented with self-service technology and found that customers who use the machines spent about one dollar more per order. While that may not sound like a lot, it translated to a 30% increase in the average check size.

Similar increases have been reported elsewhere when self-service technology is introduced. The theater chain Cinemark saw food and drink sales rise thanks to self-service concession stands and the quick-service restaurant chain Chili’s reported a 20 percent increase in dessert sales when it introduced tablet ordering.

Beyond the sales increases, self-service technology offers other benefits, especially when IoT is added to the mix:

  • Ensuring kiosk uptime is critical. Kiosks can service more guests at any given moment because they take up less space than a traditional point-of-sale terminal with a cashier.
  • Mobile apps can turn any device into a self-service kiosk and allow guests to order at their own pace, even while in their car or truck.
  • Chatbots can help with customer service issues.
  • IoT technology embedded within the restaurant’s space can fuel data analytics and minimize service downtime.
  • Companies that implement “cool” technologies at restaurants have become a big draw for Millennial workers.

Speaking of workers, McDonald’s and other restaurants have made it clear that their intention is not to replace workers with technology but to use one to make the other more efficient. Some customers will want to speak with a human employee because they will have a complicated order, or they may need help using the kiosks.

Having well-trained employees are an important aspect of implementing the kiosk-centric approach. Here are a few other items to consider:

First, the kiosks need to be positioned correctly to be effective. Easterbrook mentioned during the McDonald’s analyst call that the physical location of the kiosk within a restaurant and its place within the customer flow is ‘really important.’ Other analysts have noted that the kiosks should almost ‘greet’ the customers as they come in through the door so that the customers naturally gravitate towards them to order rather than heading towards the cashier.

The other item to consider is ensuring that kiosks are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Some lawsuits have been filed over the years alleging that certain devices were not ADA compliant so it’s vital to ensure that self- service technology investments make an effort to accommodate all types of customers whenever possible. If nothing else, a human worker should be standing by to help when the situation requires it.

Beyond that, more and more orders are likely to be entered through a machine in the coming years. The human cashier certainly will not go away but, as McDonald’s push into technology has made clear, the cashier’s role will likely change or be augmented by the exciting changes coming through self-service kiosks.

Kiosks and IoT technology go together like burgers and fries. Find out how an IoT platform like Canopy can boost kiosk operations and keep your devices up and running.

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