With automated technology long discussed as the wave of the future, what lies ahead is here, as numerous industries have already implemented AI to save costs and improve their services.
This is certainly the case for restaurants, quick service restaurants, in particular. Fast food chains like Wendy's and McDonald's have both announced a phased-in introduction of self-service kiosks, where customers can make their orders more quickly by pressing the appropriate buttons on interactive touchpad screens. Indeed, as reported by CNBC in June, McDonald's announced its intentions of adding self-service ordering kiosks to approximately 1,000 of its existing locations with each passing quarter, totaling an anticipated 8,000 by 2021. Just last year, Wendy's forecasted 15 percent of its stores having self-service ordering kiosks by the end of 2017.
Steve Easterbrook, CEO for McDonald's, told CNBC these point of sales systems are primarily aimed at improving customer service, but they're also expected to improve the company's bottom line.
Polls show that consumers have a love-hate relationship with AI. They love the fact that they save time and money but dislike the potential that they could replace people's jobs. However, with AI now in place in various industries, the worst-case scenario fears of substantial job losses haven't come to fruition. To the contrary, just 23 percent of workers in a recent Gallup survey say they feel threatened by AI in terms of job security. The low worry rate may derive from the fact that AI has actually led to more employment opportunities. A report from Gartner found an estimated 2.3 million jobs will be created as a result of AI by 2020.
Kiosks give customers more privacy and quicker service.
In short, the implementation of self-service kiosks make good economic sense. Here are a few of the reasons why QSRs resisting the self-service kiosks revolution should consider taking their foot off the brakes:
1. Enhance customer service
There's lots to choose from and they live up to their namesake, providing tasty food served fast. This is precisely where self-service kiosks provide their value, expediting the purchase process without the sacrificing quality of the product. They also enable customers to customize their orders, something that nearly three-quarters of fast-food frequenters expect as a perk of patronizing QSRs, according to Diebold Nixdorf Vice President Devora Henderson.
"When in front of a screen, the menu options are closer and feel more personal, allowing customers to have a better idea of what exactly they're ordering and a sense of privacy that helps lower inhibition to order what they want without the perceived notion that someone is judging them," Henderson wrote in QSR Magazine. "Further, kiosks can be programmed to cater to specific needs, such as switching to a different language for a foreign customer."
2. Allow managers to better utilize manpower
Employees are the lifeblood of a fast food business, providing many key services that no robot can duplicate. However, maintaining production often prevents staff from performing these quality assurance services, like answering questions from customers or clearing off tables. Self-service kiosks can serve as a saving grace by implementing the appropriate ingredients to a drink or dish, while staff devote their energies to other tasks, like preparing food or taking care of the payroll.
3. Reduces operational costs and waste
Self-service kiosks know exactly how much of each ingredient to add to a menu item, nothing more or less. This helps reduce expenses associated with waste.