Kiosk cuisine: How self-serve tech is serving up change in dining out

Self-ordering platforms offer convenience and efficiency, but can they replace the human touch? We explore the benefits and drawbacks of kiosks in the restaurant industry.

3 min read
Kiosk cuisine: How self-serve tech is serving up change in dining out
Credit: Adobe Photostock

By Pam Morales Worsham | For The Prep

The ambiance of background music, the rustle of menus and the echoes of conversations have long defined the traditional dining experience.

Yet, alongside these familiarities, the glow of self-ordering platforms has emerged. The pandemic accelerated this transformative shift, that at the time aligned with social distancing measures, offering a lifeline to the restaurant industry.

As life has settled into a new normal, the question arises: Should this technology now become a permanent fixture in the restaurant industry?

Order up

Recent data suggests that this next-gen tech in hospitality at least warrants consideration, if only to boost customer satisfaction.

According to the National Restaurant Association , approximately 61% of consumers are enthusiastic about ordering from kiosks, with nearly 80% of millennials and Gen Z adults embracing tablets for ordering. For patrons valuing time as a precious commodity, the convenience of self-ordering tech is paramount, offering the ability to bypass long lines with orders processed 40% faster on average.  

On the other side of the counter, restaurant owners and managers are capitalizing on the benefits of self-ordering platforms with built-in upselling features, leading to an increase in additional revenue streams.

Customers using kiosks tend to spend up to 30% more than those who order from staff, while the order accuracy of self-serve kiosks has resulted in increased customer satisfaction and reduced waste.

Moreover, leveraging the data gleaned from kiosks provides valuable marketing insights into customer purchasing habits and even helps mitigate labor shortages during challenging times. Kiosks also have the capabilities to automate manual tasks, restoring the human touch of hospitality by freeing up staff's time to focus on enhancing the guest experience. Two big strategic wins!

Food for thought

While the adoption of this technology certainly paints an exciting picture of the future for the restaurant industry's next frontier, it is essential to consider potential drawbacks. Though self-ordering kiosks empower many consumers, they can evoke anxiety and frustration in older patrons less familiar with technology.  

What about guests who seek human interaction while dining out? They may find themselves at a disadvantage and excluded from the hospitality experience with the integration of self-serve tech. This holds particularly true in sit-down eateries, where patrons are accustomed to engaging with waitstaff for inquiries and food recommendations. 

Some restaurant employees are also grappling with a range of emotions, including concerns about how self-service technology could impact their wages and opportunities, or even lead to  job displacement. It’s a looming threat of uncertainty and what-if’s. 

Another challenge stems from potential technical glitches inherent in all technology, with kiosks being no exception. In the restaurant industry, a malfunctioning self-serve station could significantly impact the customer experience and tarnish the restaurant's brand. Additionally, the expenses associated with repairing both software and hardware issues could sometimes be substantial.

Future forward

Change doesn’t wait for anyone, and in the restaurant industry it’s no different. The dining out experience is poised for transformation as the adoption of technology like kiosks becomes widely-adopted. Instead of an all or nothing approach, industry analysts foresee a hybrid future where technology seamlessly integrates with a human-centric approach, creating a winning combination for success.

For those intrigued and considering integrating self-serve kiosks into their establishments, we've compiled some helpful tips.

Train, train, train: Equip your staff with comprehensive training on the technology, especially if they'll serve as kiosk ambassadors. This ensures they can seamlessly integrate the tech with their responsibilities and alleviates concerns about job displacement.

Nice and easy: During onboarding, prioritize a user-friendly interface for the kiosk. A smooth and intuitive experience enhances synergy between customers and your operation, ensuring satisfaction and efficiency.

Test it first: Consider a phased rollout during off-peak days and hours rather than a full launch, allowing for testing and customization of features that best suit your customers and operations. This approach minimizes disruption while maximizing success.

Ultimately, keeping the human element at the forefront of the tech blueprint, can help restaurants navigate the next phase in hospitality, all while ensuring they continue to deliver a memorable dining experience.  

Thank you for reading The Prep's Coffee Break. Each Monday we prepare a deep dive on topics that impact restaurants and their people. We publish exclusive articles, like this one, to our Hidden Menu.

For questions or comments, please reach out to editor Katie Parsons at