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NATIONAL REPORT – Efficiency was, is and always will be the name of the game in the convenience store industry, and technology has been a major player in increasing overall performance.
Perhaps no single piece of equipment has had the same impact that the touchscreen has. These systems help retailers reduce costs by decreasing labor requirements, product waste and even energy usage.
While more than 10 years old now, touchscreen ordering quite possibly has been the biggest technological boon affecting the c-store industry, and is still influencing it today.
“We did the research in the early 1990s on the issues involved with ordering food at Wawa,” explained Ed Burcher of Burcher Consulting, a member of the Convenience Store News How To Crew, a panel of leading foodservice experts. The research revealed several key issues from both the perspective of the shopper and the store staff:
- Not knowing who was next, and the uncertainty/anxiety of queueing for an order without knowing where to wait.
- Inaccurate orders due to the process (i.e., orders not written down, not remembered correctly or heard by the staff).
- Wasted time in line telling the staff what they want, then often repeating the order because it was forgotten by the staff.
- Customers needed to remain at the food area the entire time before finally shopping, paying and picking up their orders.
- Inability to quickly and accurately fill an order because of the process.
- Since the order is done verbally, the staff member often had several orders to juggle and often made mistakes in their preparation, sometimes having to stop what they were doing, locate the customer somewhere in the store and ask him/her to repeat their instructions.
“Touchscreen ordering solved these and many more problems, as well as generating incremental margins through upselling and add-on purchases,” noted Burcher.
Still today, the improved efficiencies afforded by self-service ordering kiosks are universal.
“Sheetz’s use of touchscreen kiosks has reduced the number of times customers claimed sandwiches were made incorrectly, increased turnaround time for the kitchen, and helped upsell items by steering customers toward ordering more toppings,” said fellow CSNews How To Crew member Mathew Mandeltort of convenience distributor Eby-Brown Co.
And yet, as efficient as touchscreen kiosks may be, they are not without their downside.
“Touchscreen technology is great, but you have to evaluate whether or not it slows down service,” offered How To Crew member Chad Prast of Murphy USA. “If it does, you then have to decide if the extra value you can give your customers is worth the additional time.”
In some cases, the answer may be yes. In others, no.
Editor's note: Check out the November issue of Convenience Store News for our full report on “Making Sense of the Latest Equipment & Technology Advancements” in foodservice. A digital edition of the issue can be accessed by clicking here.