The Menu – the latest insights on restaurant technology trends, customer successes, and best practices.

  • June 24, 2014

Self-Service Offerings in F&B – Here to Stay?

Guest Author

By: Ned Rowland, Sales Director

"Two deep is too many" is a phrase in quick service that keeps line staff alert to the Need for Speed. In today’s fast paced, ultra productive environment, consumers don’t tolerate a slow down when they walk through the door of a fast casual establishment. Even in retail, consider the immediate reception you receive at Apple or Verizon to get you into the queue so you don’t walk away when you observe others in the store.

Self-service ordering and check out has been steadily expanding in grocery store delis and at checkout, at hardware stores, and of course, the airlines, but has been slowly adopted in food service. While a few chains such as Applebee’s and Chili’s have made quantum leaps into the space with customer self-ordering through table top devices, most operators have been hesitant to disrupt their customer engagement models. While the benefits are clear – preventing customer abandonment during peak periods, reducing labor costs, increased operating hours, enabling customer identification, communication, and promotion opportunities – there have been prevailing risks and concerns. What are these hurdles and are they getting knocked down?

1. Cost. Cost has been a major factor in adding self-service kiosk stations at the expense of store real estate. But the introduction of new lower cost tablet devices and smaller footprint traditional workstations are changing the game by allowing multiple engagement points at a more affordable price – at the counter, in a kiosk, as a mobile pick up and order device.

2. Security. Security is always a concern but with developing Point to Point Encryption (P2PE) technologies coming along, both mobile wireless and wired portable devices are now more acceptable. And with digital wallet payment options like PayPal where a consumer’s phone initiates payment, self-service innovation, convenience, and security all come together.

3. Difficult IT Logistics. Lastly, behind the scenes of offering self-service options has always lurked the double whammy of integration integrity and multi-vendor application support. What may look like pretty screens to a customer can be a pretty ugly technology support proposition for a restaurant. Often there are two databases to manage, two applications to support and upgrade, and two separate costs and relationships to manage. As table service POS providers expand their transactional offerings outside the traditional cashier/server workstation deployments, you can expect more single vendor/single application solutions that will reduce costs and complexities.

With all of these new technological advances, is this the year that the chasm of self-service adoption is crossed?

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