The robots are coming for us. They’re going to steal our jobs and force us to do their bidding and… give us hamburgers?
After a highly successful trial run last year, fast food veteran Wendy’s is going to roll out self-ordering kiosks at 1,000 of its 6,500 restaurants worldwide. Based in Dublin, Ohio, Wendy’s is known for its square hamburgers and signature Frostys.
Already in motion
The fast food chain has already installed the kiosks at several of its Central Ohio locations.
As they expand the technology, franchises will not be required to install them, but, since demand is expected to be high, higher-volume restaurants will receive priority.
Both customers and franchises have been clamoring for more self-ordering kiosks. “There is a huge amount of pull from (franchisees) in order to get them,” says David Trimm, Wendy’s chief information officer.
Cost of kiosking
Trimm cites two motivating factors for increasing kiosk usage: they allow younger customers to order in a technology-driven way, and they reduce labor expenses.
An average restaurant would receive three kiosks for about $15,000, and Trimm estimates that the investment would pay off in less than two years thanks to higher sales and labor savings.
Counter ordering would still be available, so long lines would be able to split into shorter queues for machines and counter employees.
Vice President of Technomic Darren Tristano says the fast food industry is destined for kiosk-dom, but Wendy’s is pulling ahead of its peers. “They are looking to improve their automation and their labor costs, and this is a good way to do it,” he said. “They are also trying to enhance the customer experience. Younger customers prefer to use a kiosk.”
And food industry workers shouldn’t worry just yet about being out of a job. Tristano advises that kiosks probably won’t replace workers right off the bat, but will instead shuffle the labor to other areas. While kiosks take orders, more people could prepare food during peak hours instead of working the counter.
Kiosks may also help Wendy’s out with rising wage costs.
“Last year was tough — 5 percent wage inflation,” said Bob Wright, COO of Wendy’s. He went on to note that Wendy’s expects wages to rise 4 more percent this year. “But the real question is what are we doing about it?” Wright pointed out that in the last two years, Wendy’s has managed to cut 31 hours of labor per week in its restaurants, and now it’s looking to boost efficiency.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Kiosks are always courteous. They always show up for work on time. -Bob Welcher” quote=”And Bob Welcher, president of Restaurant Consultants Inc., put it best: Kiosks are always courteous. They always show up for work on time.”]
Wendy’s is ahead of its competitors in part because they’ve set up a full in-house dev lab, complete with a mock-up restaurant where developers can test and tweak in real time. “So we know that the things we build work,” Trimm said.
Other incoming innovations at Wendy’s include mobile ordering and payment via smartphone.
Starbucks has been doing this for a while, and it’s about time we could order food and coffee ahead of time.
It’s a move that makes good business sense, too: every time a customer orders and pays with their phone, Wendy’s receives valuable data about that customer and their preferences, and overtime the company can track trends to see where and how they can improve and tailor their offers and services.
When the smartphone revolution comes to Wendy’s, kiosks will likely be phased out, but for now they’re the big news. Get excited for hamburgers with minimal human interaction!