Technology replacing servers: Could this affect you?

Gabrielle Fanelli, Staff Writer

Typically when you go to a restaurant, you are greeted by the server. He/she asks you what you would like to drink and if you would like to order an appetizer. Olive Garden was one of the first restaurants to implement the Kiosk. This square electronic device rests on each table where the customer can order appetizers, desserts and drinks through its touch screen menu options. Customers can even pay for their bills with a card through the Kiosk’s check-out screen, which will print a receipt and allow you to leave without having to wait on your server to bring your card back. Olive Garden isn’t the only food service providing these options. McDonald’s has implemented Kiosks in certain locations to allow the lines to go through the ordering process quicker.

Basically, the Kiosk at McDonald’s is acting as a cashier that would normally take an order. Does this mean cashiers are being replaced by technology?  The question becomes more serious when you think of the effects it will have on college students that serve at restaurants after classes or on the weekends.

When CEO of McDonalds, Steve Easterbrook, was asked by Bill Peters with Investors Business Daily if kiosks would cut jobs, his response was, "If we were able to alternate certain non-value-added processes in the restaurant we’ll do that because it’s a smart thing to do," he said. "But then that gives us more opportunity to bring that manpower front-of-house -- we can offer better dining area experience and service experience. So I don’t see it being a risk to job elimination."

His belief is that technology is embraced already by most customers and consumers, thus it will only improve the service of the McDouble-Lovers. 

Easterbrook says, "It may change the nature of the jobs in the restaurant, because frankly technology is something that our customers are embracing, whether it’s through their phone or whether through self-order kiosks -- that is a societal trend," he said. "We want to adapt to that, but it’s not actually meant as a labor replacement. We can just re-apportion that labor into more service-orientated roles."

What have the results been? A research study done by four professors from Rotman School of Management, Duke's Fuqua School of Business, and the National University of Singapore, say at McDonalds, “The average check size was a dollar higher — a 30 percent increase at the time. And they found that 20 percent of customers who didn’t initially order a drink would buy one when it was offered.”

Our local Panera Bread on Wade Hampton Blvd. has also implemented Kiosks as of September. They still have the same number of cashiers working but allow customers to use the other option of a “Self Check-Out” process.

Food businesses aren’t the only ones finding success in kiosks. Cinemark theater’s new self-service kiosks have “had concession spending per person climb for 32 straight quarters.” 

Be sure to give a kiosk a try next time you visit one of these businesses.