Rising minimum wages and shrinking profits have sent quick service restaurants looking for savings. Since labour costs represents such a large chunk of operating expenses, many national QSR chains are are considering interactive ordering kiosks to improve their bottom line. Kiosk proponents speak about increasing efficiency and reducing ordering errors while some argue this is mostly about cutting staff.
This posting isn’t about debating the pros and cons of ordering kiosks, but rather to investigate the risks involved when implementing such a new technology. It’s important to consider the impact of these devices because poorly designed kiosk can alienate customers and mess up a perfectly good customer experience.
On the positive side, McDonald’s has been rolling out ordering kiosks for a couple of years and the feedback has been mostly positive.
- McDonald’s shoots down fears it is planning to replace cashiers with kiosks
- McDonald’s Canada introduces self-serve ordering
While some are worried this will lead to job losses, the company insists employees will be reassigned to other duties which should improve customer service.
I have used some of these kiosks with mixed results. Unless you’re a frequent McDonald’s customer, you may get lost as you go through pages of information while trying to complete your order. Since I’m no millennial, “your mileage may vary….”.
So, what makes an interactive ordering session break down.
The ordering application must be responsive. No one wants to poke at a screen and nothing happens. Interactive ordering screens need to provide instant feedback otherwise customers get frustrated and they leave the store. If you’re lucky, they may switch to another line so they can place their order with a live person, at which point it’s no longer a positive experience.
It shouldn’t feel like you’re working at placing a food order. The process should be effortless and quick so the ordering path is critical. You want to make sure the ordering interface is as simple and efficient as possible. This means grouping products in a logical way and making sure customers can complete an order in the least number of steps. Designing interactive applications may be a science but it’s also common sense.
With all this complexity, It’s no wonder many QSR chains have been slow to adopt interactive ordering kiosks. Subway restaurants fall under the late adopter category with plans to start rolling out the technology as part of a complete store redesign.
This Gizmodo article goes over potential negative impacts of switching to touchscreens for the sandwich chain.
Subway obviously wants to rebrand itself and it’s looking at technology to appeal to a young customer base. But the way they are implementing these changes may turn off people who are used to the personal interaction with their local “sandwich artist”.
It’s great to see QSR chains invest in technology so they can remain relevant, but these changes should always take into account what has made the brand special. With Subway, it’s interacting with the person behind the counter as they put together your sandwich. Take this away and Subway is no different than a burger shop where your meal is prepared and packaged out of sight. The whole experience becomes less personal and less inviting.
Thinking of introducing new technology in your restaurant? Be sure to take into account what makes your store different. What are you best known for. What do customers like about your business. Then, use new technology to augment and improve the positives.
Technology is great at removing complexity, but it can also be impersonal and cold. If you’re planning to introduce ordering kiosks in your store, be sure they are responsive, easy to use and add value.