Self-Serve Kiosks Order Up Success at Today’s FECs
Instead of interrupting a game of bowling to hit the snack bar, guests at Main Event Entertainment can use a touchscreen tablet in their lane to order food and drinks.
“Self-serve kiosks are everywhere from airports to fast-food and fast-casual restaurants,” explains Steve Klohn, chief information officer for Main Event Entertainment. “As we’ve evolved into a digital world, we needed to remain relevant.”
Ordering via tabletop tablets and smartphone apps is on the rise. In 2017, research firm Market Force Information found that 55 percent of quick-service restaurant customers used a smartphone app or tablet at a table to place their orders — a 39 percent jump from 2015. Of the 11,000 consumers surveyed, less than half said they prefer to order from someone at the counter, which is a more than 20 percent decrease from the 70 percent who reported they preferred to do so in 2015.
Klohn believes letting guests manage orders and payment improves the customer experience, noting, “It lets them go at their own pace.”
At Main Event Entertainment, the pace for adding the kiosks is brisk. The family entertainment center (FEC) company introduced tabletop ordering in three of its Dallas locations last June and plans to roll out the technology at the remaining 25 locations.
To keep up with the latest food and beverage technologies and trends, FEC and attractions operators should attend the IAAPA Expo in Orlando this November, featuring seminars and roundtable discussions with the world’s leading professionals in the attractions industry.
Invest in F&B success
Research shows the investment of time and capital it takes for food and beverage operations to launch self-serve kiosks pays off. In 2015, Taco Bell’s sales jumped 20 percent for orders placed through its app (compared to counter orders placed with cashiers). Panera Bread receives 1.2 million digital orders per week via mobile and web devices and in-store kiosks; the company’s $1 billion in annual sales through the platforms could double in 2019, the company estimates.
Klohn believes it’s too soon to tell whether the tabletop kiosks have increased F&B revenues in three locations, but says, “So far, it’s doing well with appetizers, limited entrees and alcohol reorders, and we’re seeing a lot of great feedback.”
Chuck E. Cheese added F&B ordering to the gaming ticket kiosks at 35 locations in January 2017. Mahesh Sadarangani, senior vice president of strategic initiatives for CEC Entertainment, believes the technology will enhance the ordering process for guests and improve operational efficiencies, leading to reduced labor costs for the FEC company.
Based on the data CEC Entertainment collected from its 35 test sites, the kiosks are a hit. Transactions climbed from 3 to 4 percent of F&B revenues after the kiosks were introduced to 10 percent of total transactions just eight months later.
With a minimum of two kiosks in each test location plus counter service, Sadarangani believes customers are taking more time to study the menus and are more apt to order custom (and costlier) items, including specialty pizza crusts or additional toppings.
Find the right fit
Despite the successes, self-ordering systems may not be widely adopted among smaller parks, bowling centers and FECs, especially those without an information technology (IT) team to support the technology.
“The technology only gets you so far; even with great tech support from the vendor, it still requires a lot of planning and understanding to get it up and running and make it an extension of your brand,” Sadarangani says. “A small company may struggle.”
CEC Entertainment spent four months creating the graphical user interface behind its self-ordering system and countless hours analyzing data from test sites to determine best practices for introducing the kiosks in additional locations.
“It takes a lot of programming and development and learning” to launch the self-ordering systems,” Sadarangani says.
The effort, though, Klohn believes, is worth it. The self-ordering terminals have streamlined F&B operations at Main Event Entertainment locations and improved the guest experience. The technology also represents a brand commitment to meeting customer expectations.
To better understand the benefits and challenges of integrating self-serve at their entertainment centers, operators should conduct their own extensive research. One of the best places to learn about the latest technologies for FECs is the IAAPA Expo this November in Orlando. Educational seminars and roundtables, such as “Food Trends 2019”, provide unique opportunities for vendors to learn from and ask leading professionals about the future of food and beverage. The education from the stable of amusement industry experts is invaluable and will help you grow your business in a way that benefits you and your customers.
Plan now to attend IAAPA Expo 2019 from Nov. 18 to 22 in Orlando, Florida.
A version of this article originally appeared in Funworld, the official publication of IAAPA.