Where Did the Help Go?

First there were vending machines, then laundromats, automats, gas stations, ATMs, airport check-ins, grocery stores, and now restaurants that are going cashierless. As of last summer, Amazon Go had 13 cashierless stores and announced that they would have 3,000 by 2021. Some stores have even gone cashless while others have no wait staff. What does the future hold?

The Pros

Some diners admit the experience of a cashierless restaurant is more stress-free, as there’s less pressure to order a meal at a kiosk. Many agree that transactions are faster and seamless.

Owners report that there’s less pilfering in being cashless and that they don’t have to worry about employees stealing money from the cash register. They also cite lower labor costs from not having to spend time counting money and reconciling the day’s sales.

Most cashierless systems remember how customers like certain meals prepared, which saves time, not to mention giving a worker on meal break more time. This recall feature also remembers vegans and customers with dietary restrictions, like gluten intolerance. This ability within the system affords diners a chance to view nutritional data and is also said to lead to better accuracy and efficiency in the kitchen. Of course, the same features available at the kiosk are also afforded to customers who wish to order online or on their mobile.

The Cons

Social interaction between customers and wait staff in a restaurant may no longer be present. However, some people suggest that it fosters and encourages more interaction among diners.

The Future

Panelists at the Interactive Customer Experience Summit last year in Dallas shared differing ideas about the future. Most agreed that today’s diverse customer base lends itself to cashierless and cashless situations, but also had these words of caution for businesses considering the idea.

Ruth Crowley, former VP of customer experience design at Lowe’s explained that when customers come into the store, they need to have some human interaction. She said their research revealed that sales can increase by as much as 200% with excellent customer service. “It doesn’t have to be ‘either/or.’ I think it’s ‘and,” Crowley stated.

Another panelist was Briton Smetzer, former VP of IT operations for Fuzzy’s Taco Shops. Smetzer pointed out that providing different options at a kiosk can be confusing as well as complex. He believes a balance will be struck, and cited alarmists who predicted the demise of books when e-readers came on the scene as an example.

Crowley added that she sees more of a future in commodity-type products for cashierless goods. She cited $300 headphones in airport kiosks as an example. She also predicted that kiosks would not be as appealing in rural environments as they would in urban areas.

Whatever direction companies take with regards to kiosks, all the panelists agreed that instilling and keeping consumer confidence and trust in insuring their privacy is paramount. Brian Anderson, Director of Technology at Modern Restaurant Concepts, was another panelist. The company operates restaurant brands under two different names.

Anderson said, “Marketing and personal financial information are two different things. Consumers want to engage with brands form a loyalty perspective.”