Sponsored by Bite Kiosk
In June, the National Restaurant Association reported that restaurants were at least 1 million employees short of numbers needed to run operations optimally. Not only is that 11 percent below pre-pandemic levels, but operators already had been struggling to hire and retain employees even in 2019. Believing the labor shortage won’t end soon, many restaurant operators, such as nine-unit San Francisco-based Starbird, are leveraging technology to relieve some of those labor woes by using self-order kiosks.
The chicken sandwich and salad chain was already evaluating the potential of self-order kiosks prior to pandemic. But when widespread restaurant shutdowns began in 2020, it spiked the brand’s interest in the technology.
“We were exploring kiosks as part of revamping our whole tech system, which included online ordering and loyalty,” says Casey Hilder, director of marketing at Starbird. “But the pandemic really jumpstarted our interest in self-ordering technology.”
A logical step
With restaurant customers ordering lots of food and drink through screens in 2020, having them order at a Starbird kiosk seemed a logical step. Its first kiosk rollout was a single unit placed outside its restaurant in Foster, California. After rewiring its POS system to accept orders from the Bite-built kiosk, customers placed orders at the restaurant’s front door and picked them up at a side door. To keep guests comfortably shaded, they tented the kiosk.
“People loved it, and we were seeing between 20% and 25% of sales coming from the kiosk,” Hilder says. “The timing was great for that launch because people were still in a period when they weren’t eager to interact.”
Currently, kiosk sales make up 12% of all Starbird sales, which is significant given that “Starbird does heavy off-premises sales,” Hilder says. Starbird’s mobile order app accounts for 30% of sales; delivery accounts for 20%.
The user experience
During a systemwide kiosk rollout that began in 2021, some restaurants saw two kiosks installed outside, while others saw a single unit placed where customers normally line up inside to order. Above each Bite kiosk is a sign that explains what it does, while encouraging customers to skip the traditional line. And there’s a bonus: Kiosk customers can get additional menu offerings that aren’t available to counter users.
Using a finger, customers scroll through the Starbird menu to see mouthwatering high-resolution food and drink pictures. When customers touch on items they want, a new window pops up to offer a range of condiments and side options. The kiosk also is programmed with an upsell feature that suggests additional items based on those in customers’ baskets.
Custom facial-recognition software allows the kiosk to capture customers’ demographic data. That information is reused for rapid reordering and in direct marketing opportunities.
A scanner located at the bottom of the screen allows customers to use coupons or redeem loyalty perks using QR codes. All forms of payments other than cash and cryptocurrency are accepted at the kiosk.
To complete an order, customers type in their first names, last initials and phone numbers. From there orders travel directly to the restaurant’s KDS. When their food and drink are ready, customers are alerted by text to retrieve it.
Hilder says that kiosks have helped reduce queue counts, which lowers pressure on live order takers.
“When you look out and see the line is backing up, things can feel a little stressful,” he says. “It’s good to know people can go to the kiosk.”
Check averages rise
That check averages at Starbird’s Bite kiosks exceed counter transactions doesn’t surprise Hilder. He says that while customers do take longer to order at the kiosk, they seem to enjoy the experience of browsing at their own pace.
“The kiosks helped increase our average check from $17.50 to $19.60,” he says. “That’s not a massive jump, but a couple of dollars added on through drinks and sides is good.”
Where self-order kiosks have really taken off is at the Starbird’s unit in San Francisco’s International Airport.
“When we launched a kiosk at that location, sales skyrocketed,” he says. Asked whether the kiosk-heavy environment of an airport pre-conditions guests to using them, Hilder agrees. “I also think that people in airports just want to get food and get on a flight.”
This year, Starbird’s Bite-designed kiosk won Best Restaurant ICX from the Interactive Customer Experience Association. Elliot Maras, editor of KioskMarketplace.com, says. Starbird and Bite “covered every base in designing this system—improved customer convenience and touchless facial recognition for improved customer safety. They quantified the benefits to date and made the business case for this.”
Could your operation and staff benefit from some relief at the counter—help that a self-order, sales-boosting kiosk could give? Contact Bite for more information.