Classic American Food with a High-tech Twist

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Classic American Food with a high-tech twist a Minnesota restaurant leverages self-order kiosks from NEXTEP SYSTEMS to match cutting-edge technology with a from-scratch menu. By Richard Slawsky - Contributing Writer -

The players
NEXTEP SYSTEMS, based in Troy, Michigan, provides enterprise scalable foodservice technology solutions for restaurants, corporate foodservice, airports, education and other high-volume operations. From cloud based point of sale with integrated remote ordering to self order solutions indoors and out, NEXTEP provides and supports the complete integrated foodservice platform.

Hemisphere Restaurant Partners, founded in 2003, owns and operates six restaurants in the Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota areas. With more than 100 years of combined expertise in the restaurant and hospitality industry, HRP leads the Twin Cities’ dining scene with great flavors, originality and unparalleled service. The company has earned numerous awards, including 2008 Restaurant of the Year by Minneapolis./St.Paul Magazine.

The challenge
When managing partners of Hemisphere Restaurant Partners Tim Cary and Anoush Ansari were developing their newest concept, they knew they wanted to deliver great from-scratch Americana food with a technologydriven experience.

After operating a handful of successful traditional dining establishments, they decided to take the fast casual approach with Diggity Drive Up, a fresh fast concept including gourmet hot dogs, sandwiches, salads and pastas coupled with a full bar that highlights local craft beer.

Fast casual concepts typically offer counter service in a manner similar to that of fast food restaurants but in a more upscale environment with higher quality fare. Check averages at fast casuals are generally in the $8-$9 per person range or more, about 15 percent higher than that of a fast food restaurant.

“We run full-service restaurants as well, and we’ve always been intrigued with hand-held systems,” said Hemisphere Managing Partner Tim Cary. With people doing nearly everything on their phones these days, Cary said the company wanted to incorporate that kind of personalized experience

into the ordering process in their new operation.

“I know I’ve been in a fast casual restaurant and I waited in line for 10 minutes, only to get up there and have someone take another three minutes to process my order,” Cary said. “We wanted to make it more convenient for the customer, so they simply place their order and wait for it to be prepared.”

The solution
After considering a number of potential ordering solutions, Hemisphere chose an integrated solution that included self-order kiosks, order management, cloud based point of sale and remote ordering from Troy, Michiganbased NEXTEP SYSTEMS.

“We had been on a hunt for some time looking for an intuitive order flow system that would be easy to use, not only for the staff but for our guests,” Cary said. “A lot of the systems that we looked at were somewhat dysfunctional, but the NEXTEP solution addressed our concerns.”

Hemisphere’s Diggity Drive Up offers a 1950s-style drive-in environment where guests can order from their mobile device or home computer, check in when they arrive and receive their food at a stall outside. Inside the 240 seat restaurant which opened July 17th in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, guests are greeted by dazzling 32” touchscreen kiosks that were customized to showcase their menu.

Guests are guided quickly through the order process by the intuitive menu flow, and every item is shown in rich media. Images on “can’t pass” upsell screens offer additional items to help drive additional sales for the establishment.

“It is definitely much more impactful to have an image for the upsell,” says Cary. “We’ve definitely seen a high degree of add-on sales.”

At the end of the order process, guests are asked if they’d like to save their order. Saved orders can be accessed at any of the kiosks on following visits with a phone number or credit card, allowing guests to order in just seconds.

After placing and paying for their order on the kiosks or POS, guests receive a ticket with their order number. They can then track the progress of their order on a monitor in the restaurant or on their smartphone. When the order is ready, a staff member calls out the order number and guests pick up at the counter.

“Self-order kiosks allow business owners to repurpose their labor to food production and customer service,” said NEXTEP SYSTEMS President Tommy Woycik. “When you streamline the order process, you increase throughput, resulting in more orders and improved speed of service. The staff that were formerly standing at the counter just to enter orders are now free to help on the line, maintain appearances in the restaurant or give their undivided attention to those guests with questions.”

In addition to the option of ordering via the kiosk or POS, guests can sit at a table and order from their tablets or smartphones. If a guest places an online order for carryout they can pull into a designated parking spot outside the restaurant, connect to Diggity’s wireless to check in and a staff member will deliver the order to their car.

The results
Although Diggity Drive Up is still young, Cary is pleased with the way the kiosks are performing.

Ticket times range between six and eight minutes, while the average check is about $11.42, or about $2 higher than a typical fast casual restaurant. An attendant is stationed by the kiosks to assist those who are unfamiliar with the system.

“It’s actually a fun, engaging process once you learn it, and that happens fairly quickly,” Cary said. “There are people who come in every day and they just love it. They can slide though the order process in seconds.”

The kiosks direct guests through the ordering process in a logical fashion, never forgetting to suggest beverages or add-on items that help build sales.

“In restaurants where a staff member is taking the order, sometimes when it gets busy, the first thing that goes away is the upsell because they’re under that time pressure,” Cary said. “We run metrics in our full-service restaurants, and during our busiest period, which is probably our greatest opportunity to upsell, it tends to dip a little bit because people are preoccupied with other things they have to do.”

Although there was concern initially that ordering with technology might prove to be a challenge for those guests who might not be tech savvy, the opposite has proved to be true. Diggity Drive Up counts people from ages eight to 80 among its customer base, with guests of all ages enjoying the experience of ordering via the kiosks.

“From what we’ve seen, once they try it, most guests prefer ordering online or from a kiosk, especially when we have features that remember their favorite orders.” Woycik said. “Self-order kiosks paired with mobile ordering eliminate two of the things people dislike the most about fast food – long lines and inaccurate orders. With our solution, guests get the personalized experience they want in less time, and the kiosk gets the order right every time.”

Hemisphere is looking at opening additional Diggity Drive Up locations once the initial location gets a thorough run-through, with future locations also featuring NEXTEP’s enterprise scalable solution.

“This is a very scalable concept,” Cary said. “Our intent, once we get stabilized, is to go and find properties that are between 3,000 and 6,000 square feet, which would be ideal for new locations, and move forward with the brand.”

About the sponsor:

NEXTEP SYSTEMS, based in Troy, Michigan, provides enterprise scalable foodservice technology solutions for restaurants, corporate foodservice, airports, education and other high-volume operations. From cloud based point of sale with integrated remote ordering to self order solutions indoors and out, NEXTEP provides and supports the complete integrated foodservice platform.


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