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Self-ordering kiosks help raise quality at fast-food outlets

WITH the increased adoption of fast-food self-ordering kiosks, overall satisfaction levels of customers that frequent these kiosks was observed to be as high as those who place their orders via the traditional way of ordering their food and drinks with the counter service staff.

Interestingly, the group of customers that frequent kiosks ordering rated a key metric 'ordering process is simple' appreciably higher than customers ordering via the counter service staff.

This was revealed in the Institute of Service Excellence's Customer Satisfaction Index of Singapore (CSISG) 2018 results for the food and beverage (F&B) and tourism sectors.

"Further analysis showed that a simple ordering process was a significant driver of customers' perceptions of quality at fast-food restaurants," said ISE head of Research and Consulting Chen Yongchang.

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"The industry's increased adoption of self-order kiosks appear to help simple ordering processes and, if done well, will positively drive fast-food customers' dining experience over time," he added.

In the study, measurable improvements were recorded for the fast-food restaurants and restaurants sub-sectors. While fast-food restaurants scored 73.6 points showing a 2.7 per cent improvement, restaurants scored 74.4 points, showing a 4 per cent gain.

The overall F&B sector registered statistically significant improvements in customer satisfaction compare to the earlier year. It climbed 3.5 per cent year-on-year to score 74.2 points on a 0 to 100 scale.

Providing an industry perspective, Allen Tan, director of Japanese restaurant chain Sushi Tei, told The Business Times that he finds that customers today fall into two broad categories: those who are familiar with kiosk self-ordering and those who are unfamiliar.

"The customers who are familiar with kiosk self-ordering usually find it quicker and easier than traditional ordering methods and, as they are IT-savvy, they enjoy using the system.

"Those who are unfamiliar with kiosk self-ordering are nevertheless usually already very knowledgeable about Japanese food. We observe that these customers are adapting well to kiosk self-ordering and find the experience positive. The kiosk software is easy to use, shows images of the dishes and also makes suggestions as to pairings (with drinks and other dishes). Compared to traditional ordering methods (where a customer's experience depends on the staff member's expertise), a kiosk self-ordering system provides a standardised high level of service to all customers," noted Mr Tan.

Asked how a self-ordering kiosk enhances the customer experience, Mr Tan said that it does so by providing for a self-interactive experience in ordering.

"The customer becomes more familiar with the entire menu, and the suggested food and drink accompanying suggestions also serve to educate the customer. It is also quicker (once the customer becomes familiar with the system) and more convenient (the customer does not have to wait to order)."

Going forward, for self-ordering kiosks to help in enhancing service excellence in the F&B sector it is important that kiosks continue to improve and in doing so provide higher and higher quality interactive experiences for customers.

"We also foresee 'virtual kiosks' coming into play with customers' own mobile services possibly serving as virtual 'own kiosks'. Ordering time is reduced. And the entire menu and a high level of intellectual capability - suggested accompanying dishes and drinks, condiments, desserts, etc - is delivered to all customers," said Mr Tan.

"In many ways kiosks will never replace human beings. Food still has to be prepared by skilled kitchen staff. But a combination of well-trained service and kitchen staff, working with high-quality kiosk devices which are continuously improving, should deliver good results," he added.