Last year, the kiosks were coming. It didn’t take them long to get here.
Wendy’s plans to install self-ordering kiosks in 1,000 of its stores — about 16 percent of its locations — by the end of the year.
The Dublin-based burger giant started offering kiosks last year, and demand for the technology has been high from both customers and franchise owners.
“There is a huge amount of pull from (franchisees) in order to get them,” David Trimm, Wendy’s chief information officer, said last week during the company’s investors’ day.
“With the demand we are seeing … we can absolutely see our way to having 1,000 or more restaurants live with kiosks by the end of the year.”
Trimm said the kiosks accomplish two purposes: They give younger customers an ordering experience that they prefer, and they reduce labor costs.
A typical store would get three kiosks for about $15,000. Trimm estimated the payback on those machines would be less than two years, thanks to labor savings and increased sales. Customers still could order at the counter.
Kiosks are where the industry is headed, but Wendy’s is ahead of the curve, said Darren Tristano, vice president with Technomic, a food-service research and consulting firm.
“They are looking to improve their automation and their labor costs, and this is a good way to do it,” he said. “They are also trying to enhance the customer experience. Younger customers prefer to use a kiosk.”
Franchisees won’t be required to install them.
Demand for the technology is high, and higher-volume stores will get priority, said Heidi Schauer, Wendy’s spokeswoman.
Among the 1,000 kiosks will be close to 100 at company-owned stores. There already are kiosks in some central Ohio locations where Wendy’s has tested the technology.
Kiosks might not immediately replace workers, but instead shift labor to other areas, Tristano said. Kiosks might also mitigate the rise of wages, something Wendy’s noted as well.
“Last year was tough — 5 percent wage inflation,” said Bob Wright, Wendy’s chief operating officer, during his presentation to investors and analysts last week. He added that the company expects wages to rise 4 percent in 2017. “But the real question is what are we doing about it?”