A Work-aurant

Belying its anti-“workarant” stance, Steak 'n Shake has installed kiosks for diners to order their food.

Restaurant kiosk and mobile app ordering is on the rise both locally and nationally.

As noted in Bluedot’s State of What Feeds Us, across the country mobile app use for restaurant orders is up 35% in the last three months. Customers also like kiosk restaurant ordering, but not near as much as mobile apps. Kiosks are favored by 8% of those surveyed while a whopping 43% favor apps to order their food and drinks.

In a survey conducted by Koala Labs Inc., 70% of respondents preferred a digital means to order over the person-to-person exchange.

The restaurant industry change to a tech-based ordering system was underway before the pandemic. Fast food restaurants began experimenting with restaurant kiosk ordering in 2006 with an emphasis on customer satisfaction rather than a touchless, human contact less, safer way to transact business.

However, the switch was slow until the country began to reopen from the coronavirus lockdowns. Chef Costa Magoulas, dean of the Mori Hosseini College of Hospitality and Culinary Management and weekly contributor to Hometown News, noted restaurant kiosks, “Seem to be getting some traction now due to Covid and labor shortages.”

If you had gone out to eat the first weekend Florida reopened, in May, you might have been handed a paper menu. Unlike the professional looking heavier cardstock menus restaurant goers were accustomed to, the paper menus were clearly designed to be thrown away and not for repeated use.

From that point, Volusia County restaurants begin to encourage the use of phones and kiosks to view menus and order food. This avoids many hands touching one menu and lessens human interaction by not ordering form a waiter or waitress. It provides the customer with the feeling of a healthy, safer, dining experience.

Fast casual and fast-food restaurants are often mentioned as the leaders in this change. Steak 'n Shake, with three restaurants in Volusia County, made the switch to kiosks in February. Not only as a result of the pandemic, but to reverse a losing trend, not to mention its claims it isn't a “workarant.”

Biglari Holdings Inc. is the parent company of Steak 'n Shake. In a February 2021 shareholders letter, Biglari Holdings explained pre-pandemic, Steak 'n Shake was losing to its competitors due to a labor-intensive table service model. To reverse the slide, they modernized by joining the kiosk/mobile app trend. It also changed Steak 'n Shake from a fast-casual to a fast-food restaurant.

“Our guests will now initiate their transaction at a kiosk. We are embracing efficiency and transitioning the service model to empower our guests to place and pick up their own orders.” Company Chairman Sardar Biglari wrote in the February letter.

Since then, Steak 'n Shake has converted all its Volusia County locations to the kiosk and app model. Not only can you find all three locations on the Steak n Shake app, but also on many food delivery apps such as DoorDash, GrubHub, Postmates and UberEats.

But not all who eat out are on-board with the tech trend. The aforementioned State of What Feeds Us report showed 18% of the respondents are old school in their food ordering, preferring to speak to a restaurant staff member.

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