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What to do when digital ordering slows down your throughput

burger topping options
Photo: Shutterstock

Question:

We recently moved from counter service and web ordering to 100% web orders and touch-screen kiosks. I am losing my mind! Customers look at the modifications options as a menu to customize whatever they want rather than using it judiciously. So, if it used to be “burger, no tomato” verbally, it’s now, “burger, light mayo, extra cheese, add jalapeno, toast bun, blah blah blah” in the POS. It is putting a wrench into our flow. How do I undo this?

– QSR kitchen manager, Israel

Answer:

As guests become increasingly comfortable with technology, and COVID lockdown has trained us all to be better at ordering everything online, many operators are finding benefits in moving to digital ordering: It eliminates employee error when entering an order into the system; the order integrates with other POS functions such as menu, inventory, bookkeeping and forecasting in real time; it reduces guest wait time; menus can be offered in multiple languages; and there are labor savings, to name a few.

As with any new system, there are growing pains while it is rolled out. And in your case, the system—or how your company chose to set it up—seems to have been poorly designed from a user experience standpoint. While POS vendors are skilled in providing guidance on all the capabilities you can deploy in setting up these systems, they don’t have to live with them day-to-day as you do.

It is good that guests have access to all the modifiers that they might need, but it sounds like your concept is not focused on mass customization. Consider working with your management team and vendor to change the user experience to hide some of these options so that it requires some extra work on the guest’s part. For example, rather than twenty possible modifications popping up after they order their burger, consider just one option called “modify” that takes them to a further screen. That may encourage more guests to submit their order without scrolling through every possibility.

Alternately, offer fewer modifications on the menu and consider an open text field to capture important information without suggesting every possible scenario for how each item could be prepared.

Kelly Esten, senior vice president of marketing at Toast, agrees. She says, “Providing customers with too many options and modifiers can be a challenge for restaurants aiming to delight their guests while running an efficient operation. We recommend restaurants make sure that the kiosk menu is simple to navigate, easy to understand, and is visually appealing. For important customizations such as allergy restrictions, consider creating a special modifier group titled “allergies” that contain options for customers to select certain foods (such as nuts, eggs, fish, etc.). A kiosk ordering system is designed to benefit both restaurant operations and guests alike, so it’s important for a restaurant to implement the customization options that make the most sense for their business.”

Finally, a kiosk system like this should never be implemented without a practice run. While employees can go in and enter some orders to make sure the system is working, that is not the same as asking a sample of guests to test out the new system and offer their feedback in exchange for a free meal or other incentive. The costs of getting it right the first time are minimal compared to the frustration you and your staff have now.

More on kiosk ordering here.

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