By Fionn Hart, UK Country Manager, Flipdish (www.flipdish.com)
The restaurant industry has been hit immensely hard over the past 19 months, owing to enforced closures and restrictions, as well as streams of new regulations that have vastly changed the overall dining experience for good.
According to Yelp’s economic impact report released in Q2 of 2020, as many as 72,842 restaurants had closed across the US by July 10, 2020. And in the UK, a tenth of all restaurants were closed by May 2021. Meanwhile, those that were able to survive were forced to pivot and transition, whilst also tackling the ongoing staff shortages plaguing the sector.
From table layouts and adjusted menus to a spike in takeout options and a rethink of customer service, many of these adaptations are here to stay as customers remain conscious about health, safety, and cleanliness in the new normal. It has also birthed a long overdue new era of innovation for the sector.
Enter the self-service kiosk – an asset that is quickly becoming popular among diners.
Having initiated the rollout of self-ordering kiosks across the US in 2015, the vast majority of McDonald’s 13,000-plus restaurants across the globe now have self-ordering kiosks installed and there are four reasons this technology is the industry’s saving grace.
1) LARGER ORDERS
We have Flipdish data showing that orders at self-ordering kiosk are on average 20-30 percent larger than a traditional counter transaction.
There are several possible explanations for this. At kiosks, customers are presented with various menu options, can take more time to order, and may feel more confident in buying more – through self-ordering kiosks, customers can be more comfortable in order any size meal or any volume of food without the risk of being judged.
2) MARKETING OPPORTUNITIES
It is a well-known fact that data is now the most valuable asset in the world, and for businesses it is like gold dust. By tracking and analysing data effectively, key trends and insights can be unlocked.
For restaurants, kiosks can be the information hub, capturing every transaction which can, in turn, be used to track customer behaviour, nurture loyalty, and inform marketing opportunities.
Let’s revisit McDonald’s as an example. In testing marketing opportunities in its franchises, the company found that one in five customers who initially didn’t want a drink would buy one when presented with it on a self-ordering screen.
By removing the barriers of traditional print menus, restaurant owners are also encouraged to constantly revamp their menus, trial promotions, and alter prices. As a result, quick innovation and agility is unlocked and the marketing opportunities are endless
3) MORE ORDERS. FEWER QUEUES.
We are experiencing a new generation of diners who expect immediate gratification on everything from retail to healthcare, and hospitality is no exception.
Customer expectations are only going up, with many now unwilling to wait in lengthy queues following lockdowns and restrictions.A 2020 study even showed that a huge 57% of customers are said to leave pubs and bars if queues are more than 5 people.
With such a vast array of other options available, consumers can and will simply go elsewhere – and if they have a bad experience, chances are they won’t return in any hurry, no matter how good the food tastes.
The best way to mitigate the risk of long queues when battling restrictions and social distancing measures is to introduce digital kiosk systems to work in tandem with face-to-face service. By doing so, you get the best of both worlds for your customers and revenues.
4) NO HUMAN ERROR
Even the best employees are prone to making mistakes from time to time.They might mishear what a customer says, forget about an order when under pressure, or simply have an off day.
Such incidents are only human, yet they will undoubtedly lead to customer frustration, disappointment, and poor experiences.
The kiosk won’t call in sick or snap at a customer, it takes away language barriers, and ultimately serves customers faster. It is the perfect support for your front of house team.
5) A HELPING HAND TO TACKLE STAFF SHORTAGES
Staff shortages are a long-running trend in the sector. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that vacancies in the sector have hovered at 90,000 or above since 2017. However, COVID-19 has clearly exacerbated this issue.Vacancies doubled between May and July of this year and it is now estimated UK hospitality has a shortfall of more than 200,000 workers.
The answer lies in digital.Through introducing systems like digital kiosks – and digital table ordering as another example – these personnel pressures can be alleviated.