The pros and cons of implementing a self-checkout at your restaurant.

The pros and cons of implementing a self-checkout at your restaurant.

Today’s quick-service restaurant customers want delicious food fast and they want their experience to be excellent at the same time. So how do restaurateurs meet the demands of these customers? As so often happens, technology is coming to the rescue in the form of something known as self-checkout.

What is self-checkout?

As the name implies, self-checkout puts much of the control for ordering and paying for food in the hands of your customers, who can use a touch-screen on a kiosk or a mobile iPad-like device at the table to order their food. In many cases, the same technology can be used when the time comes to pay by integrating payment processing with your software.

Elevate the customer experience.

Some restaurateurs might be hesitant to adopt self-checkout, believing that it will bring a mechanical feel to their operation that will ultimately drive people away. On the contrary, most people find the experience of using self-checkout to be both fun and efficient.

Long waits at the counter or for a server to come to the table are universally frustrating, particularly if your establishment bills itself as one that delivers yummy food in a flash. The self-service option puts your customers in the driver’s seat, leaving your staff more time to prepare food, keep the seating area clean, answer specific questions, and solve any problems that inevitably arise.

Take up less space.

A self-service checkout kiosk has a much smaller footprint than a standard payment queue. In a restaurant where every inch of geography matters, it can be a huge bonus to allow multiple customers to select and pay for their orders in the same amount of real estate that one register would normally occupy.

Improve order accuracy.

There are several pitfalls in the traditional food ordering process. If a server is distracted when writing down or attempting to memorize a customer’s food choice, an item might be forgotten or inadvertently switched with another. When this happens, it is more than annoying; it can even be dangerous in the event that a diner has a food sensitivity or allergy. If the customer’s preference is written by hand on a slip of paper, it is also quite possible that a member of the kitchen staff will misinterpret the server’s scribbles – with potentially irritating results.

By contrast, self-service checkout enables people to choose their food and communicate their order directly to the kitchen electronically. In short, there is much less room for error in this process, leading to fewer dishes being rejected, a less harried staff, and happier customers.

Appeal to tech-savvy customers.

Although many of us take laptops and tablets for granted nowadays, most of us are still relatively unaccustomed to seeing them in a restaurant setting. Having the ability to order and pay for their own items still seems cutting-edge and fun to many people. For savvy millennials and Gen Y consumers, you may even come across as cool and modern. Depending on the impression you want to convey, this could be a real advantage for your restaurant.

Streamline your labor force.

Implementing self-checkout does not necessarily mean that you will be reducing the number of people on your employee rolls. However, this tool definitely gives you the ability to maximize the efficiency of your entire operation while simultaneously enhancing the way customers feel about your restaurant. Instead of running back and forth with orders, your best servers can answer customers’ questions or recommend their favorite items. In short, the eating experience can be transformed from a mere transaction into the cementing of a positive bond.

Preparing for customer reluctance.

Just as there will be patrons who love your new self-checkout technology, there will be others who actively hate it and will even refuse to use it. Since your goal is to please as many customers as possible, you should always have staff members close by to assist in the event of confusion or problems or, in the case of the adamant refuser, to take the person’s order and accept their payment with a smile.

Assess your costs.

The technology involved in self-checkout costs more than standard ordering and cash-out options, making it prohibitive for some restaurants operating on a thin profit margin. Therefore, you should evaluate the potential benefits against the financial outlay before you change this important piece of your infrastructure.

In conclusion.

When the human interaction between customer and cashier is missing because of self-service, you and your staff might sometimes miss out on the accompanying opportunities. For instance, you would not be able to upsell items such as your home-made barbecue sauce as your customer stands in the checkout line or entice people with your snazzy new holiday gift cards.

The question of whether to invest in a self-checkout system requires you to take a long look at your restaurant, your customers, and your goals. This technology is not for everybody, but if you find that it fits into the atmosphere and theme of your eatery as well as the general mindset of the people whom you serve, now might be the ideal time to adopt it.