Plexure and TASK now TASK Group Tell Me More

The Rise of Kiosks in an Omnichannel Industry

By Elsa Klein

Walk into just about any QSR around the world and you’ll see a well-oiled ordering system. Between a line of familiar self-service kiosks, a smooth mobile order pick-up spot, and employees taking orders at the counter faster than ever – it’s a good time to be a hungry customer in a rush.

Kiosks are just one of many ordering channels growing in popularity among hospitality businesses, but they are quickly becoming one of the most beneficial tools when it comes to speeding up service and delivering top-quality personalized service.

Since the late 1970s, kiosks have been evolving to accommodate changing customer needs, advances in technology, and an overall increase in customer volume and output. Today, they are a go-to ordering tool for customers, equipped with user-friendly interfaces, total integration across technology systems, and endless marketing opportunities for brands.

Here’s a quick snapshot of how self-service ordering kiosks are being used right now – and where the industry might take this technology next.

The potential pitfalls of self-order kiosks

As with any new technology, there is a risk that implementing big changes will harm the overall customer experience. John Laporte, TASK’s US president, suggests, “You have to look thoroughly at how a new tool or process is going to impact your guest. It’s not just about efficiency – a great kiosk has to bring a branded feel, gamification, smooth operations, and actually make life easier for your customers.”

Where kiosks most often fail is making customers feel disconnected from your brand. Mobile ordering, by nature, lacks tactile engagement and the human side of a hospitality experience.

Other risks to be aware of – and to actively work on mitigating before deploying your tech – include:

  • Excluding customers who are nervous about technology
  • Being perceived as taking away an element of privacy
  • Losing your close brand-to-customer relationship

John says, “Ultimately, it’s about knowing your customer well enough to make sure you’re delivering them more benefits than drawbacks with a self-ordering kiosk. We’ve seen it time and time again – kiosks reduce wait times, they allow for increased personalization, and when they are designed well, customers love them.”

To make the most of mobile ordering channels, the bottom line is to constantly consider your customers and how they will perceive and experience any changes you put in front of them.

What Kiosks & Mobile Ordering is doing for businesses right now

Depending on the case study you look at, kiosks have both succeeded and failed. Take McDonald’s for example, who launched the “Experience of the Future” kiosks that have led to increased sales, happier customers, and faster ordering experiences. Meanwhile, reports on other brand’s kiosks have flagged them as ineffective, too expensive, and exclusionary for customers who might struggle with vision or mobility.

So what solutions are being used to ensure successful deployment of mobile ordering options in hospitality businesses?

Providing Physical & Personalized Interaction

While mobile ordering makes total contactless food service possible – which has been hugely beneficial throughout the pandemic – some customers still prefer a tangible experience in restaurants.

Kiosks provide a “middle ground” between independent, mobile ordering and an in-person experience. By using an on-premises kiosk, customers still get the satisfaction of ordering at a physical restaurant location. Incorporating personalized offers and responsive menu technology also provides more opportunities for customers to feel engaged and close to a brand.

John says, “Mobile ordering brings the unique power of remembering customer ordering history and using data to present relevant offers when it matters most. While the nature of interacting with a screen may seem less personal, in actuality, kiosks can provide a very meaningful ordering experience. It’s all about looking for more effective ways to connect with your guest and leverage your technology to take that relationship further.”

Appeal to a Wide Range of Customers

Breaking down the technophobe barrier is far simpler than people often realize. To avoid losing out on customers who may initially be worried about interacting with mobile ordering technology, the answer is to make interfaces as easy to use as possible.

Kiosks are often a far more approachable technology compared to a mobile app. Because they’re large, easy to read, and require no sign-in or downloading, customers who are usually nervous about mobile technology will be more willing to try out a self-service kiosk. In this way, the function of kiosks allows more of your customer base the opportunity to interact with your brand digitally and can act as a kind of stepping stone to other mobile order technologies.

Bring your customers into an omnichannel industry

Hospitality is quickly becoming a blended industry, where digital and in-person channels have become one and the same when it comes to interacting with and ordering from a brand. Customers now rely on multiple different platforms regularly. They expect their favorite restaurants to offer a seamless, consistent experience no matter what channel they are using – whether it’s an app, a website, over the phone, or in the drive-thru lane.

To keep up, brands need to take an omnichannel approach, where every touchpoint is connected and operates efficiently within their wider digital system. That means seamless integration between ordering platforms and inventory management tools, kitchen operating systems, and delivery apps.

Trevor Dee, TASK’s US Vice President of Business Development, describes this flow of technology as an ecosystem. He says, “Full connectivity through a single solution digital system means that every piece of your business is part of one holistic source of truth. This level of integration means that your kiosk becomes just one interconnected piece of your operation, making it possible to gain, store, and access data in real-time when and where you need it.”

Kiosks are just one part of this digital revolution for hospitality brands. But they are a necessary piece of your customer journey, helping connect more customers to your brand, provide faster service, and encourage an effortless entry point to an omnichannel operation.

What’s on the future horizon for kiosks and mobile ordering?

Look at the numbers and you’ll see that self-service ordering technology is growing at never-before-seen rates. From 2022 to 2028, kiosks are expected to grow by 6.5 percent as more brands take advantage of the digital tool.

This growth is mainly due to an increase in customer preferences for self-service devices. According to a study by Tillster, nearly 65% of customers said they would visit a restaurant more often if self-service kiosks were available. In fact, even when there are no lines, 30 percent of customers still prefer to use a mobile device rather than order with a cashier.

Beyond just helping reduce lines and wait times, kiosks are proving themselves to be beneficial to the overall customer experience. They are offering engaging menus, accurate personalization, and simpler solutions for loyalty and rewards – ultimately making them more appealing to customers. Trevor says, “What this will mean for brands going forward is an increased demand for in-store kiosks, and robust technical capabilities to handle larger volumes of customers, orders, and digital transactions.”

To manage these significant industry shifts, and to continue driving relevant experiences for customers, brands need to be looking forward when it comes to kiosk technology and integration. It’s about working towards a holistic digital transformation that elevates your entire restaurant operation. To start seeing increased revenue and customer satisfaction as a result of deploying strategic self-order technology, look at the big picture of your digital strategy.