Can a Self Service Kiosk Improve my Restaurant Profit Margin?

Chris Albrecht
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The only thing that stays the same for restaurants these days is change. Between a global pandemic, labor shortages, supply chain issues, and shifting consumer behaviors, it’s more important than ever for restaurants to change and adapt

But there is one change restaurants can make right now to address a number of the challenges they face. Self service kiosks have been around for years, but they have become more important than ever. Whether you operate a handful of restaurants or manage a large chain of them, here’s why you should consider adding kiosks to all of your locations. 

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What is a self service kiosk? 

A kiosk is a standalone machine, typically with a large touchscreen that allows customers to view your menu, select items, and pay for them — all without having to interact with a cashier. 

Benefits of self service kiosks

There are a number of reasons to implement self service kiosks at a restaurant, including: 

  • Labor: With kiosks to take over some or all of your customers’ orders, your employees can spend more time on customer service and answering questions
  • Faster service: With a self service kiosk, there’s no need for a customer to speak their order and have it repeated back to them. Nor is there a need to hand over payment (or wait for change). With just a few taps and a swipe of a card (or other form of self-payment), the order is placed so the next customer can step up and do the same. 
  • Higher tickets: An interactive menu allows customers to add items other than just shakes or fries. They can customize their meal however they’d like. This, in turn, boosts ticket sizes, with one study showing a margin increase of up to 20 percent. Additionally, artificial intelligence systems can be integrated to upsell items based on things like weather (cold day, hot coffee!), and even create dynamic pricing based on rush and slow times.
  • Contactless ordering: The pandemic has trained restaurants and customers alike to look for ways to reduce human-to-human contact. A self service kiosk can remove one vector of transmission between workers and customers. 
  • Data: Gaining insights into your customer’s buying patterns is more critical than ever. By tying a loyalty program into a self service kiosk, restaurants can get a direct connection with the customer, knowing exactly what they buy, when they buy it and how often. That data can be used to create special promotions presented just to that customer through the kiosk!

Fixed kiosk or mobile? Why not both?


In addition to kiosks, there is also a movement in restaurants to enable mobile ordering and payment. As all of these solutions come to market, it’s important to think of kiosks and mobile ordering as a “both/and” and not an “either/or.” Mobile ordering and kiosks both have their strengths and can be combined to exist in the same retail space.

Because of their ubiquity, mobile apps are a great way to engage with customers. Almost everyone with a smartphone carries it around with them everywhere. Phones also act as payment mechanisms and can become vehicles for customer loyalty programs, offering up personalized recommendations and promotions. But mobile apps do add a layer of friction by forcing the customer to download and install an app and set up an account. 

For customers that do not want to go through that process, a kiosk can offer many of the same benefits as a mobile phone. Kiosks allow for faster checkout, the ability to upsell through dynamic promotions, and can even be tied into loyalty programs to retain customer data. 

Implementing both kiosks and mobile ordering means that restaurants can provide more options to meet consumers where they are at.  

Getting started with kiosks

Thankfully, there are many hardware vendors out there offering top-notch self service kiosk hardware to suit just about any need. Consult with your innovation departments to see what hardware will work best for your existing systems and workflows. 

Equally as important as the hardware is the software that runs your new kiosks. Does it tie in with your existing POS? Will it adapt easily as you make additions and changes to your menus and payment processing? Is the software stable enough to handle a massive number of transactions? Be sure to think about all of these complications before committing to a particular software ecosystem to power your kiosks.

The more things change

Whether it's a pandemic, a labor shortage, the supply chain, or something we haven’t thought of yet, the only constant for restaurants in the future will be change. As such, they should start changing on their own now, before it’s too late. 

Device Management for Restaurants


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Chris Albrecht
Chris Albrecht

Chris Albrecht is a veteran technology journalist and communications professional. He was formerly a staff writer with the influential tech blog GigaOM and Editor in Chief of the food technology blog The Spoon. More recently, Chris founded OttOmate, a news site focused on the business of food robotics and automation.

Chris Albrecht
Learn about Esper mobile device management software for Android and iOS
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