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Adding Kiosks to Your Restaurant Requires Thinking About More Than Cost

Posted by Kevin Lentz, Restaurant & Hospitality Product Manager

As major brands including McDonald's, Panera and Subway continue to roll out kiosks as part of their in-store order management strategy, businesses are struggling to decide whether kiosks make sense for them. The advantages of kiosks are clear: improved order accuracy, increased order throughput and additional revenue with upselling and cross-selling opportunities on every order. With self-service kiosks boasting 20% higher average tickets versus the counter, the ROI becomes a relatively straightforward calculation.

A single restaurant location that does $1 million per year in gross sales and gets 50% of its customers to use the new kiosks with a 20% lift in sales could net a $50,000 return in the first year. Even accounting for sunk costs like software integration, signage and customer education, plus monthly fees for the kiosks itself, the revenue adds up pretty quickly. And the more locations, the quicker the ROI.

But each quick service restaurant (QSR) and fast casual restaurant (FCR) concept must determine for itself whether kiosk ordering interfaces are “on brand.” While deciding whether to adopt kiosks in your chain, it's important that you remain consistent with your brand, but remember, that argument can be made both ways. Brands stay relevant only by responding appropriately to shifting customer expectations, and current consumer polling shows that a majority of QSR guests are quite ready to adopt kiosk interfaces. So even in “high-touch” guest environments, today's diners are more comfortable moving across technologies.

But like all technology, kiosks must be thoughtfully integrated into your business operations so the customer experience is seamless.

You need to consider, for example, traffic flow patterns that may need to change. Kiosk placement will be crucial, as you will want to engage customers early enough to benefit from the additional unstaffed lanes. Additionally, consider signage and placement for kiosks so that customers understand how to engage with the technology and queuing for kiosk ordering and order pickup. For example, how will customers be notified that orders are ready? Many kiosk vendors have built-in text notification platforms. If this is true of your provider, ask how you can integrate this information into your CRM system.

It's important to factor how every step of the ordering process must change, and bear in mind that introducing new technology will also change your customers' existing behavior. Largely, you will be removing employee interaction from the ordering process, putting greater burden on the guest, and the challenge is to make the experience engaging and fun for the customer. Whatever tasks you ask of the guest must be within their ability to execute.

Payment method is another key portion of the workflow that should be considered. Allowing customers to pay at a kiosk is one of the advantages of moving the tech forward in that it speeds up a typical “time on line” hog. And it can be great for credit card payment, but what about customers who want to pay with cash? Will you allow them to start an order at a kiosk and complete payment at a staffed terminal?

And speaking of payment methods, will you accept Apple Pay and Google Pay? And if so, what hardware will be present at the kiosk? Payment hardware is another real-world consideration that needs to be factored into the overall hardware design. Understanding your payment strategy, payment partners and their offerings early will help as you engage a design firm for your kiosk project.

It's clear that kiosks are here to stay and customers are ready. Are you?

Learn more about NetSuite’s software for restaurants and the hospitality industry.