By Juan Perez, CEO, ADUSA, Inc.
Self-Ordering Kiosks are becoming more popular in Quick Service and Fast Casual restaurants. Most recently McDonalds announced that they would be rolling out self-order kiosks to all of their 14,000 US stores. Many of the other major QSR players have followed suit with their own trials, pilots and rollout announcements, while in the Fast Casual space companies like Panera have been executing their own kiosk rollout strategy for some time.
Beyond the kiosk, the mission-critical system that these companies all have in common is of course their Point of Sale. But while the POS is a common component in all of these companies, it is often times from a different POS provider, given the number of options there are to choose from. This diversity of POS systems creates some challenges for the retailers now wanting to integrate kiosks, and also for the kiosk solution providers themselves.
There is, however, an organized way for both retailers and solution providers to work together and effectively go about the business of exploring kiosks and finding the best fit. The goal of both parties is to find the combination that provides the desired self-order kiosk function in a solution that is also well integrated with their POS, so as to mitigate issues with respect to cost, redundancy of data, support and long-term cost of ownership.
Keep in mind that what you are looking for as far as integration boils down to two key areas:
- Integration of sales data on the kiosk into the sales database that is on the existing POS. You want the sales data from the kiosk to be included in the total sales reporting you get from the POS, but you also want to be able to separately see the sales that are being generated on just the kiosk;
- Integration of back-end systems, including payment processing and KDS. Through the POS, the kiosk should be able to make use of the payment processing/payment gateway services you already have in place. By the same token, the kiosk should be able to send prep information to the POS so that it in turn sends it to the KDS. In other words, leverage what you have. You should not be paying extra for separate payment processing and KDS services for just the kiosk; nor should you even consider those options from a pure operations standardization standpoint.
Start with Your POS Provider
Some POS solution providers have added self-ordering kiosk modules to their existing solution portfolio. This is clearly the safest and most expedient way to find a kiosk solution that is already fully integrated with your POS, since presumably the POS vendor will have done a good job with the integration of this new module into their existing POS framework. The vendor should be able to articulate how their “native” integration addresses both of the key points described above.
Even though this would be the preferred way to go, you still have to be cautious on one front, and that is with respect to functionality of the POS vendors self-ordering kiosk software. Cost is of course a question to be raised, but in terms of functionality, you should make sure you know what you’re getting.
The potential problem here is due to the fact that POS vendors of course specialize in POS systems, and not in self-ordering systems. As a result, they might have overlooked required functionality, or some of the small functional components that aren’t readily apparent. They could also have rushed their product to market in order to take advantage of the growing self-order kiosk market.
In any case, also be aware that there is sometimes a tendency to look at self-ordering as “easy” to develop; straightforward; an extension of the POS, if you will. After having personally installed over 1,000 self-order systems, I can tell you that is not the case.
So, the message here is to do your due diligence and hopefully be able to take advantage of this option, which, at the end of the day, could be your shortest, and most cost-effective path to deploying self-ordering kiosks.
Note that a variation of this option would be to ask your POS vendor if they already work with (are integrated with) any self-ordering kiosk systems. If so, that could be just as effective for you, perhaps more so, as if the POS vendor had their own self-order module.
Look for Kiosk Software Vendors That Have POS Integration
If your current POS provider does not offer a self-ordering kiosk option, or does offer one but it does not satisfy your requirements, then your best bet is to look for a kiosk software vendor that understands the importance of this integration point.
It can be costly and time-consuming for self-order kiosk software vendors to be integrated with more than, say 1 or 2 POS vendors. Usually the integration is the result of a previous client engagement, and that’s how the development effort was funded. However, there are now web-based third party frameworks that essentially enable self-order kiosk software vendors to integrate with a number of the major POS systems on the market.
Look for a vendor that has been proactive in this respect and is upfront about the various POS systems their software is integrated with through one of these third parties. Keep in mind that there is a cost, but it is minimal and could be included in the software licensing cost or the cloud subscription cost, whichever you may be using for your self-order kiosk software.
With this option you want to first see if the POS you are using is on the kiosk software vendor’s list of integrated systems. If it is, you can proceed to asking questions about the integration, whether there is a third-party framework involved, the cost, etc.
If neither of these options works out for you, then there is another to consider.
Discuss Integration Options & Costs with your Self-Order Kiosk Vendor
The kiosk software vendor may be able to work with your existing POS vendor to integrate the two systems. First, however, your POS vendor has to have the type of system that can be “talked with” in the form of Application Programming Interfaces (API). It will likely be up to you to get the two vendors talking about the integration, so that you can get the information you need. First, if it’s doable. Second, how much it’s going to cost.
Keep in mind that both the POS vendor and kiosk software vendor could essentially reuse the integration work at other clients of theirs, so that should factor into the cost that they quote you.
The Final Option
If you really want to deploy self-order kiosks in your business, but none of the options above works out for you, there is one final option: Run your kiosk as a standalone system.
The drawbacks here should be readily apparent: No sales data integration; having to potentially use another payment processor for just the kiosk; having to potentially use another KDS, or receipt printer, for just the kiosk. However, it can be done, and you’re likely to find that most kiosk software vendors will have at least something to offer in place of true integration for all of these areas.
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