Digital kiosks are creating a buzz as a new channel in the HoReCa industry, especially in restaurants and cafes. But what is a digital kiosk and how can businesses benefit from it?
Restaurants and cafes of all kinds, contrary to multiple other types of business, are highly online-resistant no-other-way-done-than-offline. One of the key factors in the restaurant or any other gastronomical business is the general atmosphere delivered by the venue and its inner style.
According to the National Restaurant Association, there were over 1 million restaurants in the US in 2019. The industry is projected to reach \$863 billion in sales by the end of 2019.
It is estimated that up to one in ten adult Americans work in some kind of bar, restaurant or cafe.
The situation is comparable in Europe, where up to 8.4% of the EU workforce are employed in hospitiality and food sectors. These services generate EUR 264,3 million annually in the 28 countries of E.U (according to the latest Eurostat data available).
The business is mainly offline – there is no way to make a digital dinner (yet). On the other hand, the whole sector sees the benefits that come from using digital tools and reaching the customer in new ways. According to HubSpot data, an astonishing 95% of restaurant owners agree that technology improves their business efficiency and 73% claim that tech tools improve the dining experience. While mobile apps and online ordering systems are popular, the technology of digital kiosks is increasingly gaining notoriety.
What is a digital kiosk
At the simplest level possible, the digital kiosk is a touchscreen device that enables the customer to browse the menu and place orders by themselves. If the restaurant is small enough, it can be an iPad with a customized ordering app. However if the place has more customers to serve, as is common with fast food restaurants located in a shopping mall’s food or other locations with a rate of walk in customers, a more tailored solution is needed.
Thus a typical digital fast food kiosk is a large, standalone touchscreen which enough to conveniently show the menu and display special offers. It can also be (and usually is) enriched with payment solutions (credit card or other digital one) and integration with a kitchen scheduling system and fiscal devices.
The most basic kiosk enables the customer to place a food order without waiter or cashier assistance. A more advanced version also processes payment or provides cross- and up-selling options.
How can interactive digital kiosks support the restaurant and HoReCa business
Delivering an ever-vigilant and endlessly patient serving system comes with numerous benefits for a restaurant.
Traffic peak management
Many restaurants consider a location near a traffic hub like an airport or a transport terminal as the holy grail – access to the vast number of customers flowing nearby drives the footfall. On the other hand, every restaurant witnesses peaks during the day – in the morning for breakfast or for business lunches.
Thus companies face a difficult choice between overstaffing to handle rush hours or leave peak times understaffed and lose income. The self ordering kiosk enables a restaurant to retain optimal number of employees whilst ensuring quality of service due to a more efficient ordering mechanism.
The latest Tillster 2019 Self-service kiosk index indicates that consumer preference is highly dependant on queue length with 30% of customers willing to place an order with a kiosk regardless of the queue length. If there are more than four people waiting, this number exceeds 50%.
Last but not least, a free standing kiosk tackles the problem of queues, ensuring the customer experience isn’t hampered by the long wait.
Better customer experience
As a touchscreen device, the digital kiosk comes with all good user experience practices taken from the online world. The digital version of the menu enables the customer to browse it in a convenient way – with no pressure from the cashier. The customer can browse menu, look at the images and check the size or composition of each set. For a younger audience it is natural to interact with a touchscreen – according to the Pew Research Center up to 96% of people aged 18-29 own a smartphone. So what would be more natural to them than a touchscreen. With its modern, sleek design a digital signage kiosk can be much more familiar than a stranger behind the service desk.
On the other hand, an older audience can praise the kiosks large display and clear presentation. Thus, a digital kiosk can enhance customer service in multiple ways.
Smarter cross- and up-selling
Thus, there are multiple techniques to go beyond the traditional “do you want some fries with that”. The Kiosk will never be rude, tired or impatient and will always deliver the best experience possible.
There are time-limited discounts, colorful buttons and last-chance reminders available. In fact, there are countless combinations leveraging all the possibilities, delivered by big data analytics wired into the device. The kiosk software takes the best practices from e-commerce interface design, so there is a great deal of experience to be drawn from other market segments.
A smart employee always benefits the business with a remarkable observations and wit. Yet human perception is limited and remembering everything about the customer is impossible. But not for the interactive kiosk.
The machine gathers all the data it can – the time needed for the order, the conversion rates of the promotions and the ordering statistics to name but a few. When paired with the loyalty platforms it can also deliver insight on a particular customer’s preferences and tailor the offers to their taste.
More open model
With its endless patience and detailed information of the offer, a digital kiosk better serves narrower audiences. According to various estimations gathered by Food Allergy Research & Education there are up to 32 million people with various allergies living in the US. Also, there are more than 170 foods reported to cause an allergic reaction.
The ability to check products and services for potentially harmful foods in a convenient way, without being forced to order by the queue behind can be not only a difference between comfort and discomfort, but between good health and disease.
Also, there is an increasing popularity for diets connected with a particular worldview or religion. Customers may be looking for a meal without meat or dairy, so precise information on ingredients can be blessing for many buyers. Due to the endless patience of the digital kiosk, the customer can search for replacements – order a coffee without milk, a burger without meat or a shake made with water instead of milk.
Last but not least, there are many people who don’t feel comfortable when talking with other people about their eating habits, even if that’s only a short conversation with a cashier. In some cases there are those who wish to avoid any interaction at all – there are approximately 40 million adults with social anxiety in the US, stacking up to 18,1% of the population. A digital kiosk is far more convenient for them than forced conversation with the staff.
Digital electronic kiosks come with numerous opportunities for restaurants and fast foods. Companies get a multi-purpose tool that enables smarter staff management, delivers a better UX and responds to the needs of a younger audience.
If you feel that your business can benefit from this technology, don’t hesitate to contact us!