Should I have a kiosk strategy at this stage?

As a father to seven children, a typical afternoon brings multiple practices - dance, soccer, swim, baseball, piano - just to name a few. All happening in multiple locations across the city. It can be chaotic and especially frustrating when my children don’t sense the broader urgency to ensure everyone is where they need to be at the right time. One such day, I hurriedly corralled all the children into our car for an afternoon of taxiing to practices. An older child informed me that I had forgotten to buckle the seat belt on a younger sibling. Embarrassing to admit, I immediately thought “It’s not that convenient for me to stop when we are literally 3 minutes from the practice field, surely nothing bad would happen.”

I know. You can totally judge me. Even worse were the perplexed faces of my older children when I tried to explain my rationale. Kids quickly recognize the hypocrisy in their parents, especially when they observe that I am prioritizing my own convenience. It’s a tough expression to be on the receiving end of, and I’ve had to apologize a time or two when they give it to me. Thankfully, I’ve learned to never prioritize my own convenience over their safety. ;)

Foodservice has a similar problem. 

As an operator, you’ve taken an insane interest in safety this past year. You’ve focused day in and day out on keeping your employees and customers safe. You’ve jumped through hoops to reduce exposure to COVID-19 and mitigate its spread. Your customers have too. 

In your cafe, customers are assessing everything that you’re doing to protect them. Are employees wearing masks? Are there signs reminding them to wash their hands often? Are hand sanitizers within reach? Do you have plastic safeguards at your point of service? I’m positive that you’re doing all these things and more, all in the interest of providing a safe experience for everyone. 

Kiosks can be fantastic, both in terms of customer experience and reducing some operator pain. The benefits to you are certainly there. However, at this time and probably into the next year or so, it’s not the right experience to introduce into your cafe

Your customers want to give you their business -- provided that they know you’re not taking any unnecessary risks with their health. Just as my children are quick to sense the hypocrisy of not requiring a seatbelt when driving a few blocks to the park for soccer practice, your customers will definitely sense the disconnect of requiring them to use a kiosk -- something that has inherent flaws to feeling free from germs and viruses. 

While measures like antimicrobial screens, UV lights, contactless and voice-activated user interfaces are all great long-term measures for improved kiosk safety, the immediate problem for kiosks in the field is simple: sharing a screen with hundreds or thousands of strangers just feels germy. Our experience with screens starts with our personal devices. We’re not as familiar and trusting of sharing screens with complete strangers. Now and in the near future is not the time to force that customer experience, no matter the operational benefit. 

Safety in your cafe is at the center of this post-pandemic world. For better or worse, the pandemic has made customers even more aware of the brands they want to align with and those they want to avoid. Brands that make the extra effort to keep their customer’s safety in mind are the ones that are seeming to rebound a little bit faster.