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Staff at Léa French Street Food assist customers with the kiosk. Photo courtesy of TouchBistro.

One of the hardest tasks involved in launching a new restaurant is introducing the menu to the customers. For Léa French Street Food, a new restaurant in Oak Park, Illinois, the task was further compounded by the need to introduce self-order kiosks, something many customers are not familiar with.

But in actuality, the kiosks helped introduce the menu, as evidenced by the fact that add-on orders have increased in the few months the restaurant has been open.

Owner Colleen Caulliez Wagner made it a point to have employees on hand who could provide assistance with the kiosks.

Wagner, who brought experience working in restaurant concept and design for McDonald’s, designed her restaurant so that employees manning the beverage station would be able to assist customers with the two kiosks when necessary.

“Because we are a new brand, we wanted the customer to not feel alone in ordering their food,” Wagner said. “For a new brand, we felt it was important for the customers to have help. Otherwise, they wouldn’t use them.”

The visuals on the kiosk are also important, Wagner said. It’s important for the graphics on the kiosk to be the same as on the menu board so the customer doesn’t think there are two separate menus.

“Those dots are connected,” Wagner said. “The visuals are super important when you implement kiosks, having either a photo of the food or a graphic of the food.”

Wagner hired a graphic designer for both the menu board and the kiosk.

“Once they (the customers) got it, they come in and do their thing,” Wagner said. As noted in part 1 of this two-part series, 78 percent of the orders are now from the kiosks, and the average kiosk check nearly doubles that of the manned POS counter: $17.17 compared to $9.79.

Educating the customers

In the beginning, customers were waiting in lines at the kiosks. But the lines gradually shortened as customers became familiar with the kiosks. Orders on average take between seven to 10 minutes to deliver.

The lines have not completely disappeared, especially at lunch time, when the restaurant’s 50 seats turn twice. But Wagner doesn’t see this as a negative.

“Having the (wait) line has also helped us,” she said.

While one of the benefits of the kiosks is to enable customers to be served faster, Wagner learned during her time at McDonald’s that the speed of orders has to be balanced against the kitchen staff’s ability to prepare them. When a lot of orders are placed simultaneously, the kitchen prep area becomes congested.

During very busy times, the manned POS station stops taking orders to slow down the pace of orders.

There is no kitchen display screen in the kitchen. Instead, the orders are printed and hand delivered to the prep area. The prep area has a veggie station, a cheese station and a meat station.

“The ticket sort of makes its way down the line as you’re preparing a sandwich or salad,” Wagner said.

Improved productivity

Wagner thinks the kiosks have made her staff more productive.

“We don’t have to have someone stationed behind the POS,” she said. “That person can also be doing something else.”

So far, she has not taken advantage of every function the kiosk provides.

One that has not yet been activated is the tip function. Instead, there is a tip jar near the cash register.

As for adding a mobile ordering app, there are no plans at present.

“We haven’t had a lot of customers ask for it yet,” she said concerning online ordering, although customers do phone in their orders.

She is considering offering deliveries.

A sensible investment

The financial investment for the POS system — consisting of an iPad, iPad stands, printers and software subscription –— is the same as if they were using a POS system without the kiosks, Wagner said. She did not wish to reveal numbers.

In selecting a kiosk provider, “We looked for an intuitive and simple interface,” she said. She selected TouchBistro, which provides iPad point-of-sale technology for restaurants. She gives the company high marks for customer service.

The restaurant’s results surpassed the expectations of Alex Barrotti, TouchBistro’s CEO.

“I knew the average check size would go up,” he said. “What I didn’t know was how much it would go up. It was just rewarding to see how much of a difference it made.”

Barrotti attributes much of the success to the kiosk’s ability to address the anxiety customers naturally feel when they place an order with a person.

“People get anxiety from someone asking what they want,” he said. “When you have nobody in front of you and nobody behind you, giving you the impression that they’re waiting on you, you take your time. So you spend more time perusing the items and making a better decision.”

He is optimistic about the future for the kiosk module, which was the most requested feature at last year’s National Restaurant Show.

“It’s a very, very popular request,” he said.

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