Self-checkout is coming to a quick serve restaurant near you. Earlier this year, QSR magazine reported several major chain restaurants were planning to invest in kiosk ordering, including McDonalds, Subway, Taco Bell and Wendy’s. All this when micro market operators have already placed self-checkout kiosks at almost 24,000 locations. Why has it taken quick service restaurants so long to catch up? PYMNTS.com says it is because the first self-checkout systems installed were full of issues that ruined what should have been a frictionless experience for customers. The example used is customers ordering ahead, but then waiting in an order pick-up line as long as the eat-in ordering line. I can see it and I don’t think our industry is in any danger from the self-checkout kiosks at these establishments. There is nothing more frustrating than when the fast lane is slower than the normal lane. Self-checkout works well only when it enhances the customer experience, adding speed or removing friction points, not just built next to an existing system that works just fine.
Micro markets are special
Micro markets are succeeding at such a steady pace because the self-checkout enhances the experience in the break room. It doesn’t just change it. For most locations, the alternative was vending machines. This limited the products that could be dispensed to certain sizes and types of packaging material. Most consumers didn’t realize this and were frustrated that more variety wasn‘t available. There is also the negative perception of products, especially fresh food items, under glass. Buyers want to know what they are getting, and peering at minute ingredient label print through sliding plastic doors or glass and a metal spiral was a friction point – preventing sales. Enter micro markets. The ability to have self-checkout offered an opportunity for operators to change how they presented products, which in turned expanded what products they could offer. Customers could pick up and examine items. It took all the limits vending machines had and blew them outward. Plus, it still allowed cashless payment options, which were important as fewer consumers carried cash.
QSR are trying to catch up to the micro market industry. They will need to really step up the game however, because micro market operators are already enhancing the original self-checkout kiosk concept. There are now promotions and loyalty opportunities that were impossible with vending because each user can create their own account (which can be sent promotions and incentives). Operators are embracing mobile checkout options that eliminate the kiosk all together, which could be a remaining friction point should a heavily used micro market have long lines at the kiosk. In this we are the innovators. We should feel good that we were able to take the self-checkout concept and run with it over the big chains who still haven’t quite figured out how to make it more about the consumer and less about the technology.