Born during pandemic: Self-ordering tech is here to stay
Born during pandemic: Self-ordering tech is here to stay

From traditional ordering via phone calls to digital menus, it is now the age of self-ordering. Self-ordering is anticipated to be the future of the restaurant industry on the back of the myriad benefits they offer to customers as well as the industry stakeholders. One major reason why self-ordering is shaping the future of the restaurant industry is the elimination of long queues, allowing customers to place their orders faster. Customers now have the convenience of ordering at their own pace without having to wait for the cashier to take their orders. Restaurants on the other hand now have the convenience of quick changes in the menu, eliminating staff cost and a better monitoring of orders.

Research shows that most people prefer visiting an outlet if they are offered the convenience of ordering via self-ordering kiosks. Furthermore, just five people lining up are sufficient to drive away 57 percent of the prospective customers to a competitor outlet. This makes it all the more evident that long queues are bad for business. However, it is now a thing of the past with the arrival of self-ordering kiosks. 

Post Covid-19, the attention has now shifted to digital self-ordering systems like QR code ordering. To minimize touch points for customers and reduce the need for frequent sanitation of self-ordering kiosk screens, restaurants have introduced next gen kiosks that can be accessed via customers’ mobile phones. Customers can simply scan the QR code and access the restaurant menu on their phones, thereby facilitating easy ordering. The entire ordering and payment procedure is now automated, freeing the cashiers and waiters to focus on customer service. In time, such technology are set to become the standard across multiple formats, saving ample time and resources.

Answering the labour shortage crisis

Across the board, labour poses the greatest challenge for restaurant operators, both in terms of driving supply chain shortages and limiting operational capacity. To adapt, many restaurants are temporarily closing or cutting their hours. In practice, this often means opening later or closing earlier than usual, or eliminating a shift, such as breakfast or lunch, altogether. Several of the companies have revealed that they are raising menu prices to offset rising costs from labour, raw materials, and other inputs

Nevertheless, increasing prices has long been known to deter potential consumers. Implementing self-ordering technology gets to the root of the problem by decreasing operating costs while raising menu prices merely serves to offset the problem through an unsustainable quick fix. As consumer preferences continue to shift post pandemic, many customers may be less willing to pay higher prices for their favourite meals and thus take their business elsewhere.

“Self-ordering technology addresses the direct effects of the labour shortage by decreasing operating costs while improving the customer experience. While all of the aforementioned fixes to the labour shortage negatively impact consumers and may decrease profits over time, self-ordering technology works to drive incremental revenue and streamline operations at the same time. Not to forget, your consumers will be loyal to your brand and not to the aggregators which will give better insights into performance metrics,” Avanish Agarwal, head marketing at Flax commented.

Technology enhancing customer experience

From children to millennials to the geriatric population, everyone is accustomed to mobile phones today. Thanks to the sheer convenience, people now opt for ordering online, be it food, appliances, clothing, medicines, or groceries! By simplifying order procedures, technology is actually luring more customers into ordering online. Even if the queues to the cashier and kiosk were equal, a majority of the population would still go about ordering from tech, as opposed to doing it manually. 

All the information about the menu items can now be readily provided to the customers, ridding them of the confusion and doubts pertaining to nutritional value or ingredients used. Furthermore, just browsing through the entire menu at their own pace makes for a positive experience.

Sonali Lakhotia, founder and owner of Potboiler feels that contactless dining in the post pandemic world has helped us interact with guests in a very different way.  “Taking orders on the tables has become much easier. Our servers can now simply use a tab or their own phone to take and punch orders. What has also changed is the way guests place orders. We see a shift where guests opt for self-scan and order. It definitely helps in operations where the servers need not takedown orders on notebooks and then shift it for billing or kots.  We have even shifted to sending ebills or guests can simply request for ebill from the comfort of their tables,” he said.

Increasing customer acceptability

It’s clear that self-ordering POS systems are growing in popularity. Raghav Khullar, chef-owner at Caffeine ‘n’ Carburateurs shared that customers earlier strained to have adopted the technology have now transitioned into it via QR code based menus during the pandemic. “Reduced wait times, improved order accuracy, and, most importantly, upsell prompts to generate larger cheque sizes are some of the key benefits the technology provides to a restaurant,” he added.

Self-ordering has expanded beyond just pizza delivery and fast food to include a broad spectrum of restaurant types, including fine food, family restaurants, and bars to make it easier for customers to get what they need quickly and accurately which all help your bottom line no matter what type of restaurant one operates.

Lastly, self-ordering platforms are also a good channel for the updation or redemption of loyalty points. It is no brainer that customers keep coming back to their favourite restaurants, the ones they are loyal to. Self-ordering kiosks and platforms provide with the option of easily integrating the restaurant loyalty programs that reward customers with redeemable points as per their frequency of visiting or their order amount. 

Not only does this strategy keep customers satisfied, but it also encourages them to use self-ordering platforms more often since they could have a reward waiting for them in the end! While the pandemic might just be the reason for this shift, but the shift is surely for the larger good, solving a larger purpose that could eventually bring down many hassles from the restaurant operation.

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