We had our second interaction with restaurant kiosks at Friendly’s earlier this week. Friendly’s uses kiosks from Ziosk. Ziosk claims 300 million customers served. Andy Puzder at the WSJ has them on his mind too. We agree with his start up and history:
Consumer preferences, reduced technology costs and government policies that increase labor costs are driving a trend toward automation in the restaurant business. If you make something more convenient and less expensive, it tends to catch on.
As recently as the 1960s, gas-station employees would rush to fill your car’s tank, wash the windows, check the oil and put air in the tires. Telephone operators made your long-distance calls and bank tellers cashed your checks. Those jobs now are either gone or greatly diminished.
Sidebar: you sign for a credit card with your finger. From where we were sitting it was natural to sign it with our left pointer. It is consistent with our style of handball that we had one name finished before we figured it out. End sidebar.
At Friendly’s, only appetizers and bill paying were electronic. There were also games to play. For us, the bill paying by kiosk was a nice feature. If you are in a hurry (we were) you can finish it quickly and if you want to chat you can do that too. Restaurants would like them because they have the opportunity of higher turnover at busy times. We don’t know if kiosks will be the solution that becomes popular but it seems highly likely that the pressure of government policies and the ubiquity of technology will lead to alternative methods of ordering and paying for meals at low and mid-price restaurants. Delivery seems more of a challenge to automate.