By Mike Green, Customer Impact President

If you haven’t noticed, there seems to be a nationwide race among large restaurant operators to create mobile apps to help “improve customer service.”  According to these industry leaders, they are trying to make it easier for their customers to order and pay their check by allowing them to do it themselves using a mobile device.

A recent article in Nation’s Restaurant News shows Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Burger King, Starbucks and Panera Bread as just a few of the companies that are rolling out apps or kiosk ordering devices in order to shift routine tasks from the employee to the customer.  I assume this will be offered as an option at first, but I see it becoming mandatory faster than you can say Egg McMuffin.


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 Is this a good idea?  As president of Customer Impact, a provider of customer service evaluations to worldwide restaurant concepts, I feel I have a pretty good insight into customer service.  My belief – customer service starts with employees!  If an operator’s true goal is to improve customer service, making  customers perform traditional employee tasks is not a step in the right direction.

When you start removing employees from important parts of the dining experience, where is the service?  I enjoy speaking with employees. I like having someone there to answer my questions.  I enjoy having someone deliver my food.  I do not want to order from my phone or have to enter my order into a kiosk.  When restaurant service technology is implemented, one of the first results you will see is a reduction in staff.  How does this help a dining establishment’s customer service? As technology continues to take over the duties of people, we are one step away from eating meals from vending machines.

Just this week, my family and I visited a local Chili’s and noticed that they recently added large kiosk-type devices to every table.  It offered us the ability to order drink refills with the push of a button and pay our bill at the table.  For.99 we could even play unlimited video games.

As a party of four sitting in a booth, we found the kiosk took up too much room, so we ended up moving it off the table. I did, however, use the device to pay my bill at the end of the meal. While it was efficient, my waitress was four feet away watching me as I did it.  The bottom line is that I dine out to relax and to not have to perform the work involved in preparing my meal. I do not go out to eat to make less work for the servers or take their jobs.

It honestly makes me question whether restaurant chains are adding these options to save money or to improve customer service.

I would love to know your thoughts.



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