How do self-order kiosks become the secret weapon of successful restaurants?

Balazs BokaonMarch 28, 2023

It's clear that self-ordering kiosks are becoming increasingly popular, and not without reason. Here are the four biggest benefits of self-ordering kiosks for restaurants.

5 min

Over the past few years, self-order kiosks have become standard equipment in fast food chains around the world. However, while McDonald's around the world were early adopters of kiosks, independent restaurants have been much more hesitant and slower to adopt this type of self-service technology.

But the COVID-19 epidemic has radically changed the way these restaurants think about kiosks. What was once seen as an expensive and impersonal technology is now seen as a cost-effective solution for restaurants and a convenient option for customers.

And convenience is not the only benefit. Kiosks have also helped restaurants reduce wait times, improve order accuracy and, most importantly, increase basket value.

What is a self-order kiosk?

As you might guess from the name, a self-order kiosk allows guests to order and pay for their own food in one place - it's like a sophisticated vending machine.

These systems usually consist of a touch screen equipped with easy-to-use digital software. This screen displays the restaurant's menu and guides diners through the ordering process - from food preparation to payment. As the customer builds their order, the kiosk can also display notifications of various promotions or menu changes that guests might not otherwise be aware of.

What makes these self-order kiosks so popular?

As mentioned above, self-order kiosks are nothing new today. Before the pandemic, many large restaurant chains had already installed self-order kiosks in their restaurants and quickly achieved success with the technology. McDonald's has reported that restaurants that have introduced kiosks have experienced an average increase in sales of 5-6%. And when another US restaurant chain, Chili's, placed self-order kiosks at its tables, the chain saw a 20% increase in dessert sales.

The increase in sales is largely due to a change in customer behavior. Customers are used to the ease and speed of ordering online and increasingly expect the same level of control, choice, and personalized service when they visit a restaurant in person. Restaurant kiosks have been specifically designed to provide this faster and more personalized ordering experience, so they are perfectly suited to the changing expectations of customers.

And it's not just tech-savvy millennials who are looking for greater control over their dining experience. According to a Tillster study, shoppers of all ages are eager to use self-order kiosks. 65% of shoppers said they would visit a restaurant more often if they could place their order at a self-service kiosk, and 30% of shoppers said they would prefer to order from a self-order kiosk rather than at the checkout if the lines were the same length.

Let's look at the benefits of installing a kiosk system:

It's clear that self-ordering kiosks are becoming increasingly popular, and not without reason. Here are the four biggest benefits of self-ordering kiosks for Hungarian restaurants.

1. Much higher basket value at the end of orders

Perhaps the biggest benefit of self-order kiosks is their impact on average basket value.

Rather than relying on staff to upsell, self-order kiosks allow for targeted upsell offers while guests are preparing their orders. This could include special promotions such as 2-for-1 offers, but also strategic upsell tactics such as adding extra paid toppings, purchasing premium dishes, or if the customer wants to request certain dishes on a menu.

You'll be pleasantly surprised when you look at POS reports to see the impact of these small additions. A good example is Taco Bell, which made 20% more money on digital orders than on orders taken by the staff.

McDonald's found that customers spent about a dollar more per order when using a kiosk, resulting in a 30% increase in average cart values. McDonald's also found that 20% of customers who did not initially order a drink when it was offered to them through the kiosk purchased it. And that can mean a lot more revenue for you too.

2. Less waiting time

Another obvious benefit of self-order kiosks is that they speed up the ordering process.

Let's face it, hungry customers hate waiting in long queues. According to a study by Tillster, if the queue to order at the checkout is longer than 5 people, 75% of shoppers will choose to order from a self-service kiosk. And if the queue is 10 people long? 91% say they would prefer to order from a restaurant kiosk.

A self-ordering kiosk can help reduce waiting time, as customers can put together their order, send it to the kitchen and pay with just a few taps. Customers can then step out of the queue and wait until their order is ready before picking it up at the designated counter.

While this may not seem like a significantly faster process, Appetize data shows that the introduction of kiosks has reduced overall ordering time by nearly 40%. Some restaurants, such as a Pittsburgh location of Moe's Southwest Grill, now operate only kiosks because of the faster ordering and operational efficiencies provided by shorter lines.

3. Improving order accuracy is an important factor

By allowing customers to select and submit their own orders, the chance of order errors is significantly reduced. A kiosk with a visual menu is incredibly valuable in reducing misunderstandings by ensuring that your guests know exactly what they are ordering, preventing "I didn't order that" conversations.

By increasing order accuracy, your kitchen won't waste time preparing an item you didn't order or an incorrect dish. And you won't have to deal with angry customer complaints or negative online reviews. Ultimately, self-ordering technology can make the cost of cancellations and discounts a thing of the past.

4. Saving money on staff?

Self-order kiosks also help address the issue of productivity by giving restaurateurs the flexibility to move staff around. Staff who previously had to take orders manually can now be reallocated to other tasks that increase sales and improve the customer experience.

This kind of flexible staffing not only improves productivity but can also help reduce labor costs overall. While self-order kiosks can't (and shouldn't) replace all restaurant employees, you'll need fewer employees during busy shifts. And for restaurants on a tight budget, saving one or two employees can help keep operating costs low enough.