With iPad2 sales soaring and the Kindle Fire poised to be a bestseller this holiday season, it’s clear that mainstream consumers have become comfortable with mobile touch-screen shopping. For restaurant chains toying with the idea of adopting tech-forward ordering interfaces, now might be the time to strike.
Menus on spill-proof, drop-proof tablet computers are spreading from independent restaurants to chains like Umami Burger, and major fast-food companies have begun to invest aggressively in self-ordering consoles, touch-screens, and mobile ordering. After experimenting with self-serve kiosks for years, McDonald’s has launched an arsenal of them in 7,000 of its European locations. Subway, betting on the convenience payment by mobile devices, has pledged to accept payment by the Google Wallet app.
Purveyors of new restaurant technology—like Rajat Suri of E La Carte—claim their devices can increase revenue, reduce dining time, and improve customer experience. But will rolling out new ordering devices help your company? Can the “cool factor” of new tech draw more sales than the classic benefits of personal interaction?
Since devices are developing so quickly, the wrong bet will leave restaurants with an expensive system that’s already become obsolete. Making the right decision requires confidence about the technology and willingness to test customers’ response to it. The time-tested teenager-in-a-visor model of fast-food ordering has sold a lot of French fries, and might be more lucrative than you think. The best way to figure out which ordering model will work for your business is to test it in a subset of your chain before rolling it out.