Matt Macke didn't expect to be pioneering new technology when he purchased a Roly Poly Sandwiches franchise in Birmingham, Alabama several years ago. But when a customer unexpectedly suggested he offer self-order kiosks, he was intrigued. He saw it as a way to offer something new and exciting. This was before major restaurant chains were announcing plans to introduce self-order kiosks.
|One kiosk is at the restaurant's takeout area.|
As a result of that fortuitous encounter, Macke's fast casual restaurant is one of a small but growing number that enables customers to order and pay using tabletop kiosks. The restaurant has self-order tabletop kiosks at all of its eight tables and at the to-go area near the pickup counter.
Sales have increased 10 to 15 percent since the kiosks – which have a touchscreen, a printer, a payment card reader and Ethernet ports – were installed a year and a half ago. Macke doesn't know if the kiosks were solely responsible for the improved sales, but he knows that customers are being served faster and the staff is working more efficiently.
Prior to installing the kiosks, it wasn't unusual for 10 people to be waiting in line during peak hours. Now there is no line. And there is only one manned order station where there used to be two.
A beneficiary of circumstance
In retrospect, Macke was the beneficiary of circumstance.
The customer who suggested he offer kiosks was an employee of a kiosk manufacturer, Juke Slot, that didn't offer restaurant kiosks at the time. When Juke Slot officials saw how receptive Macke was to the idea, they decided to expand into the restaurant sector and asked Macke to help them develop their first restaurant kiosk.
"I was all on board," Macke said. He characterizes himself as a "tech guy" who likes to tinker with technology. He saw the kiosk as a way to enable customers to get their orders faster.
"That way, we can bring the person from the register to the back and help in the kitchen," Macke said. "The faster for the customer, the faster for us."
|The kiosks are available on all the restaurant's tables.|
Terry Brasseale, a Juke Slot executive board member and investor, took the lead in working with Macke on developing the company's first restaurant kiosk. Brasseale asked Macke what functionality he needed in a kiosk. Macke said he needed a kiosk that would enable customers to order and pay at their table.
Since Macke served as the beta deployment for Juke Slot's first restaurant kiosk, the manufacturer provided him the hardware and software at no charge.
Macke tested a kiosk for six months before bringing in eight additional kiosks.
Sales per check have increased 3 to 5 percent. Macke attributes this to the kiosk automatically suggesting additional purchases, something that wasn't usually happening when customers placed their orders with an employee.
The kiosks offer both individual and combination orders. There is also an option for paying with cash.
The kiosk also suggests tips. It suggests an 8 percent gratuity, although the customer can tip whatever amount they want. Most customers choose to tip, Macke said. He divides the tips with all the employees.
He also has the ability to change the kiosk's graphics and text whenever he sees fit.
"The biggest benefit is the speed," Macke said.
Juke Slot charges Macke $300 a month for credit card processing in addition to 0.25 cents per transaction.
Employees and customers on board
Macke's employees initially welcomed the kiosk because of the novelty factor. However, they became alarmed when certain media outlets began reporting that some of the large restaurant chains were going to replace employees with kiosks. Macke assured his employees this was not the case.
"When I explained to them what I was using it for – to increase speed of service – they got back into liking it," Macke said.
He has added one employee since introducing the kiosks on account of higher sales.
"We get things done faster and they (the employees) can go home earlier," he said.
Customers, who are mostly between the ages of 30 and 40, were first confused by the kiosks. Macke instructed the employees to assist customers in how to use them.
"They've gotten a whole lot more accustomed to it now," Macke said. "It was a learning process for everybody."
About 20 percent of the customers now use the kiosks. While this is less than what other restaurants have reported, Macke attributed it to his non-millennial customer base.
Kiosks designed for small establishments
Jegil Dugger, sales and operations manager at Juke Slot, said restaurants typically lease the hardware and pay a subscription cost that also includes the credit card processing. A restaurant with 30 to 40 devices will pay less than $1,000 month for both the software and hardware.
Macke said if he had to pay for the hardware and software, he thinks it would still be worth it, given the improved speed and productivity.
He said Roly Poly Sandwiches corporate group is considering offering kiosks to other franchisees.
Macke has learned that it pays to listen to his customers. He's also learned that kiosk manufacturers are not ignoring the smaller restaurants as technology brings new customer conveniences to the foodservice industry.
Photos courtesy of Juke Slot.
Companies: Juke Slot
Elliot Maras Elliot Maras is the editor of KioskMarketplace.com and FoodTruckOperator.com.