Why self-order menus make sense for your independent restaurant

From checking out at the grocery store to checking-in at a hotel, many industries have turned to automated services as a way to speed up their services. With the literal push of a button, efficiency is increased and waiting time, reduced. That’s an improvement few of us can afford to miss out on. Early adopters of self-order menu technology like McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Panera Bread have seen their sales grow since they introduced digital menus. Yet, this innovation has yet to be embraced by independent North American restaurateurs. Sure, we’re all for saving time, but when it comes to automating the restaurant experience, some are concerned that new technology might put sales before people. Whether you’re tempted to try or still need some convincing, take a look at 3 perks of self-order menus that can help you run your restaurant in a way that makes more sense – and that makes you more money.

self-order menus make sense for your independent restaurant 

1. Catering to every kind of customer:

Restaurants are social spaces, and should remain that way, but the assumption that adding self-order kiosks, that enable customers to place their own order directly from an ipad will put an end to human interaction is wrong —au contraire! Different customers want different types of service and self-order menus give restaurateurs the flexibility to adjust accordingly. Just take a glance at your packed dining hall or at the long queue that’s formed at the counter. Some of these customers may be in a hurry, hoping to quickly grab a bite before returning to their busy lives. Others may have come to your restaurant to taste new food, catch up with friends or simply treat themselves to a moment of relaxation. These scenarios often occur within the same space, but when only one solution is available, frustrations can arise. Pressed customers tap their feet in line behind undecided patrons who, in turn, refrain from asking about new menu items because they feel rushed. Depending on what type of customer is using it, self-order menu technology can accelerate the ordering process or enrich it with visuals and appealing descriptions. It’s a win-win. Those on the go can place their orders directly on the iPad while others can use SOM to browse through their options at their own pace.

Kitchen worker

2.Employing more efficiently:

When self-order menus and kiosks were first introduced, many perceived it as a ploy to replace human labor by technology. While it’s true that self-order menus reduce the need for cashiers and servers on the floor, it’s unlikely to replace them altogether. More importantly, increased sales generated by the installation of SOM creates the need for more jobs in the kitchen. In addition to accelerating the ordering process, these menus invite customers to order more by teasing their taste buds with images and allowing them to order privately (and judgement free!) Panera Bread, a popular American restaurant chain, increased their sales by 6.2% within a year of introducing digital menus. This actually lead them to create 1,700 additional jobs in their bakeries. Self-order menus are changing the way restaurateurs organize their staff, challenging traditions and introducing more productive ways to manage tasks. As for front-line workers, this might improve the pace of their work. Rather than rushing from table to table to scribble down orders, they can take the time to discuss menu items with customers, chatting with them, giving recommendations and contributing to a more social restaurant environment.

Order burger with Lightspeed's self-order menus

3.Benefiting from more marketing flexibility

In North America, self-order kiosks are often associated with quick service restaurants like McDonald’s and Wendy’s. While they are a smart tool for fast food chains, they’re also a powerful marketing tool for table-service restaurants. You know that presentation is key. That’s why you’ve probably invested in printing (and reprinting) beautiful menus. Sure, producing traditional paper menus is cheaper than using  iPads – but think long term! The flexibility and durability of self-order menus often make them a much more sustainable option. Imagine being able to switch up menu items in no time and at no extra cost. It’s fall so, go ahead, tempt customers with your decadent apple crumble, or comforting squash soup, then replace these items with new ones once the season’s over. Did your chef whip up a bold new ceviche recipe? Promote it by setting it as the iPad’s screensaver and if it’s not a hit, that’s okay, just delete it. Because digital menus are so versatile, they keep people curious and expose them to dishes they may not have otherwise noticed on your menu. Self-order menus allow you to engage more actively with your customers and quickly make changes that will keep them coming back.

Adding more screens in your restaurant won’t take anything away from it; not jobs, not atmosphere, not personality. Many things have changed since paper menus were first introduced at the end on the 18th Century. Self-order menus rethink the way restaurants function so that they can align with today’s reality and leave you more free to do what you do best.

Eva Barroso Riccardi

Eva Barroso Riccardi

Eva is a kale connoisseur, shoe collector and chronic over-packer. Words are her preferred mode of transportation; she loves digging into their etymology, uncovering their past and embracing them as they move ideas and conversations forward.