Back when I ate fast food on a regular basis, I wanted a self-serve kiosk so that my order would come out exactly as I ordered the food. Too many memories of sitting in a car waiting for my food and then discovering that I got cheese when I didn't want it or condiments were missing from my burger.
Wendy's is introducing self-serve kiosks to its owned locations and offering franchisees that same option. However, the company is tying the kiosks to minimum wage increases that won't be here for several more years.
The kiosks were coming anyway: the photo above is from a McDonald's in Brussels from my visit last summer. The kiosks would be here regardless of any wage increases.
The choices run across the top so you can access the whole menu. These days, I don't see every menu item in a McDonald's since there is limited room. A kiosk can point to any menu item. You can pay for your item at the bottom and to the left on the kiosk.
True, the service is impersonal but efficient. Reductions in errors save the restaurant money and customers get a happier experience.
"We continue to look at initiatives and how we work to offset any impacts of future wage inflation through technology initiatives, whether that's customer self-order kiosks, whether that's automating more in the back of the house in the restaurant," Wendy's President Todd Penegor said last August.
Customer service is the reason you introduce self-serve kiosks. Wendy's doesn't seem to understand this concept.
In that McDonald's in Brussels, there were plenty of workers making the food and cleaning the restaurant. A smart franchisee would keep as many workers on a short-term basis for good customer service. If workers don't have to worry about punching in orders and making change, they can do a better job at making the food and keeping things clean.
Even if you love self-serve kiosks, you will need employees to help customers learn the new system. So those employees aren't going anywhere right away.
Fast food workers used to have to refill drinks. Now customers refill their own drinks. They can get more ketchup without having to ask a human being. People weren't complaining because those moves improved their experience. Those moves saved the restaurant labor costs.
The self-serve kiosks will do the same thing: improve customer experience through efficiency.
In the 1970s, the only time a fast food worker burst into song was in a commercial. But fast food chains cared more about service back then. The few times I go into a major fast food restaurant now, I go despite the service, not because of it.
Machines can't replace man. Only man can replace man. Take advantage of the technology of kiosks to improve customer service. Retrain your employees and food distribution system so customers don't get cold fries or microwaved burgers.
Even in a pizza-ordering-app-on-a-smartphone world, service should be important. Just because the food comes out relatively fast doesn't mean corners should be cut. Respect your customers and employees. Your food won't be any healthier, but on those rare occasions where fast food is a viable option, here's hoping for a better experience.
photo credit: C'est moi.
video credit: Burger King; YouTube/haikarate4