Developers who create touchscreen solutions for restaurants, both customer-facing self-order kiosks and solutions designed to support workflows in the back of house and behind the counter, know they enable greater speed and efficiency than keypads.
But can the touchscreen solution you develop work better? Gene Halsey, VP of Product and Business Development for MicroTouch, shares his insights on how developers can optimize the touchscreen solutions and become a disruptor that delivers enhanced experiences to restaurant employees and customers.
In which restaurant use cases are touchscreens the best interface?
Halsey: I think migration toward the self-serve side of the equation will continue, both at quick service and full-service restaurants. The ability to present and interact with information in a concise and timely way will be important to review menus, order and pay.
Disruptors are moving digital menus, ordering and payment to smartphones. But the question is, do you give them the ability to use a self-order kiosk or other restaurant-owned devices, or do you allow customers to use their own devices? Using restaurant devices or smartphones is a question that developers will need to wrestle with. Does an image of a menu item look more enticing on a 10-inch screen or a smartphone?
Behind the counter, speed matters, and touchscreens can help. However, some point of sale (POS) systems are still the same as they were 20 years ago, just converted to a digital format. Employees who use them still use multiple keystrokes to enter information. Developers need to find ways to simplify those interactions, especially with the labor shortage and wage increases. Developers need to spend time making transactions simpler, programming buttons for every dish that servers can quickly find on a touchscreen – but we aren’t there yet.
Are different types of touchscreens better for specific use cases?
Halsey: Restaurants need the ability to enter and change information quickly, but developers are still assuming users have a point-and-click mentality. Restaurant self-serve kiosks and touchscreens behind the counter typically don’t enable multitouch or even allow the users to rest a hand on the screen. A Pixar study found that a multitouch screen that lets you reach all buttons without moving your hand allows you to enter information 33 percent faster. Multitouch touchscreens can translate to employees being fast enough to have one less lane or one less person on a shift.
Should developers test their software on a variety of touchscreens to ensure optimal user experiences in restaurant settings?
Halsey: Sometimes hardware manufacturers are in the driver’s seat, so testing different touchscreens isn’t possible. However, if the developer is in control, absolutely.
In some cases, you’ll find latencies in how the hardware interacts with software, especially if the software is memory-heavy and the device doesn’t have enough RAM. Bad connectivity can also drive a speed problem. All of these factors matter to employee and customer experiences. Looking at a touchscreen solution more holistically from the development side, testing your solution, bundling and validating it so that it works optimally is the best way to go.
What advice can you give software developers about forming partnerships so that users have the best touchscreen experiences?
Halsey: First, consider the vendor’s track record in your space. When the manufacturer knows and speaks the language of the market, and they’ve provided solutions successfully in that industry, you’ll minimize a learning curve you may encounter when the manufacturer is new to the space.
Additionally, the best partnerships always have give and take on both sides. Hardware manufacturers often tend to lack a willingness to change and communicate to software, “This is all up to you.” Look for a partner that has demonstrated some give on the hardware side and is willing to marry up with what software developers need.
When you find a company that is willing to make those modifications and tailor solutions to help create the best user experiences, you’ve found a valuable partner.
What’s your take on the status of innovation related to restaurant touchscreen solutions?
Halsey: We’re stuck a little bit right now. We really have to encourage creativity in this space to incrementally begin to change what we’ve done for the past 20 years. Advancements will take someone to think differently and be disruptive. I think the space is clamoring for that disruption.
We need developers to think about what touchscreen solutions could be if they were starting over and building user and employee experiences from scratch. You could make restaurant solutions radically different than what they are.