Self-service has been gaining traction as a customer service model since the 1920s, when trade magazine The Progressive Grocer began planting ideas for self-service in retailer’s heads.
Today, self-service is ever present. In a world of ATMs, pay-at-the-pump gas stations and self-checkout registers at local retailers, it was only a matter of time before restaurants began to move in that direction as well, replacing old fashioned, face-to-face customer service models with the same high tech, increasingly convenient tools that now reside on the table at your local Chili’s.
This wave of tech integration into a restaurant’s business model differs from the ones that came before it in one significant way: there is no need for machines to replace humans, but rather to create a symbiosis between the two.
Waiters around the country needn’t worry about job security just yet. Self-service restaurant kiosks are not for everyone. According to a report from Gartner’s Software Advice, Millennials overwhelmingly love restaurant self-service kiosks, while 65% of Baby Boomers reject them and more than 40% of Generation X and Y customers are not interested in ordering for themselves. The human element is still necessary to a pleasurable restaurant experience.
The Software Advice survey revealed that the two most preferred restaurant settings to encounter self-service kiosks (both freestanding and table-top) in were casual (45% of respondents) establishments such as Chili’s and fast casual (35% of respondents) places such as Panera Bread.
When it comes to fine dining, 94% of diners do not want self-service, given that they’re paying for a high-end customer experience. More surprisingly, when it comes to quick-service (fast food) diners, 87% lack interest in self-service kiosks.
Patrons prefer to encounter self-service opportunities in certain areas of a restaurant depending on the dining experience. According to the Software Advice report, 88% of diners say that they prefer self-service options to be at the table, versus at the entrance or in line. Casual, sit-down restaurants such as Chili’s have seen restaurant kiosks well received by patrons, as browsing the menu and learning how to use the software on the kiosk takes time.
At quick-service (fast food) establishments, the experience of a kiosk upon entry could be more stress inducing than pleasurable, especially if it creates long wait lines for customers. Quick-service restaurants have also found that it is faster to take orders at the counter than placing them on a self-service kiosk.
This doesn’t mean, however, that self-service is off of the radar for quick-service restaurants. McDonald’s announced in 2014 that it intends to move toward kiosks and mobile ordering in an attempt to keep up with the times and cut labor costs. In 2015, the fast-food chain began implementing kiosks to mixed reviews. The kiosks apparently don’t reach 70% of their diners, many of which are drive-through customers, according to Fortune Magazine.
For casual restaurants, however, table-top technology has become something to consider. Customers are in love with customizing orders, splitting bills and coordinating multiple payments at the table. But there are a number of things for restaurants to take into account before going all in on table-top or any other self-service tech.