November 7, 2007 • Volume 21, Number 21
- Self-service Ordering Opportunities Gaining Popularity in Restaurants
- New Payment Technology Simplifies Transactions
Self-service Ordering Opportunities Gaining Popularity in Restaurants
Increasingly Americans are placing orders themselves that used to go through a customer service representative or cashier. Today people can place an order online for the hottest holiday fashions rather than visiting a shop or calling a customer service representative. Most people ‘Pay at the Pump’ with a credit or debit card when buying gasoline rather than walking into the convenience store and forking over a twenty. Only yesterday, I ordered a pizza from my usual purveyor, but used its website rather than picking up the phone. No one put me on hold, and I saved nearly $6 when I ordered the online-only dinner special. The restaurant industry may have been slow to pick up the technological ball, but they are running with it. More and more restaurants are realizing that convenience is a huge factor in the customer’s food-buying decision. And many are choosing to make ordering a more convenient part of the food dollar equation. The idea of cutting down the time spent waiting in line is appealing to a growing number of customers. Here are a few of the latest self-ordering trends at fast-food and fast-casual joints around the world.
- McDonald’s in Korea is testing food ordering by RFID (radio-frequency identification) using cell phones. A customer downloads software to the phone and then visits the local McDonald’s. A table is chosen, and the phone is plugged into the existing RFIDreader. Then, the handset is aimed at a menu with built-in RFID chips and food choices are made. The order is charged directly to the cell phone bill. When the order is ready, a message is sent to the customers cell phone, saying that the tray can be picked up at the counter.
- Gomobo (http://www.gomobo.com ), the text-based restaurant ordering service, just celebrated its 1st birthday by expanding beyond Manhattan into other urban areas, such as Chicago and Boston. Gomobo allows its users to skip the long lines at their favorite eateries by ordering ahead of time via text message or the Internet. Customers link their cell phones to the Gomobo service and store their credit card numbers securely, allowing them to save time with one-click ordering. Customers can place orders on the subway, in the car waiting in traffic, before they leave the house, whenever they want to on their way into the office, for example. After placing fully customizable orders (including specific alterations, such as no dressing, extra cheese, or tomatoes on the side) online or via text, customers walk into the restaurant, to the front of the line, and pick up their waiting already-paid-for order. The service is free to customers, but participating restaurants pay a service charge to Gomobo. The company indicates that its customers spend more, 46% more on average by its account, than the restaurant’s other customers. Gomobo entices its customers to get their favorite spots to sign up by offering them $25 for each completed referral.
- Several fast-food chains are currently testing self-service kiosks in very limited locations, including KFC, Hardee’s, Jack in the Box, and Burger King. Most models employ touch-screen technology, allowing customers to make menu selections. They pay for the orders with cash or credit at the kiosks. The orders are sent to the kitchen, where they are filled and delivered to the counter. Operators like the kiosks because they don’t get benefits, never call in sick, and don’t make mistakes handling money. The kiosks also automatically upsell each order, resulting in high check averages, $1.00–$1.25 more in most cases. Companies currently developing the self-service technology include—
- Par Tech, currently partnering with McDonald’s (http://www.partech.com)
- Micros Systems Inc. (http://www.micros.com)
- NCR Corp (http://www.ncr.com)
New Payment Technology Simplifies Transactions
Denver, Co.-based MocaPay, formerly FEED Tribes, allows users to pay for food (and other services) with their cell phones. Users set up an account, putting available funds into the account. As they approach the cashier, they send a text to MocaPay, who texts back a temporary PIN (good for one use within 15 minutes). The customer provides the PIN to the cashier and the transaction is complete. Transaction fees are about half that of credit card companies and virtually instantaneous, no waiting for the machine to dial in. Currently the company is implementing the technology in entertainment and hospitality venues in San Francisco and Colorado. It has focused a lot of its efforts on services on the University of Colorado campus and throughout Denver and Boulder. Local Noodles & Co. restaurants were the first to sign up for the trial. Qwest Retail Transaction recently integrated the technology into its Point-of-Sale system at Folsom Field on the CU campus. If the trial goes well, you could soon be buying your beer and nachos at your favorite stadium with nothing but your cell phone.