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Food Ordering Kiosks, Part 1: First-Time Visit
Food ordering kiosks are popping up in restaurants such as Panera, McDonald’s, Noodles and Wendy’s to invite users to place their order electronically, without downloading an app. This will, in theory, reduce the need to wait in line, increase order accuracy, give users more time and privacy to read the menus and make their selection, and provide options for customization that might not have been available or practical before.
How usable are these kiosks? We decided to find out…
It’s 3pm, let’s go to Panera for a cookie and coffee
Wow, there is a line at the counter. I’ve heard there should be kiosks, let’s look around.
There they are, off to the side.
The availability of kiosks was not obvious, due to placement away from the checkout counter. Depending on the store, positioning the kiosks can be challenging.
The tablet size and positioning was familiar and comfortable – and I could see it being used by children and wheelchair users. Perhaps an ability to raise for very tall people, and lower in case not low enough?
That’s a lovely seasonal cookie on screen! Perfect, I’m here for a cookie. It says 'Tap to order', so I'll do that.
Am I a member?... No, I'm not a MyPanera member, though being one sounds cool. No sign up though. I'll just 'tap to order' again.
Could this let me sign up to be a member? Since I’m not, this screen is an extra step and in the way. Can it be removed/consolidated?
Lots of choices here... One flatbread, two flatbreads, broth bowls…but where’s the cookie?
I came into the store with some idea of what I want. At the counter, my options would have been visual and plentiful, but on the kiosks, they seemed overwhelming.
Could the navigation help me narrow down my intentions, maybe by asking, 'Are you here for lunch or a snack?' A simple choice would make subsequent screens more efficient since there would be fewer, more relevant choices displayed. Another option would be to simplify the main categories.
Where is that nice seasonal cookie from splash screen? If something is advertised, help me buy it!
I’m still looking, and I still don’t see either the coffee or cookie! Finally, I see 'Beverages' and 'Bakery' in lower left.
Terms like 'Beverages' and 'Bakery', while accurate, are not especially colloquial. A search, and photo categorizations of non-entrees would provide alternate paths more clearly, perhaps by combing some of the other categories that seem more related to size and add-ons, such one vs two flatbreads.
The need to scroll is not clear; visual indicators could help to show users there are more items below scroll.
The small size and soft edges of the photos makes the specific products (e.g. a specific pastry) hard to see. Bigger, clearer photos and some indication of relative size would help make the right choice. Also, calories, sweeteners, allergens should all be listed.
My choices are in the cart, I'll review the order and place it…
There is much description to read and the type is very small/hard to read. The screen should simply and quickly confirm the items by name, quantity and price.
The 'May we tempt you with' products are almost invisible at the left; they should move to the right or bottom for emphasis. The content of the suggested products is not quite there, these are basically replacements rather than add-ons.
The button label ‘Duplicate’ is not very intuitive. What if I’d like 3 cookies? Why not use a more standard count and +/- buttons to edit the desired quantity?
I swiped my credit card on the small attachment. I love how slim it is, with no buttons, or choice for a chip.
I see a thank you message. Looks like it knows my first name from the card. Great! Let’s go pick up my order!
There is a slight missed opportunity: I’d like to become a MyPanera member. Why not add a choice here or on the previous screen to become a member? The new card could be included with my order, and I could be automatically enrolled with the data just collected.
That’s so weird, my full name is on the status board...!?
The name should be consistent with the name used on the kiosk itself; the first name with last initial seems like a better way to go by default (at least in the US).
If the wait time is more than a few seconds, many people turn to their phones while waiting. A gentle audio indicator when a name moves from preparing to pickup would be helpful.
The expediter calls my name. They don’t have the pastry I ordered. He’ll walk me over to pick out something else.
Clearly an ideal system would match the store’s inventory. Could a camera feed let me see what is in the bakery bins? Or some other selector could let me know which items are warm out of the oven. This would mimic a benefit of waiting in the physical line.
Offering to choose another item was a very nice way to resolve this error though, with a personal touch. Though I already paid, so it's a bit late to change my mind.
How was the overall experience?
Aside from the usability issues noted above, using the kiosk was faster than waiting in line, and it was much easier to read the product offerings. There is room for improvement in the flow, the aesthetics, and the product data, but the speed of payment, and the expedited pickup area are really wonderful.