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Wendys restaurant

Here come the quick-service kiosks

This post is part of the On the Margin blog.

Wendy’s said this week that it would start offering ordering kiosks to its franchisees by the end of the year.

Get ready to see a lot of them put to use.

Self-ordering kiosks are the next big thing in the limited-service sector. There are plenty of good reasons for this: They put ordering control into the hands of customers, reducing mistakes that can anger diners and keep them from returning.

They could also make operations more efficient and might enable quick-service locations to run with fewer workers.

As it is, Panera Bread is adding kiosks at locations with its new Panera 2.0 initiative, with good results so far. CKE Restaurants Holdings Inc. has tested kiosks. McDonald’s Corp. has been adding kiosks in the U.S. at restaurants where it offers customized ordering.

But McDonald’s has been aggressively adding kiosks in Europe, and executives have talked positively about the potential for the technology to improve the customer experience.

Wendy’s executives said during an earnings call this week that they’re “comfortable” with the company’s tests on kiosks so far.

“We’ll make it generally available to the entire system in the back half of the year,” Wendy’s CEO-to-be Todd Penegor said on the call. “For folks that really want them, you’ll start to see that roll out in the back half of the year.”

Franchisees own the vast majority of Wendy's 6,500 locations.

Kiosks could help Wendy’s franchisees reduce labor costs because customers will do the ordering, thereby reducing the need for workers to take orders. That could help offset higher labor costs.

Rising minimum wages in many states, along with overall labor demand, are pushing up wage rates in many areas of the country.

In addition, Wendy’s operators tend to be large-scale franchisees with the financing ability and cash to pay for the addition of such kiosks — especially if they see a benefit both on the customer service and labor cost angles.

So get ready to start using touchscreens when you get a burger or a chicken sandwich, because kiosks are coming.

Contact Jonathan Maze at [email protected]
Follow him on Twitter: @jonathanmaze

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