Understaffed restaurants turn to digital kiosks amid labor shortage

January 13, 2022 Windstream Enterprise 3 min

Editor’s Note: Your restaurant might be understaffed, but that doesn’t mean you can’t provide great service and invest in digital innovation. Providing digitized self-service kiosks and solutions for patrons is a win-win, helping to deal with the current labor crunch while also satisfying customers and bringing in revenue. However, this kind of tech doesn’t appear overnight and getting it to work well will require a modern network that provides both speed and reliability.

Summary: Restaurants are discovering that digital kiosks are not only alleviating the pain of staff shortages; they’re also boosting their bottom line as customers increase the size of their orders.

More restaurants are turning to digital kiosks to overcome their staffing shortages. 

Sam Zietz, CEO of digital-kiosk maker GRUBBRR, told Insider that demand for its products had boomed during the labor shortage. 

“Our phones are ringing off the hook,” he said. 

Record numbers of Americans are quitting their jobs in search of better wages, benefits and working conditions. Restaurants have been especially affected, and it’s hitting their bottom line. Restaurants have been boosting wages to attract more staff, cutting their hours and closing their dining rooms—all of which is costing them money. 

Restaurant owners say employees are overworked and service is getting slower, too. Zietz told Insider there’s only one solution to the labor shortage, “and that’s automation.” 

“Cashiers could move into roles where they have more added value, like servers or cooks.”

Digital kiosks are large touch-screen devices where diners can order and pay without needing assistance from staff. Zietz said digital kiosks have two main advantages for understaffed restaurants: they ensure restaurants are able to take orders and open their doors, and they’re cheaper than hiring cashiers as wages rise in the industry. 

“Our core belief is the cashier is obsolete,” Zietz said. 

He added that he wasn’t advocating making human labor redundant in restaurants. Rather, he said that cashiers could move into roles where they have more added value, like servers or cooks. 

Zietz said that each of GRUBBRR’s kiosks cost around $2,500, alongside $200 a month for software, and could save a restaurant around $6,000 a month on labor costs. 

“The day you put it in, you’re automatically saving money to the bottom line,” Zietz said. 

Customers place bigger orders at digital kiosks 

Customers tend to spend between 12% and 22% more when ordering at digital kiosks, Zietz said. 

At a chicken chain GRUBBRR has partnered with, the average order value when a customer orders at a cashier is close to $13, rising to almost $20 when they order from a kiosk, he said. 

This is largely due to personalization, he said. 

Kiosks are able to recommend add-ons to customers based on what they’re ordering, like adding avocado to a burger or ordering a drink too. Customers can also scan their loyalty cards to access personalized recommendations or see their recent and favorite orders. 

“Kiosks can promote items based on the time of day, season and weather.”

But the kiosks can promote items based on the time of day, season and weather, too, such as listing ice-cream higher up on the menu on sunny days. Kiosks also display images of the items as customers scroll through the menus, which Zietz said makes them more likely to order them. 

A former restaurant experience design consultant told The Wall Street Journal that diners are more likely to place bigger orders and add more substitutions when they order digitally because they can hide their embarrassment from servers. And restaurants can adjust their menus in real-time depending on ingredients availability and price changes, which Zietz said is especially useful amid the supply-chain chaos. 

GRUBBRR has rolled them out at a number of quick-service chains, as well as stadiums, arenas, hotels and schools. What’s more, Zietz said the company is also rolling out its software in full-service restaurants using QR codes and tablets. “I used to tell people we were a hyper-growth company,” Zietz said. “Now I tell them we’re a meteoric-growth company.” 

This article was written by Grace Dean from Business Insider and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.

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Key Takeaway
Restaurants have been forced to evolve over the past two years—adjusting to the ways customers are able to use them, staffing fluctuations and supply chain challenges. Digital kiosks are proving to be a solution that lets them address these concerns while offering additional benefits they never thought possible.

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