Self-service restaurants are on the rise. Big corporations like McDonald's are investing in automating their operation as much as possible. A lot of technologies have been developed recently, from self-ordering kiosks to cooking robots. The rise of AI will only accelerate the automation behind restaurants. Big corporations investing in automating their operation doesn't mean that everyone should follow suit. As a matter of fact that only opens a lot of opportunities for smaller operations to differentiate themselves by only automating what makes sense. Human touch will never be eliminated. It will just be used for things that robots cannot do. Calculators didn't get rid of mathematicians. And self-service restaurants won't get rid of restaurant employees. It will empower them to do their job more efficiently, and that means better service for your customers.
After the pandemic, staff shortages became a real problem for the restaurant industry. It has never been harder to recruit employees and to motivate them to stay for longer than just a few weeks. This means that restauranteurs need to use their resources more efficiently by ensuring that they can do more with less. Automation is the best solution for that. It will remove a lot of stress on your employees, which will hopefully help you keep employees for longer. It will also help you have to spend less time recruiting for positions with a naturally high turnover rate.
So what is a self-service restaurant?
A self-service restaurant is an operation in which the customer leads their own experience. This means that there are no waiters/waitresses or other front-of-house staff. A customer walks into a restaurant, pays by themselves, and picks up the food without having to interact with an employee. Post-Covid, many customers started to crave less interaction with service employees. Since delivery apps had customers get used to not having to talk to staff to place an order, the average customer behavior has shifted towards a preference for self-serve. You should take trends like this with a grain of salt depending on your setup, of course. A fine-dining customer will have an appetite for attention and interaction, for example.
Why would you set up a self-service operation?
There are many benefits to operating in a self-serve fashion. As a business model, it makes a lot of sense. Restaurants have incredibly low margins and a very high bankruptcy rate. Automating minor tasks will help level up the bottom line to give restaurants a much higher chance to stay in business for longer.
Staff is today's main challenge for the restaurant industry. Minimum wages are rising, and inflation isn't going to take it easy on labor. Employees are demanding a lot more than previous generations, they are sticking in jobs for short periods, and restaurants are having a hard time finding employees who are qualified and have realistic expectations of their wages, hours, and culture. Self-service restaurants help you automate smaller tasks like taking an order, or running a dish to a table so that you can make more room in the budget for kitchen staff to ramp up production. Self-service restaurants will reduce your need for constant recruitment and training, while your current employees can spend less time doing time-consuming but less helpful tasks to protect their mental health and hopefully make your positions more entertaining for them.
Through a self-serve experience, your customers decide to order at their own pace. The customer journey is defined by them. It gives them a lot of flexibility so that the overall experience is a lot more positive, and quick.
Self-serve restaurants can set up ordering kiosks that upsell customers more effectively than a human.
Kiosks also help restaurants collect more information from their customer base. Since customers are self-ordering, their information is just going into a machine which makes the process a lot more comfortable. Kiosks are great at collecting emails and phone numbers so that you can continue to retarget your customer base.
Since customers are entering the order themselves, there is a lot less room for error and disputes. Human entry is removed as a whole and the kitchen staff will be able to read orders exactly as if the customer was dictating it to them. Since fewer errors will happen, that means a much better customer experience and much less food waste.
How do you set up a self-service operation?
Setting up a self-service restaurant is simple because you don't need to spend much time recruiting staff to open.
In order to start a self-service operation you will need to start by setting up the right technology. For starters, you will need a Point of Sale (POS) system to help you get orders from the front of the house to the back of the house, as well as collect important information like inventory and metrics. We have written a lot about the POS market and which POS' might be the best fit depending on your desired operation.
The second thing is an ordering kiosk. This will help bridge the gap between your POS system and your customers. POS systems are meant for internal use only, so you need a screen that your customers can interact with quickly and easily. Cuboh is a leading kiosk provider that we recommend you check out. With Cuboh, customers can order from a counter or standing kiosk. Those orders will then flow right into your POS and print in your kitchen. The self-ordering Cuboh kiosk will collect information from the customer so that you can continue to target them in future marketing campaigns.
Should everybody set up a self-service restaurant?
The short answer is no. Make sure to understand the persona you're targeting. If you are targeting a price-insensitive customer who expects incredible service, then you will want to have a human-based operation instead. Self-service restaurants are a good fit for affordable restaurants with fast prep times and that are targeting casual customers. Regardless of your setup, it is important to try to optimize towards automation. You'd be surprised at how many tools are out there for time-consuming tasks like inventory reports, or taxes. Automation is going to be your best friend to help you reduce expenses and improve your bottom line.