After a pilot program to market-test kiosk ordering, digital menu boards that feature entrees based on time-of-day, and other innovations in more than 2,000 international locations, McDonald’s recently expanded the program to more than 500 locations in Florida, New York and Southern California, with plans to roll out the changes across North America soon. In 2017 they will also add mobile payment to their smartphone app, which has been downloaded by 16 million people. (Fortune)
Some have questioned the wisdom of stores already stressed by thin margins and increasing labor costs taking on the $50,000+ hit of installing kiosks. But McDonald’s, Panera, Wendy’s and others are tapping into the zeitgeist of modern dining. Twenty-first century diners seek a seamless dining experience online and offline, inside and outside the restaurant. Owners who invest in providing an experience see a difference in revenue. One owner-operator of 30 McDonald’s franchises in Germany experienced 22 percent growth after a makeover. He said that before the remake, mothers would drop off children for a birthday party and pick them up later. Now they stay and enjoy a latte and a piece of cake. (BusinessInsider & Reuters)
There is another reason for the commitment to the guest experience—the impact on the labor force. Many pundits offer the common wisdom that the kiosks are being installed to save money on labor by laying off workers. But McDonalds and others look at it differently. They’re using the front-line workers freed up from taking orders to improve the guest experience. After placing an order via kiosk, diners no longer need stand near the counter waiting for it to come out on a tray. Instead they can take a seat, because some of the former cashiers will provide table service. Others will move into the kitchen to supplement understaffed food-preparation teams, further improving quality of service.
Skeptics are doubtful that these changes will create new demand or lure back repeat traffic. One analyst proclaimed, “The reason people go to the store is not for the kiosk. It’s for the food.”
But the innovators would beg to differ. No, it’s not for the kiosk, but it’s not for the food either. It’s for the entire experience, an experience with many components. Certainly, the food is an important element, but the experience doesn’t start when you pick up a fork and end when you drop a napkin on your plate. It doesn’t even begin when you walk in the door and end when you walk out. For the twenty-first century diner, the experience extends into the digital always-on, always-connected world that a large and growing segment of the world embraces. Forward-looking restaurant operators are already headed that direction.
For more information on how restaurant operators can use the cloud to increase loyalty while protecting their brands, download our white paper “Restaurant Security and the Guest Experience” and view our webinar, “Winning Marketshare with Customer Engagement Tech.”