Mobile vs. Kiosk Ordering

In our usual haste to anticipate the future, we’ve hailed mobile ordering as the restaurant tech of the future. Soon, we say, mobile ordering will make self-order kiosks a distant memory. It’s easy to imagine different technologies battling it out, one ultimately dominating and destroying the other. We look at how automobiles killed the horse-drawn carriage and assume that all technological progress follows the same pattern. One winner. The rest losers.

But the pattern hasn’t played out that way in recent years. Ebooks haven’t obliterated print books. Mobile banking hasn’t annihilated physical bank branches. The digital revolution has given us a proliferation of options, rather than a graveyard of old technologies.

Mobile and kiosk ordering are not opponents: they are complementary technologies that do best when engineered to work together seamlessly.


Consumer preferences aren't uniform.

Restaurants serve people of all ages and inclinations. Some prefer eating at a table, others like to take it to-go and eat at home. Some like their food spicy, others mild. Some like ordering ahead on their phones, others like ordering at the kiosk.

How do concepts handle these groups of customers with very different preferences? They accommodate them all. Banks are faced with a similarly diverse group of customers, and they choose to offer mobile, ATMs, and tellers to serve all their customers’ needs and preferences. Restaurants should do the same.

Forcing one kind of behavior is a sure way to lose market share in this age of ultra-personalized, customizable restaurant experiences.


Walk-ins shouldn't be punished.

Mobile ordering requires forethought. You have to know ahead of time what you want and from where. As much as our desires are molded by the advertisers that live in our phones, we sometimes act spontaneously.

Sometimes, we catch a whiff of fresh baked pastries as we walk by our favorite coffee shop and feel the unexpected need to buy one. Mobile ordering won’t do the trick in this case, but kiosks will. We can order our pastries quickly, throw in a coffee, and seamlessly use our loyalty account at the kiosk.

Starbucks’ sole emphasis on mobile ordering has punished walk-ins. As mobile orders pile in, the wait gets longer for other customers. In fact, Starbucks’ mobile tunnel vision is believed to have driven walk-in customers away. Mobile ordering accounts for 27% of US in-store purchases – meaning that 73% of customers are relegated to long lines and long waits.

Meanwhile, kiosks would allow walk-ins to skip the line just as well as the mobile-orderers.

Apps and kiosks are not in competition with each other. They are each working towards the same goal: customer acquisition and retention. Each have a part to play in a restaurant’s technology ecosystem. In fact, restaurant concepts need both to thrive.


Want to create the right mix of technology at your restaurant?

We can help you design a customer experience enhanced by the right technology, at the right time.