More operations use serving kiosks to turn unused areas into revenue-generating space. These units also provide start-ups with a less costly method of testing new food items and chains or larger operators the ability to more affordably expand locations or test the viability of a different market.
Serving kiosks continue to grow in popularity by functioning as auxiliary components to day-to-day operations at colleges and universities, assisted living centers and high schools for breakfast or specialty lunch programs. Arenas and stadiums represent another segment embracing the benefits of kiosks; these venues look to enhance speed of service by having as many as 50 different sales areas hawking hot dogs, beer and other items.
Depending on the application and market, the kiosk concept and appearance can be high-end with colorful signs and graphics or more simple and understated. For example, an assisted living center may have a unit with added aesthetic appeal, while a large stadium’s equipment would most likely be more brand-centric.
Portable kiosks are lighter weight, can easily be moved and are sized to fit through doorways, while larger, semi-permanent units typically stay in one spot for long periods of time. Sizes and configurations vary, depending on the manufacturer and model. Kiosks can be small freestanding components or may be made up of 3- to 8-foot sections. Another common option is modular, portable systems that typically feature several pieces joined together as one unit. Generally, a permanent kiosk is a 10-foot by 10-foot or 20-foot by 20-foot unit.
Operators can run utilities like electricity and water directly to fixed units. Because the portable kiosks do not usually have direct water access, they have fresh water tanks that operators need to fill and drain daily.
Kiosks can be either self-sustaining or supported by a commissary or traditional kitchen, where food is prepped in advance. These ancillary operations provide faster service, and in some cases the health department requirements and constraints are less stringent and easier to adhere to compared with brick-and-mortar foodservice operations.
With serving kiosk equipment, speed is paramount and the setup depends on both the menu and concept. These units often include induction cooking systems, panini presses, pizza ovens and/or crepe makers for heating various products. Countertop griddles with ventless hoods have become more popular as these units meet health and safety codes. Operators can use hot, cold or dual drop-ins to hold food at safe temperatures.
Whether prep occurs on or off site, undercounter refrigeration is necessary for additional storage, especially in mobile kiosks. In accordance with health department regulations, kiosks must have either a hand sink or three-compartment sink. The latter becomes necessary for food prep. Depending on the flow and size of the area, a kiosk may incorporate a self-serve condiment or toppings station. These units typically feature one to three points of sale.
Some manufacturers provide prebuilt, plug-and-play kiosks that come prewired and include a single-point electric connection. Other manufacturers offer kiosks that require on-site assembly. Power needs can range from 110 to 220 volts, depending on the electrical load. Kiosks with prewired counters will have a single point power connection, which simplifies set up. If equipment needs exceed 50 amps, it may be necessary to split the power load between two receptacles.
Kiosks feature a variety of materials, from the traditional and popular stainless steel, to wood, laminates, aluminum composites and plywood or a combination of these. Mobile units tend to incorporate lighter materials, such as aluminum, to reduce the weight and allow easier mobility. This type also may incorporate 8-inch diameter pneumatic casters, rather than fixed wheels, for easier maneuverability. Semi-permanent kiosks are more likely to incorporate heavy-duty frames made out of MDF, plywood or a heavier metal for added durability.
When it comes to décor options, the sky is the limit for these units. A variety of countertop materials ranges from higher-end stone or solid surfaces to affordable laminate or stainless options. Each offers benefits and downsides.
Merchandising is an important aspect of serving kiosks. Many units are equipped with a lit canopy to attract customers as well as signage illustrating offerings and/or brands. Chalkboard menus and handwritten signs have become more popular and offer added flexibility for menu changes.
Security should be considered if a kiosk will be accessible after hours. Components to prevent tampering and theft, including locks, rolling gates and screens, are available.