While conventional wisdom questioned whether Dairy Queen customers were ready to embrace self-service kiosks, Southlake, TX owner/operator Michael Clarke understood new self-service kiosks for what they were at their core: A technology his customers had already embraced in areas like ATMs, airport ticket counters, and self-checkout lanes at the super market. The other thing Clarke acknowledged was the need to be competitive with other Quick Service and Fast Casual restaurants—many of whom were already using kiosks. As such, in September 2017 he collaborated with Panasonic to test self-service systems in two of his nine DFW-area Dairy Queen locations.
“I’m looking for a competitive advantage and experience distinctive that will help customers choose our DQs over one of the many other dining options they can see from our parking lot,” Clarke said. “The guest dwell time, order customization, and self-pacing of kiosks all provide a higher level of satisfaction. And Panasonic differentiated themselves by truly understanding how a kiosk could enhance our guest’s experience within a Dairy Queen environment.”
Texas DQ franchisee Lickety Split Food Services wanted to leverage new technologies that increased revenue and improved customer satisfaction.
The company partnered with Panasonic to implement self-service kiosks that provide a technology solution and allows for patrons to customize their order with specificity.
Lickety Split has seen a 35 to 40 percent increase in average check amounts for orders placed at the self-service kiosks as compared to those made at either the drive-thru or counter.
The results, Clarke said, speak for themselves. One of the most common Key Performance Indicators that the QSR industry tracks is average check size and the kiosks are making a difference. Across both of his locations, the average check has been 35 to 40 percent higher on the kiosks in comparison to counter and drive-thru orders “The data is incontrovertible: kiosk average check is consistently and significantly higher,” he said.
During the first phase of the kiosk pilot program, Clarke didn’t deploy free-standing kiosks because he wanted to defer the expense and disruption until he had the data to warrant the investment and minimal re-model. As a soft launch, Panasonic installed self-service tablets on the countertop. When Clarke’s company, Lickety Split Food Services, launch the kiosk technology across all its restaurants in Q4 2018, it is opting for the free-standing kiosks.
The plan is to place the kiosks in the lobby of the restaurant so that customers approach the kiosk prior to the front counter. Clarke does not plan to reduce the number of service staff, rather his team will be trained to assist guests in how to use the kiosk and spend more time interacting (and less time transacting) with guests. Explains Clarke, “The kiosks have proven that they will drive a significantly higher check and that those guests using them have an overall satisfaction similar to or greater than those placing their orders directly with staff.”
According to Clarke, customers aren’t just ordering more at the kiosks, but are also providing positive feedback on experience surveys saying how “delighted they were” to interact on the kiosk.
“We get a lot of ‘I didn’t expect to see those at a Dairy Queen;’ ‘I’ve never seen them at any other Dairy Queen;’ ‘It was very easy to use,’” he said. “We’ve also found that people of all ages–not just millennials –are opting for these self-service solutions.”
Clarke said that his restaurants’ team members have also embraced the kiosk technology as a way to improve their own job satisfaction. By assisting guests on using the kiosk, the staff is now out from behind the counter and working to more organically interact with the guests in the role of hosts as opposed to cashiers. What’s more, their hours have remained stable.
“After one year in one location and nine months in the other, we have not reduced our labor commitment,” Clarke said, “yet we have improved the customer experience, increased profitability, and gained the trust of employees who have transitioned their job to—if you will, instead of an order-taker—almost a concierge type of position.”