The Role of Touchscreen Kiosks in Today’s Restaurant Reality

With guests wanting less face-to-face contact and more social distancing, are self-order kiosks a viable option for ordering and paying for food?

If you go to buy coffee at an airport these days, you’ll likely see long, snaking lines of people waiting to use the self-order kiosk, and just a handful of folks waiting to order from the crew member behind the counter.

This scene is indicative of a trend we’ve heard from our enterprise quick serve and fast casual customers: namely, that guests want to return to some sense of normalcy to enjoy the food and drink that brings them comfort. But they also have a heightened awareness when it comes to touching surfaces, especially those used by large numbers of people—such as kiosks.

They want low-contact restaurant visits, and the ordering and payment process tends to be among the highest-touch aspects of eating out. And while using a kiosk reduces contact with crew members, it also requires the guest to touch surfaces that perhaps hundreds of other people have touched. These surfaces have been shown to be less than sanitary.

Guests and operators alike are asking: What are the tradeoffs in terms of convenience, speed of service, and perceived safety?

Are Kiosks a Viable Option?

Pre-Covid, kiosk adoption in Quick Serve and Fast Casual was on the rise. Operators may be wondering if kiosks still have a role. The short answer is that they certainly do. Let’s look at some of the factors involved.

Consider your menu & concept and the ordering and payment options you offer, today. 

Do you give customers the option to order online or through your app? Does your menu appeal to the customer who happens to be nearby and acts on impulse when they smell cinnamon rolls baking or fries fresh out of the oil? For this second set of customers, as well as customers that don’t use or know about online or app-based ordering, clearly you’ll still need to offer easy, socially distant on-premises ordering options. 

Look at operational practices to ensure a clean and socially safe kiosk experience. 

Social distancing is on everyone’s lips, and suddenly everyone’s personal ‘bubble’ is 6 feet or more. In a past article we covered kiosk placement and the fact that a pair of kiosks outperforms a single kiosk by a factor of 3. Now, of course, as health departments recommend minimal 6-foot distancing between patrons to help avoid the spread of viruses, what does this mean for restaurant kiosks? If you have kiosks that are closer together than 6 feet, you can turn off one or more kiosks, to help create more distance between guests. Moving one or more kiosks to a new location to spread them out or create another self-service ordering area may also make sense, depending on space constraints and overall traffic flow. 

A visibly obvious cleaning regimen can also help alleviate customer fears and your risks. Check with your kiosk provider for cleaning guidelines. A spray-on cleaning compound is common, although some of these must sit on the surface for at least two minutes to be effective. An alternative is an automated UV-C light treatment device that can be installed on kiosks. It continuously monitors to detect when surfaces have been used and safely treats them without any assistance from staff. The patented UV-C light is up to 99.99% effective against bacteria, fungi, and viruses. It’s an effective, reliable, and highly visible way to reassure your guests of your commitment to their comfort and well-being.

Evaluate emerging ways guests could interact with kiosks.

Kiosk technology is moving forward at a rapid pace. Here are some of the newer touchless interaction technologies from kiosk innovators. All of these could help restaurants give guests a touchless, socially safe experience.

  • Voice. AI-driven voice assistant technology lets guests speak their order and pay at kiosks.
  • Stylus. Typically used for tablet computers or smartphones, the stylus has a new important role: helping restaurant guests order with less concern about germs. It could be a one-time-use stylus, or a reusable stylus that gets sanitized between customers.
  • No-touch (gesture). With this technology, guests simply need to gesture toward the selection they want. The kiosk reads the gesture as touch. 

What Does a Socially Safe Restaurant Look Like? What are Kiosk Best Practices?

If you’re asking these kinds of questions, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve been working with owners and operators of national brands with thousands of locations to develop innovative ways to serve guests in socially safe ways.

We’re ready to help you, too. Please check out our Socially Safe Restaurants page or contact us today.