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Will Automated Customer Service Work For You?

A kiosk craze is sweeping the restaurant industry with no signs of slowing down. In our mega-digitized age, customers are demanding quicker and more accurate service when dining at fast food restaurants. Wendy’s is the most recent major chain to join the likes of Panera Bread in integrating some form of automation into their customer experience.

Because much of today’s work processes are automated, it’s no surprise that quick-serve restaurants have jumped on board and even gone above and beyond. Panera Bread has cleverly combined a “MyPanera” membership rewards program with their kiosks, allowing customers to save their modifications as favorites and order from their history, along with mobile ordering and payment. How do these appealing point-of-service innovations benefit the restaurant?

One of the biggest pros is increased productivity in the kitchen. With the kiosks working frontline roles, workers can then take on more hours in the kitchen or the responsibility of more challenging tasks. Panera Chief Transformation & Growth Officer Blaine Hurst explains: "The consumer-facing technology results in labor savings for Panera; these hours are redeployed in the cafe. In fact, in most cases, Panera increases the number of associate hours in our cafes; and they see increases in overall guest satisfaction.”

From automated upselling to faster service to sheer convenience, restaurant kiosks undoubtedly pose major advantages. But with this new kind of customer service coming into play, the question of security arises: how can restaurants adapt to an increase in traffic while maintaining optimal safety?

With more workers and action behind-the-scenes, it’s crucial to keep a close watch on kitchen operations at all times. This includes monitoring employee workflow to ensure increased productivity and supervising coolers, grills, and fry machines to maintain food safety. UAS offers the impeccable RAVEN™ video surveillance, as well as highly reliable equipment monitoring, so managers can maintain eyes and ears on a busy restaurant’s happenings even when they’re not there.

Still, a pressing question stands: do kiosks dismantle the human connection? Although personal service is a staple of the restaurant industry, studies show that customers today are more likely to choose restaurants with automated ordering to avoid human interaction, and spend less time waiting in line. With the explosion of smartphones and digital innovation, it’s not hard to believe that this generation of restaurant-goers is demanding optimal speed and little to no face-to-face interaction.

With kiosks offering accurate and quick service at the front of the line, customer retention inevitably rises. Customers who feel the satisfying effects of optimized service are more likely to frequent the same restaurant. With video surveillance, managers can keep close watch on lines and kiosk interaction at any given time, allowing for the chance to make strategic changes if need be. Kitchen operations can also be observed remotely, giving important insight into whether they are appropriately keeping up with the speed of orders coming in.

Because customers value order accuracy over small talk (despite how difficult this concept may be to grasp), kiosks look like an incredible option for fast food restaurants, if they can keep up with the increased demand. Along with time optimization, the privacy factor provides a sense of relief for customers who don’t feel comfortable ordering certain items or sizes in person. And because employee productivity correlates to customer satisfaction, happier customers encourage a more efficiently-run restaurant.

When considering the idea of an automated ordering system for your restaurant, keep in mind what it is that your customers really want. Customer service has certainly evolved over the years, but that doesn’t mean today’s version is less engaged than before. Employees may very well be happier working higher-stakes roles in service as opposed to performing tasks that kiosks can complete. When employees are better engaged, risk of employee theft and crime decrease while productivity blooms. A touch screen may just boost your business.