Restaurant owner talks self-service

 
April 10, 2011 | by Cherryh A. Butler

The Blazing Onion Burger Company may be blazing trails in restaurant self-service if the pilot test in its fourth location is successful.

"We are testing the concept for both take-out and dine in," said David Jones, owner of the Washington restaurants. "The (Alderwood) Mall is a perfect place to capture the younger traffic. If it goes well, we will add the concept of kiosk to other locations if the demographic makes sense."

Although many restaurants are starting to embrace self-service to help speed up orders and check-out  times, Jones is taking the concept to a whole new level in his newest location set to open in June in Lynwood, Wash. His customers can rely almost solely on self-service throughout the dining experience.

"Our restaurant is fast casual, but with a twist," said about the gourmet burger joint with more than 25 burger selections on its menus. "While everything starts out like normal fast-casual concepts with the guest beginning the order, Lorri (his wife) and I have created service on demand."

Here's how it works:

  • Customers order at the front menu board via kiosks or choose to enter the full-service sports lounge. If they order at one of the two kiosks, they may pay there, too.
  • If choosing dine-in service, they can pay right then or leave the check open to re-order drinks or dessert.
  • After they've placed their orders and chosen a table, guests receive service keys that they enter into a device at their table. It informs staff where they are seated and what they've ordered.
  • Each table is equipped with a service alert button for customers to push if they need anything from drinks and napkins to sauces and dessert. Jones said someone will be at the table within 30 seconds. "This allows you to enjoy the conversation at the table rather than stopping everything to locate a server," he said.
  • The system allows customers to pay and leave when they are ready. If they didn't pay the tab at the kiosk, they can push the button and pay immediately, Jones said.

Jones said his "self-initiated service" fits perfectly with kiosk technology.

"The kiosk will allow you to do everything the front welcome cashier could do for you, with the exception that alcohol will have to be added to the check at the table, where we can ID, and it only accepts credit cards," he said.

Customers may also select -- via kiosk -- what time their orders should be started. This allows them to place orders and then shop throughout the mall. They'll receive a text message when the food is ready.

"My thought was that no one in this location of the mall had ever tried to capture traffic from the food court," Jones said. "This kiosk should make it easier to do so. We added the idea to choose dine-in or take-out to make the kiosk more valuable.

How much does it cost?

NEXTEP SYSTEMS designed the self-service solution for the restaurant for slightly less than $20,000, plus an additional $380 monthly fee for both machines. The key system that tells staff where customers are seated is slightly more than $16,000.

Jones said he expects a 30 percent ROI, meaning he should be able to pay off all debt in just over three years. However, re-investment is the main goal. Jones plans to roll out a new Blazing Onion every 10-14 months.

The Long Range Systems service key call

Companies: NEXTEP SYSTEMS


Cherryh A. Butler / Cherryh Butler has been a reporter for nearly 10 years, writing on a variety of topics ranging from the restaurant industry to business and health and fitness news. Before joining FastCasual.com as editor, she oversaw KioskMarketplace.com and PizzaMarketplace.com and contributed to RetailCustomerExperience.com. She's also written for several daily newspapers, magazines and websites, including The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine.
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