Beyond QSRs, today’s customers are seeking self service and contactless payment at all types of restaurants.
The self-service technology employed in restaurants, all around the world, is nothing new, but it is safe to say that the pandemic has radically changed how a customer thinks. Think of it this way: when a consumer went to a restaurant in the past, all they cared about was the environment, the decor, the vibe, and, of course, the food. But now, more than anything else, a customer going inside the doors of a restaurant worries about the sanitization measures being taken and the cleanliness. Not so much now but just two years back, the biggest concern plaguing them was “social distancing.”
When we say that the pandemic affected the way customers behave, we don’t simply mean in terms of sanitization and cleanliness; it also has to do with how quickly and efficiently the consumer wants things done, with minimal interaction since interaction with the personnel constituted a risk of virus transmission.
Let’s consider some basics before going on to understand the benefits of self-service tech and how it is not only going to shape the future of the restaurant industry, it’s already here.
Self-service, as the name itself suggests, is nothing but the technology employed for the customers to “serve themselves,” without or with very minimal interaction with the staff. That would cover self-service kiosks, mostly at fast food chains and the QSRs, contactless payment options, table-side ordering, QR code menus and more.
But why is self-service technology being hailed as the future of the restaurant business? More than the future, we would rather say it is the present trend as well.
One of the best examples of self-service technology is “tableside ordering.” It is a method of ordering that allows guests to explore the menu and order food, and close their checks directly from the comfort of their tables. The QR-based table ordering system allows customers to complete the full ordering process using their mobile phones and with minimal effort on the server’s end.
When we started out this discussion, we said how the pandemic has largely changed customer behavior, but McDonald’s started rolling out the self-service kiosks much before, with the sole intention of decreasing human errors, upselling their items to increase the per-person check and to speed up the table turnover time. There are thus many reasons why this technology is being used at such a rapid rate.
6 benefits to consider
Some of the benefits of self-service technology are:
1. First and foremost, the order accuracy. Talking to another person to give out your order and putting it in yourself makes a huge difference. You making mistakes in your own order is highly unlikely than another person taking your order. There are many reasons for it. The general pressure of working in a restaurant, staff shortage, and the hustle and bustle of the restaurant, all can contribute to the staff making mistakes. Hence, the accuracy of the ordering process increases a lot with self-service technology.
2. It solves the problem of labor shortage to a great extent. We all are well aware of the shortage of staff that all restaurants are facing. With the self-service technology in place, this problem is largely solved owing to the fact that the restaurant will need fewer servers as the customers can order and pick up the food themselves, find a comfy spot and devour the deliciousness without any hassles!
3. Upselling. One of the best things about this particular tech is the upselling. The AI employed in the kiosks keep nudging the customer to add items to their order that go best with the selected items, suggesting them to take that food item as a combo or maybe suggesting expensive toppings for their ice creams, pizzas and what-not, essentially increasing the check size.
4. Speed and convenience. Just imagine, in the traditional ordering system, how many steps does a customer have to go through? And how much time does it take? But when it comes to self-service or self-ordering, it is way easier and faster. The difference between the two is incredible. Though many people love to discuss the options with a server and talk, they might beg to differ here, but most people tend to reward the convenience and speed that they get with self-ordering kiosks and table-side ordering.
5. Revenue. Restaurants can serve more customers in fewer time thanks to self-service kiosks and table-side ordering. In general, this helps to generate revenue while improving the customer experience by increasing the restaurant’s ability to take orders. Also, the upsell in these kiosks won’t be seen by the majority of customers because there is no human interaction. According to reports, restaurants implementing self-service kiosks saw a 12%–22% boost in income.
6. Customer data. Self- service tech is an awesome way to collect customer data. While ordering via kiosks, the AI can prompt the customer to join the loyalty club of the restaurants and submit their information in many forms. This data can later be used by restaurants for sending them special deals, offers and promotions via email blasts, SMS campaigns, etc.
When it comes to any tech implementation, one needs to have clear realistic goals which are measurable and achievable. BurgerFi decided to take at least three months to test this technology with a 60% adoption target and an increase of 5%-10% in the check size. It is safe to say, that if a technology can change a user’s behavior so much, is definitely going to play a huge role in shaping the future of the restaurant industry.
Charu Sharma is a marketing manager at mKonnect, a provider of marketing services to restaurants including social media, online and local marketing, as well as the utilization of customer data to help restaurants reach their target audience.