By Bill Vasquez
Advisor to Applova
An average 1.4 million job openings remained unfilled in the 12 months ending in May 2022, the highest level on record. Unfilled job openings exceeded total hires by an average of 500,000 each month in the six month period from October 2021 to March 2022. While an Aug. 5, 2022, jobs report indicated the United States had recovered the 22 million jobs volume lost during the pandemic, it took 29 months for this to happen. These are disheartening statistics for the Accommodation and Food Service Sector as presented by the National Restaurant Association.
In the face of an acute labor shortage, restaurants are struggling to function at regular capacity. QSRs have been the worst hit, with a majority having to take drastic action, including reducing service capacity and operating hours. Some have been pushed to the extent of needing to remain closed on certain days of the week.
Exacerbating this bleak situation is the dramatic increase in minimum wage. Employing staff has become significantly costlier than pre-pandemic times. That is the double-whammy for QSRs—finding workers is tough enough; once hired, paying them is exceptionally expensive.
QSRs need immediate, cost-effective solutions to stay in business. Almost all QSR operators are looking for an economical way to stay running without having to bring more hands on deck. Thankfully for an ISO there is already the perfect solution: kiosks. In times as tough as these that require an instant fix, ISOs have an easy sales opportunity with kiosks.
The self-ordering kiosk is a form of digitization that can take on the work of 1.5 people. As a complete order and payment solution, kiosks can be used to fully automate the entire order process. This means QSRs will not need dedicated staff for front-of-house duties. With that column deleted from the staffing spreadsheet, the staffing requirement of a QSR will be reduced, helping them circumvent the labor shortage.
Kiosks can be customized to meet a QSR’s specific needs. The QSR operator can select what options they require and the software can be tailored accordingly. The look and feel of the kiosk can also be personalized using the QSR’s themes and logos, reinforcing the restaurant’s brand identity. Kiosks come in different forms—table-top, wall mountable and free-standing podium. The kiosk operator has flexibility to choose the size that fits them best with the added advantage of using a combination of varieties.
Unlike humans, these machines do not fall sick, do not ask for leave, do not need a minimum four-hour shift for extra support during peak time, and do not walk out. They are dependable and reliable. QSR operators are all too familiar with rostering challenges emerging from sick leave, absence and resignations. Kiosks eliminate these difficulties, allowing QSRs to operate without the regular scramble to find cover or hire temp help.
Kiosk add-ons can enhance the efficiency of a QSR by streamlining workflow. A kitchen display system receives orders directly from the kiosk without requiring a person to physically convey the message. Customers can be kept in the loop about their order status, including finding out which window to collect their order from, through a public address system. With these linked devices, QSRs will have a complete and consolidated front-of-store digital set-up, making it possible for them to run without any designated front-of-store staff.
Kiosks are a ready-made solution to a QSR’s labor issues. They start working as soon as they are installed—no interviewing, signing contracts or training. Merchants are in dire need of a quick fix for their current difficulties and so will be receptive to this solution that offers instant, tangible results.
In a context of soaring inflation and excruciatingly high costs, merchants are constantly strategizing on how to reduce expenditures. Kiosks provide the answer to this too. The biggest investment will be the purchase—and with the right vendor, this should be well within a merchant’s budget.
The running costs of a kiosk are nominal and are not even comparable to the steep wages, incentives and bonuses that must be paid to employees. Because kiosks do away with these expenses, merchants save a lot of money, making kiosks the financially viable solution to the issue of unusually high inflation and the resultant increasing operational costs.
Beyond saving merchants money, kiosks bring in extra revenue. They have automated upsell and cross-sell functions, use attractive images and give customers the comfort and privacy to make selections that they often feel too shy to tell a cashier. The combination of these factors has resulted in kiosk orders being 15 to 30 percent higher than orders placed with a cashier. From a QSR operator’s perspective this is an opportunity too precious to refuse.
Ultimately, kiosks are the perfect solution to a QSR’s current difficulties. Apart from describing the benefits they have to offer, ISOs will have little else to do to pitch kiosk sales to QSR operators; the devices almost sell themselves. Kiosks take the focus away from price and lay emphasis on resolving an urgent problem. With that approach, kiosks are an easy sell for ISOs.
Kiosks have a proven track-record of success in QSRs: the big players like Taco Bell and McDonald’s have been using them for decades. In fact, when the labor shortage started to show signs of becoming more severe, these heavyweights upped the ante on their kiosk game, and this is what has enabled them to continue to thrive. ISOs can now offer the same opportunity to smaller players in the market. As long as an ISO finds the right solutions provider—a vendor who offers economical platforms that can be custom-made—an ISO will have no trouble closing the deal on a kiosk sale.
Bill Vasquez leads business development and client services for Applova. He brings 20+ years in senior leadership roles in ITAD, reverse logistics and supply chain management services. Previously he was vice president of ITAD operations at Sims Recycling Solutions and COO at TASQ Technology (TASQ later was acquired by First Data, now Fiserv). Vasquez has been an advisor to Applova Inc for over five years. He holds a BSEE and an MBA from The University of California at Davis.
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