Self-service kiosks have become incredibly popular in recent years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has caused some quick service restaurant (QSR) operators and the managed service providers (MSPs) who support them to reconsider this touch-based technology.
In light of the public health emergency, consumers have become more conscious about touching the same screens that strangers have touched. As a result, some restaurants have changed their plans and are no longer installing self-service kiosks in their restaurants. In fact, a recent Deloitte report suggests that adoption of this technology could slow if not reverse all together.
But, is that the right decision? Should restaurants not waste their money on this technology, or will kiosks remain a worthwhile investment?
The Industry’s Current Perspective
While adoption may start to slow during the pandemic, self-service kiosks are continuing to work well for some restaurants. That is likely because strategically placing kiosks around a restaurant can help customers spread out and avoid forming large lines. Kiosks also eliminate the need for consumers to interact with staff members when placing an order, which helps maintain physical distancing, as well. These QSR operators have responded to customers’ safety concerns by installing hand sanitizer stations next to each device.
There are other ways to use kiosks in quick service restaurants besides processing in-store orders. For example, some restaurants are using them to facilitate curbside pickup transactions. Patrons can enter a code via a touchscreen to unlock a compartment that contains their order. This can completely eliminates the need for interaction with staff, and it keeps other customers from touching orders that aren’t theirs to try to find their name.
Still, some restaurants remain cautious. Instead of investing in touch-based kiosks, these operators and MSPs are turning customers’ mobile devices into personal or “hardware-less” kiosks instead. Either through a mobile app or QR code, new QSR technologies allow customers to place an order on their own personal phone or tablet. This strategy provides all the same perks of a touch-based kiosk with the added benefit of using your own device. No one else has touched it before you go to place your order.
Predictions for the Future
While no one can truly predict the future, we can certainly make an educated guess about what might happen. While adoption may slow temporarily, we believe kiosks will continue to be a valuable investment. Customers appreciate the ability to place their order on their own, and restaurants can use the technology to suggest additional items or otherwise market to customers while they’re placing their order. However, the industry may move away from touch-based models.
For restaurants that choose to keep kiosks in place, they’ll likely take steps to ensure that the screens are safe for their customers. They might install more kiosks to help spread people out more, add plastic barriers between the kiosks and the people ordering at them, or even establish a practice of wiping down the kiosk between each use.
There are even some innovative kiosks now that have a self-cleaning setting. Within 30 seconds after the guest walks away, the kiosk will notice that there’s no one there and will begin the disinfection process. If the guest returns, it will automatically stop the process and resume it once they’ve stepped away again. Many self-cleaning kiosks use light technology to kill germs without using chemicals, which is also important in a food preparation environment.
Some quick service restaurants may begin to install wipe holders and sanitizing wipes on the sides of kiosks and encourage guests to clean the device before or after they use it. While this does rely on customers to do their part, many people are willing to take steps like this to protect themselves and other guests.
Finally, some restaurants will continue to move toward using mobile apps or online ordering. Guests can have the same non-contact experience without using a communal device. In many cases, they can even order ahead before they reach the restaurant. This can decrease their wait time and improve their general experience. Quick service restaurants can also use apps to create loyalty programs and reward customers for their orders.
We’ll See What HappensIf 2020 taught us anything, it’s that anything can happen. Maybe touch-based self-service kiosks will stick around or maybe they’ll be replaced by app and online ordering. Alternatively, maybe there’s a brand new QSR technology on the horizon. It’s like they say, “necessity breeds innovation.”
No matter what the case is, though, QSR operators will have plenty of work ahead of them, as will the managed service providers and field technicians who support them.