When most people think of franchises, they imagine fast-food chains, and there are 190,649 quick-service restaurant franchises in the United States. There are also 31,480 full-service restaurant franchises. As competition for hungry customers continues to grow, technology is becoming more important among all types of franchise eateries.
When New York City restaurant Taboon launched its Taboonette Middleterranean Kitchen franchise program, the fast casual prototype had a heavy focus on technology, including self-cooking centers and self-ordering kiosks. Taboonette president Danny Hodak recently shared more about improving operational systems in franchise restaurants.
“We picked the RATIONAL SelfCookingCenters as the heart of our kitchens for the franchises. They are computer-based smart ovens that can monitor and control the unique cooking profiles for every item on our menu. They can do this for multiple menu items at the same time and signal when each item is ready,” Hodak says.
“No longer does a line cook need to stand over a griddle flipping and scraping chicken, kebabs and salmon or watching for the proper cooked temperature, crispness and golden caramelization that we expect in our food. They simply place food on a tray and load it into the self-cooking center. They then select a preprogrammed cooking profile by touching an actual photo of the product they are cooking on a digital display and press start. They are free to do other tasks while the cooking program runs,” Hodak explains.
The RATIONAL SelfCookingCenters use a sophisticated computer-driven process that involves water, temperature and air. Taboonette has the ability to upload its cooking profiles to a new franchisee’s center via a USB port on the oven. The technology lets them upload, monitor, change and troubleshoot from a remote location. Limited time offers or new menu items can also be uploaded remotely throughout the whole franchise system. All the cooking profiles are locked and cannot be altered by employees.
In addition to self-cooking kitchens, franchisees can use self-ordering kiosks, mobile apps and payment solutions. “We believe kiosks are the future, and they check all the boxes when it comes to franchisee success and modern customer experience. Studies prove that customer checks increase when ordering on a kiosk. When properly implemented, guests get a more comfortable and private setting in which to browse the menu and make their food selections,” Hodak says.
Kiosks also never fail to upsell or suggest additional items from the menu that a waiter may forget. They can automatically filter menu items for dietary restrictions or allergies. Additionally, kiosks can deliver messages, and the customer stays in control through the whole process, which includes payment with credit cards, debit cards or mobile wallet.
“We see the technology and features offered in a kiosk rapidly evolving. There is now facial recognition so that a kiosk recognizes you and can address you by name and recall what it is that you like to order. Mobile apps and loyalty programs also give customers tools to order ahead and gain rewards creating ease of brand loyalty. For the franchisee, there are many benefits as well with these technologies,” Hodak shares.
For those who are concerned about cashiers and other service staff losing their jobs, Hodak has a solution. He believes kiosks allow restaurants to repurpose cashiers in a more effective way. Instead of standing behind a counter, the front of house staff can greet customers, welcome them and help them if they have any questions that the kiosk cannot answer.
“This dramatically changes the culture of our business. It adds a dimension of hospitality that literally makes the customer feel we are on their side and ready to help them. Getting out from behind an order counter puts our team in the dining room where, again, we can quickly recognize customer needs and help to service and maintain the dining room environment,” Hodak explains.
Hodak believes that the adoption of self-cooking centers and self-ordering kiosks will increase as the technology develops. Kiosks may get a more intuitive and humanistic interface for guests, and artificial intelligence (AI) will play a big role.