"Right now, you're under pressure when you order at a cashier or through the drive thru, but if you're undecided it's an even more pressurized situation,” the executive said. “Your average spend is lower when you're under pressure. Kiosks give you more time and help you order more and spend more. Self-ordering kiosks also reduce the number of cashiers in store. What some QSRs have done is instead of saving head count, they now have a hostess in the lobby. These jobs are temporary as we transition from one technology to another."
The drive thru, the source of 50 percent of quick service restaurants’ revenue, according to Restaurant Dive, has become completely automated at some restaurants. An employee only steps in if the AI malfunctions or couldn’t understand a customer.
“Many organizations have already invested in skills and key building blocks that allow for AI-driven personalization at scale. Prompted in part by Amazon’s focus on 1:1 personalization, brand marketers in other customer-centric organizations are upping their personalization game, and investing in more tech talent including experience designers and data scientists,” said Deepa Mahidhara. “AI technologies are increasingly being leveraged to make staffing predictions, optimize inventory levels and enhance customer experience through voice ordering, image recognition and menu customization.”
Launching loyalty programs, still a novelty at many quick service restaurants, is a natural next step with new and improved kiosks and drive thrus in place. Many quick service restaurants have a franchise model and adopting loyalty programs and new technology depends on franchisees’ willingness to do so and equip employees with skills needed to create personalized experiences.
As journalist Kristen Hawley points out in her Expedite newsletter, which covers the restaurant technology industry, it’s important to remember humans still power restaurants. If you want employees to feel more empowered and motivated, don’t force them to adopt new technology, Hawley writes. Instead, let franchisees raise their hands to test new solutions and others will follow, and customers will notice higher morale and have a better experience.
Robots and AI can make our lives easier but that doesn’t mean they make our lives fuller. Customers are looking to feel inspired and better connected to the world around them, and for now, that still requires a human to help them understand how to get there.