Restaurants Use Mobile Ordering Tech to Fill Staffing Gaps
Is tap-order-pay the way forward for restaurants?
With the restaurant labor force still more than 450,000 jobs below pre-pandemic levels, and the National Restaurant Association finding that 63% of full-service restaurants are operating with fewer employees than needed to accommodate customers, the hospitality industry is clearly struggling.
Labor shortages have led chefs and restaurateurs to reduce their business hours or increase their staff wages, in some cases by as much as 20%.
For restaurant owners that aren’t willing to make such drastic changes, technology is being used to fill in the gaps when fewer employees are available.
“I think that there is a natural correction going on in the industry right now. With the pressure to increase wages, owners and operators are using technology to not decrease headcount but to ‘right-size’ their staff,” says Brian Duncan, president of me&u USA, a mobile ordering and payment platform.
Surveys show that mobile ordering is incredibly popular among consumers. When McDonalds began rolling out self-service order kiosks and mobile order capabilities at its U.S. locations in 2018, the company saw an average check boost and longer dwell times. Burger King and KFC have also continued to implement kiosks at locations both inside and outside the U.S.
Studies show a surge in demand for self-ordering kiosks in the past two years, particularly among smaller chains and independent restaurants. Self-ordering kiosks reportedly increase average ticket sizes by 20% to 30%, and lead to other benefits like faster table turnover times.
Duncan says he’s seeing more restaurants use technology like mobile ordering and tableside QR codes to bridge the customer service gap when there are fewer employees available.
“Using the software as a tool to help your staff take some of the transactional pieces away from the staff allows them to focus on creating amazing experiences for guests,” Duncan says. “That is the magic of a perfect software; if used correctly it should enhance the level of service a restaurant’s team provides and not dilute the human touch.”
Not only do self-service kiosks expedite workflows within the restaurant and help with table turnover, but it also gives customers additional time to read the menu, find new things to try, and customize their orders exactly to their preferences.
“There is nothing worse than ordering a menu item and then what shows up is nothing close to what you had in mind. Traditional menus have long-winded descriptions but no actual photos,” Duncan says. “With the visual images of the items, restaurants are seeing a decrease in waste and happier customers because they know exactly what they are receiving.”
To be clear, mobile ordering technology is not new. Street Fight has been covering the topic for nearly a decade. However, Duncan says consumers are just now reaching a tipping point. They are finally ready to accept the technology and actually prefer to use self-service kiosks to place and manage their restaurant orders.
“The order and pay at table solutions, like the one Me&u offers, have just become readily acceptable in the past year or so. The technology existed but the consumer was not ready to adopt the technology,” he says. “Now that order and pay solution is becoming more mainstream, other bolt-on solutions are starting to make headway. Customized marketing solutions based on digital ordering history is a solution that is starting to become very useful for owners and operators.”