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Self Order Restaurants - Are We Ready?

14-04-2015 Darren Bradley General

For years I've been looking at the possibility of self ordering in restaurants whether fast food or casual dining. Constantly mulling over the different elements required to make this happen has turned into something of a pet project of mine.

However, few people seem to share my enthusiasm which has resulted in this project being on the long finger of our development plans.

Consumers have been gradually getting used to the concept of self-ordering, self-reserving or self-scanning with kiosksnow found in popular retailers such as Argos or self-service checkouts in high street supermarkets such as Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s.

On a recent business trip to USA I had spare time between connecting flights in Newark airport and had the pleasure of using their newly implemented self-service ordering system. Throughout Newark’s food courts and restaurant options I noticed two distinct types of self-service concepts in action, on table ordering in sit down restaurants and counter ordering within various food courts.

The latter is a simple concept similar to Argos, choose your food and drink, add them to your basket, complete the order, take your order slip to the cashier, pay the cashier then collect your food when ready. The self-ordering system is completely tablet based and links with the conventional PC based touch screen EPoS terminals, menus are image driven and the user interface is fast and very easy to navigate.

The main advantage for consumers at Newark airport is a reduction in time normally spent standing in a queue waiting to place an order. For many seasoned travellers this is a huge benefit especially if you have just endured a lengthy flight with unsettled children or a hold up whilst navigating customs. One of the main advantages for the vendor is that only one cashier is required to take payments, reducing labour costs as well as making cash accountability an easier process to monitor.

Table ordering is slightly different in that payment is required before an order can be completed and there is no human interaction apart from a member of the waiting staff delivering your food to the table. The ordering process is once again image driven with nice upselling features such as wine of the month, food and drink pairings and other suggestions based on your choices from the menu. The system includes other added features such as the ability to surf the web and check flight updates making it more than just an ordering facility.

On reflection having used both types of self-ordering within Newark I am highly impressed by this technology and to see it first hand in one of the world’s busiest airports was a great insight into the future of the EPoS industry.

In my opinion the UK is ready to embrace the counter ordering model currently in operation at Newark. Self-ordering at a counter then paying with an order slip could be rolled out by fast food outlets and food courts across the UK on a much grander scale and I believe the consumer would fully embrace this change to ordering and definitely see it as a benefit on a busy Saturday afternoon.

However, the question still remains, are we ready for sit down restaurants that provide a self-ordering system with no need for a waiter?

I feel ready to embrace a change in the direction for self-ordering restaurants but I must confess to being a technophile so perhaps my opinion on this topic is always going to lean in the direction of new technology, new systems and new ways of processing payments.

At RST EPoS we continually strive to innovate new ways of ordering and processing payments using the latest software and hardware available but should we invest our time and money on developing our own self-ordering EPoS systems?

Is the UK ready for restaurants to introduce a new way of self-ordering or do we enjoy the practice of engaging with a member of the waiting staff when selecting food and wine too much to simply discard in favour of an emotionless tablet?

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