Opinion - ​The Rise of Self-Service Kiosks: You Tempted?

Opinion - ​The Rise of Self-Service Kiosks: You Tempted?

Posted by Stelios on 3rd Feb 2024

When self-service kiosks first made their appearance in the UK, it was at McDonald's. The sight was novel, and many customers were initially hesitant to embrace this new way of ordering. However, fast forward a few years, and the scene has completely transformed. Step into any McDonald's today, and you'll find a single traditional till amidst a multitude of kiosks, with customers also opting for the convenience of the McDonald's app.

Burger King 164th St td (2019-01-08) 01 - Self Service Kiosks Tdorante10, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The fast-food industry is making a big move towards digital order kiosks, not just for operational efficiency but also to drive sales. A prime example is Burger King. Following a successful pilot program in the US that yielded 'tremendous results,' as per Josh Kobza, CEO of Restaurant Brands International, they're now embarking on a large-scale expansion. Burger King is not alone in this digital revolution: Shake Shack and Yum! Brands (the parent company of Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut) are also riding this wave.

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Shake Shack's nearly 300 locations in the US have mostly adopted kiosks, witnessing a notable increase in kiosk sales. Similarly, Taco Bell offers kiosk ordering across all its US outlets. KFC's ambitious plans aim to bring kiosks to most of its international locations by the end of 2026. The idea is clear: reduce front-of-house labour, thus reallocating resources more efficiently within the restaurant.

Financially, kiosks make sense. As labour costs rise, the savings from reduced front-of-house staff can be significant. Analysts and executives highlight the dual benefits of labour savings and the potential for higher sales through kiosks. Customers tend to spend more when ordering from kiosks, driven by a more relaxed ordering experience that encourages adding extras or upgrading their orders.

HK 上環 Sheung Wan 信德中心 Shun Tak Centre shop 麥當勞 McDonald's restaurant May 2018 IX2 Self-Service terminals TaiCIWJHai King Tung, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The advantages of self-service kiosks go beyond labour and financial savings. They offer a superior customer experience by providing more time for browsing, customising orders, and even reducing order errors. Moreover, when not in use, these kiosks serve as effective advertising platforms for promotions, further enhancing their value.

But it's not just about labour savings. The goal should always be to enhance customer service. The pandemic played a role in increasing acceptance of self-service technology as customers look for contactless options. Ultimately, the success of self-service kiosks in fast food hinges on thoughtful placement and a focus on improving the overall customer experience.

What's your take on this digital transformation? Do you disagree or agree with the use of Self Ordering Kiosks?

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