Foodservice by Design

Team members from Profitality-Labor Guru discuss how industrial engineering can be applied to the foodservice industry.


Electronic Ordering Insights

Kiosk ordering seems all the rage in today’s foodservice industry. While the process seems simple and intuitive for many consumers, implementation is another story. 


While pondering the concept of kiosk ordering, I can’t help to think of online ordering and smartphone ordering as the ultimate kiosk. Why are smartphones and websites the ultimate kiosks? It is simple, really. Neither require capital to install nor space in the store and they are always with the customer; in their hands or at their fingertips. Without a doubt, smartphone ordering facilitates a level of convenience that people want; one that they continue to embrace at lightning speed.

All the brand needs to do is develop the application. Pizza restaurants and a variety of other concepts, including fast-casual chains like Panera Bread, continue to drive customer acceptance of this technology. As I said earlier this year, in a FE&S webcast on customer facing technology: if your foodservice concept is not already working on this, then you are behind. For those concepts working on developing app-enabled ordering but have yet to implement it, it’s time for you to switch into warp speed.

But as you push the development on the technology side, do not forget the necessary developments at the store level. Failure to do so can create a variety of operational challenges. That’s because enabling customers to order using electronic media, especially smartphones, can create an infinite, simultaneous flow of orders for a restaurant. Therefore, when implementing customer-facing technology, it’s equally important to mind both the customer and employee journey to generate an effective and efficient experience for both.

What do I mean by this? Start by asking several questions:

  1. Where will the foodservice operation produce electronic orders? Will it be on the same cookline? Or will staff make mobile orders on a dedicated line?
  2. How will the operation stage the orders before turning them over to the customer?
  3. What is the customer journey like when they arrive at the store to get their food? Is the experience intuitive and hassle-free?
  4. For delivery orders, how does the food get to the customer? Does the operation use third-party providers or their own team?
  5. What packaging will the operation use?

The correct answers to the questions above require the right production engine; from the back of the house to the front of the house.

Foodservice operators that lack the right capacity in production and assembly can face a double whammy. That’s because the operation may not provide good service to online customers and those choosing to dine on premise. That’s why understanding production capacity and how an operation will deal with multiple order streams becomes so critical to its success. juanbox2

Similar thinking applies to picking up the order. The customer journey for those who order online is equally as important as the experience for customers dining on premise. Online customers must be able to easily and quickly navigate the store to access their orders. Don’t make customers guess where they need to go and don’t make them wait. I am sure you have seen many concepts that just put the product on a shelf and let the customer pick it up. I call this “trusting self-serve”. In other words, it’s important to prepare for takeout.

Another area to consider is packaging. Make sure the packaging upholds the integrity of the products. This allows the on-line customer to enjoy the same quality product as someone dining on premise.

Operators need to consider a variety of other operating parameters when implementing electronic ordering. Chief among these considerations is the impact of online ordering on labor. In theory, since an operator is taking out the order-and-pay part of the transaction, which during an in-store interface is handled by an employee, it should save labor. This is far from a certainty, particularly if the operator complicates matters elsewhere in the process.

Concepts and suppliers alike can apply the aforementioned thought process and come up with ideas that will facilitate electronic ordering to maximize the sales gain of this relatively new, very fast moving, mode of service, so the concept can drive the best unit economic impact.