With the dust barely settled from one of the hospitality industry’s biggest shows, we wanted to bring you a couple of our top takeaways from this year’s NRA!

Kiosks, kiosks, kiosks.
If you hadn’t noticed already, kiosks are hot.  You only need to take a look at what Wendy’s and McDonalds are doing when it comes to in-store self-service kiosks to realize this trend is worth paying attention to.

By letting customers order and pay themselves using a kiosk and quickly picking up their order at the express line means more than just a consumer experience win for quick service operators.  It also has a huge impact on operational efficiency such as queue-busting and general traffic flow throughout the retail space, kiosks help ease the strain of rising labor costs and they’ve even been proven to increase the average transaction value of customer orders.

An omni-channel approach.
For all their advantages, NRA did highlight a cautionary tale for those thinking of making a foray into the world of kiosks.  And that’s integration.  Digital channels such as mobile, tablet, kiosk and web can no longer be seen as different and distinct means of engaging and transacting with guests.  In order for restaurant brands to make digital self-service a success, each of these channels need to be fully integrated with each other as well as the POS and marketing and loyalty platforms.  This means customers can move from channel to channel seamlessly, maintaining the context of their journey regardless of whether it’s kiosk, mobile or any other device they’ve chosen to use.

Helping guests to help themselves.
It wasn’t just self-service kiosks that were being pushed hard at NRA.  Self-service in generally seemed to grab the spotlight when recounting key themes of the show.  And that means self-service in all its forms, whether it’s mobile, tablet, web or kiosk.  Consumer preferences have shifted in recent years.  It’s not all about face-to-face service.  Now, it’s about speed and convenience and these two things play an even more important role when guests choose to dine at fast casual and quick service restaurants. 

As mentioned with kiosks, self-service isn’t just deploying a load of kiosks or launching a mobile order and pay app or even having the ability to order and pay online.  Self-service is more than a channel play.  It’s about smart integration with back-end systems such as POS, payment and marketing and loyalty platforms.  It’s about the guest having a consistent and seamless experience regardless of what device they choose to use.  It’s also about operators being able to unleash the full power of their back-end technologies for front end gains and that only happens when a fully integrated solution is deployed.       

Let’s face it.  POS investment doesn’t come cheap and neither does marketing and loyalty systems.  So no wonder operators are jumping at the chance to get more bang for their buck by leveraging POS integration for their guest facing self-service channels.

 

Be wary of those claiming to do it all.
We’ve all been in sales situations where suppliers have applied a little too much creative flare with the truth.  But it dawned on us at NRA that, as an operator, it must be hard to wade through the vast sea of tech suppliers and accurately determine the true capabilities of their offerings versus the hype. 

For example, there are a number of POS companies out there claiming to offer a multi-channel guest-facing order and pay solution.  In reality, many of these companies have just taken their existing POS interface (built for staff) and repurposed it for guests.  What’s the issue with that you might ask?  Unfortunately, this kind of approach to self-service means an inability for brands to control the look, feel and flow of the interface.  There’s limited branding capability and the user experience is basic.  By taking something that was purpose built for wait staff and re-hashing it for guests will never give you the benefits of a guest-facing solution that was designed and created specifically for everyday customers to use.

A slick customer flow through the order and pay journey, eye catching and engaging user interface, an intuitive experience and revenue generating upsell and cross sell opportunities are the kind of benefits operators can take advantage of then considering suppliers who have purpose built the mobile, tablet, web or kiosk order and pay solution.  And it doesn’t mean POS is written out of the story.  On the contrary, as we come full circle to our initial takeaway points of this blog – integration and a truly omni-channel approach is the key to success.  By choosing a company who specializes in POS, teaming them with a company specializing in guest-facing solutions and ensuring there is full integration capabilities, operators can ensure the best possible foundations for an on-going and successful digital strategy for their brand.