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Self-ordering kiosks (SOKs)…when we first heard about these, there was a lot of buzz around SOKs as a means to cut back on staff due to minimum wage increases in the U.S. and globally. Whether that is/was true or not, there are certainly equally-compelling reasons for self-ordering kiosks in the retail environment.

Self-ordering kiosks are just one of the many tech advancements in the QSR environment have revolutionized the way customers order food and the process of how food reaches the customer According to, recent studies reveal that kiosk and tablet self-ordering encourage higher check averages and healthier sales. Even more interesting is these new technologies allow servers to act more as brand ambassadors by freeing up their time to “sell” the brand and the up-sell new or special food offerings that come with a higher price point.

McDonalds & Other QSRs Adopt Self-Ordering Kiosks

In the case of McDonald’s, self-ordering kiosks are popping up inside restaurants at record speed. McDonald’s U.S. lags behind Canada, Australia and the U.K., which have already integrated SOKs into their restaurants. Wendy’s and KFC continue on their quests with SOKs while Burger King is adding SOKs to all their newly designed Burger King of the Future locations (BK is one of the later players to this game). Panera Bread has also experienced positive results and customer feedback with SOKs and repurposed front counter staff to meal prep staff. It begs the question of whether any of these chains can/plan to eliminate front counter ordering completely? Is human interaction at restaurants still valued for certain segments of the population (e.g. senior citizens)?

Self-ordering kiosks or handhelds inside the restaurant are taking off everywhere. Applebee’s, Chili’s and Olive Garden have table-side tablets for customers to order and pay with minimal human touch points. This allows wait staff to tend to more customers at the same time. It’s plausible to think these advancements could help speed up table turnovers, as patrons would not have to wait on staff to either order or pay. According to QSR magazine, successful self-ordering kiosk programs should be customizable to specific restaurants or areas and work well with restaurants POS system.

Using SOKs to Achieve Digital Goals

QSR Magazine also posed the question, in a world of need for heightened customer engagement, how can self-ordering kiosks or tablets integrate with a retailer’s digital goals? SOKs can link to loyalty programs and quick customer surveys. SOK users could engage in a small, two question survey if they were offered a part of their order at no cost or were rewarded somehow for taking a survey. The restaurant receives valuable feedback and the customer leaves with an incentive to return. Win-win for all.

Retailers are Constantly Looking for New Ways to Connect with Customers both In-Store and Digitally

While self-ordering kiosks are seeing positive sales results and customer satisfaction, they are mostly limited to restaurant interiors. How does that technology segway into the drive-thru, which accounts for most of any QSR’s sales?

Enter McDonald’s purchase of Israeli start-up Dynamic Yield. This new drive-thru technology creates a better and more personalized customer experience. Outdoor digital menu boards (available at most McDonald’s U.S. restaurants by the end of 2019), thanks to Dynamic Yield can begin to hone in on the current environment of a restaurant be it traffic, weather, trending menu items in specific locations, etc. It’ll also be able to recognize users and their past orders. Eventually this technology will also make its way into McDonald’s SOKs and Mobile Ordering app.

Retailers are constantly looking for new ways to connect digitally with customers both on-site and through data. It doesn’t stop here though. If you look at the trades of additional AI advancements such as robotic baristas and food prep alone, it’s obvious technology does not sit still. The name of the game now in the QSR field is to remain vigilant of all technological advancements for your brand, service or back-end or be left behind.

What do you think?

What has your personal experience been with self-ordering kiosks? Do you embrace self-ordering kiosks and table-side tablets as a customer or restaurant retailer? Are there specific retailers or restaurant chains you see doing this very well?

Article Author: Susan M. Barrett

Susan M. Barrett is Client Communications Director at IMS and works with McDonald’s national and local teams on planning, programs, and system communications. Susan has a vast history with the QSR world, working for both Wendy’s International and its local agencies and Kids’ Meals manufacturer for 20+ years prior to heading over to the Golden Arches. She truly has ketchup in her veins.

SOURCES, Deep Drive why McDonald’s is supersizing its tech spending, April 5, 2019, McDonald’s buys Dynamic Yield for $300M to improve drive-thru experience, March 26, 2019, QSRs get smarter with the help of AI, March 26, 2019
QSR Magazine, How self-ordering kiosks are revolutionizing the restaurant industry, June 2018