Photo: saaby, Flickr
The idea has been around for several years -- kiosk demos were big at the Foodservice Technology expo five years ago, and now they are entering the real world. From a business standpoint, it would seem to be a no-brainer: A kiosk is always on time, never needs a bathroom break, and won't give the customer -- or the manager -- any lip. But are they cheaper hires?
Michael Norwich, Jr., who owns a new Jack-in-the-Box with a kiosk in El Paso, TX, explains that cost savings aren't part of the appeal. "It may be that the kiosk results in a higher-than-average check or increases the volume of sales, but it's hard to quantify that so far, since we only opened two weeks ago." He's not at all sure the kiosk will end up costing less than a live employee. "We have a person who oversees the kiosk, who guides people through using it, hands them their beverage cups, things like that," Norwich points out. So why bother with the kiosk, if it doesn't save any dough? According to Norwich, it's all about the cool factor. "Its usage skews very high among the teen and young adult crowd," he says. "They're technologically savvy, and we figured they would like it."
What's the consumer perspective? One blogger described the kiosk interface he used in Bellevue, WA ,as "very well done and easy." While the voice lacked something to be desired -- "I have to imagine it would get annoying listening to [it] all day" -- the kiosk presented menu choices that the customer didn't know about, like the option to take a salad instead of fries.
There's still a little human interaction to be had. After an order is placed with the kiosk, customers wait for their numbers to be called by an actual live person. And for the technophobes among us, there are still plenty of employees with pulses to help you out. "Most orders in our store still go through a traditional point-of-sale system," Norwich says. Translation: Service with a smile.