Kiosk Culture: Designing Elevated Food & Dining Experiences

September 27, 2023

The relationship between brands and customers is always shifting. Gradual evolution in customer preference is typical, but for some industries, the global pandemic forced digital transformation into high gear. In 2019, it was good for restaurant businesses to offer digital ordering. By 2020, it was essential to staying afloat. Even as pandemic protocols, like social distancing, have subsided as decision drivers, the prevalence of alternative ordering touchpoints persists, underlining a transformative shift in consumer behavior.

In a rapidly evolving consumer landscape, brands have had to rethink the way consumers eat, purchase, work, and play in order to stay valuable to customers. Today, brands must consider the consumer experience beyond purchasing, and expand focus to enriching interactions at each step of the journey. That means that brands must broaden their initiatives to customers’ ongoing engagement, before and after buying — not just a single moment.

Stores as a Unified Touchpoint

While the pandemic definitely highlighted the importance of mobile ordering, building long-lasting relationships with your customers doesn’t necessarily mean focusing entirely on mobile apps and food delivery. The key is convenience and personalization which today’s customers have come to expect.

Many brands are reimagining their restaurant concepts as unified brand centers — places where customers can both receive a product and connect with the brand. [1]

We know that Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) customers are more likely to engage with brands that they feel a part of. Brands can forge this bond through personalized recommendations, offers, and ongoing engagement that isn’t easily offered by traditional QSR cashier ordering. More and more, QSR leaders rely on technology to provide this customer experience in the brick-and-mortar setting. Kiosk ordering is one of those tech-enabled touchpoints, and implementation of such a platform can be easily scaled. 

To stay competitive, Quick Service Restaurant industry leaders have to embrace frictionless service experiences to meet the customers’ demand for convenience and ease of use. Self-service solution with kiosks is one answer to this that can be a catalyst for personalization and insight generation.

The Rise of Kiosks

While improved order accuracy, streamlined processes and lower labor costs are certainly a big factor, what the QSR industry cares about the most is customer satisfaction.

 Technology solutions like self-order kiosks offer a level of personalization beyond what was once possible. Kiosks serve as the face of the brand, deepen brand perception and acting as a direct touchpoint between customers and the business. While kiosk ordering lacks a human element, which plays a role in brand representation, its consistency, interactivity and scalability more than make up for that. [2]

According to the National Restaurant Association, the use of kiosks in service restaurants will be commonplace in 2030. [3] Based on the Association’s insights, 79% of respondents found the kiosk makes their restaurant visit “more convenient”[4], and other research shows that not only 65% of customers would visit a restaurant with self-service kiosks more frequently — 30% would rather order from a kiosk than a cashier even when lines are the same length. [5]

All in all, we are definitely seeing a favorable trend in the adoption of touchscreen kiosks and other forms of technology-enabled frictionless service.

Industry Trends

The Monstarlab Experience Insights team conducted a comprehensive analysis to examine the kiosk offerings of leading QSR brands. We assessed multiple facets like brand voice, visual appeal, accessibility, personalization options, revenue enhancement, payment systems, loyalty programs, and overall user-friendliness in leading QSR kiosks.
We uncovered areas where kiosks are largely lacking–such as personalization and enhanced loyalty in self-service kiosks. Here are our takeaways, recommendations, and opportunities for QSR leaders.

  1. Dynamic Brand Voice and Intuitive Interface
    The QSR industry is moving toward more dynamic and adaptable brand expression. Leading brands prioritize a consistent and authentic brand voice across their omnichannel experiences to maintain consistently high customer satisfaction. A cohesive identity and powerful brand presence delivered through the kiosks are integral to achieving a sense of familiarity and belonging and also forging lasting bonds with customers.
  2. AI-Driven Analytics
    AI solutions open up entirely new avenues for enchanting customer satisfaction. New menu items, better ordering processes, and other efficiencies based on customer behavior are just the tip of the iceberg.
    While Artificial Intelligence has multiple applications in full-service and fast-casual venues, QSR is unlikely positioned to take advantage of this technology. Restaurant kiosks serve as excellent touchpoints for gathering data, and the changes based on these insights can be implemented quickly and effectively.
  3. Enhanced Personalization
    The menu experience plays a central role in QSR. Successful kiosk design implementations prioritize user-friendly navigation, clear categorization of items and gamification. This makes ordering predictive and responsive to the individual needs of the customer. Unique preferences, dietary restrictions, and special instructions that previously needed to be addressed by a human staff member now become an integral part of the customer journey.AI-powered personalization goes one step further, offering add-ons and tailored suggestions, for example filtering out non-vegan options or items the customer is allergic to, creating a delightful personalised experience.
  4. Overcoming Staffing Challenges
    Labor shortages that have persisted ever since the pandemic are a constant challenge for restaurant operators. Relying on fewer workers helps the restaurant’s bottom line and kiosk solutions help accomplish this without sacrificing the quality of the service.
  5. Cultivate Customer Loyalty
    Industry leaders utilize loyalty programs to facilitate personalization and gather valuable data for tailored offerings. Successful customer loyalty experiences seamlessly integrate loyalty into the kiosk experience. We believe that communicating loyalty benefits to the customers in an effective way and using loyalty interactions as a feedback loop can help leaders refine the experience over time.
  6. Integrated Upselling to Increase AOV
    Upselling, cross-selling and driving higher value menu items are crucial revenue boosters. Customers tend to customize orders more and apply premium add-ons more often when the time pressure of a human cashier is not a factor. Effective upsell strategies involve presenting the options at the right moments, and in relevant contexts. Technological implementations of add-ons into the ordering experience, adopting dynamic pricing, providing timely offers to drive exploration into premium and complementary items are all effective ways to boost AOV.
  7. Enhanced Payment Experience
    Meeting customer expectations when it comes to the payment journey is more important than ever. Offering various payment options based on new technologies, including contactless methods like NFC, mobile wallets, and biometric authentication adds to the overall restaurant experience, winning the restaurant goers over with frictionless and efficient service.
  8. Ease of Use
    For overall ease of use leading brands invest in high-quality imagery, interactive visual feedback (like animations), and innovative design elements. Simplifying information presentation to minimize cognitive load and streamline the ordering process ensures that customers are comfortable with using kiosks over and over again.

The New Era of Customer Interaction

Our research, undertaken by the Monstarlab Experience Insights team, has pinpointed trends and areas for improvement within the industry, notably in personalization and loyalty programs. Leading brands are proactively adapting to these changes by embracing dynamic brand voices, AI-powered menu experiences, advanced customization, and predictive personalization driven by AI. Customer loyalty remains a cornerstone, with loyalty programs seamlessly integrated into the buying process, with integrated upselling strategies and an enhanced payment experience shaping a memorable and effective customer journey.

Self-serve kiosks are an excellent tool for the QSR industry to make use of all these improvements while utilizing an existing retail space, at the same time serving as a source of valuable feedback and enabling continuous enhancement. Our exploration has shown that physical stores are transforming, offering a strategic avenue to cultivate enduring relationships with customers.

Elevated Experience in Practice

In essence, our principles can guide QSRs in crafting kiosk customer experiences that transcend transactional interactions and foster human connections. Our approach is to craft innovative and enriching kiosk experiences that not only satisfy but truly engage customers, ensuring that brands remain at the forefront of this dynamic era. And as with any performant digital product, it’s essential to navigate this space by testing, learning, and adapting.

See our  Shake Shack case study; where we delivered an end-to-end digital ecosystem that drives higher customer satisfaction, user experience and revenue. We streamlined the intersection of digital and physical touchpoints, identified key points of friction in the in-store experience, ideated solutions, and rolled out new features and tools. The results have extended Shake Shack’s best-in-class reputation from the kitchen to your smartphone and onto Wall Street.

Another example is  Wingstop where we piloted a Seamless Contactless Food Service, and delivered a unique experience that allows customers to order ahead via digital and pick up their orders in-store. There is no need to line up to settle payment as a dedicated self-serve kiosk ordering process that is integrated into the POS system can accept payments. Upon completion, the customer can get their order inside a designated heated locker. No long lines, wait times, easy payment, and hot food right off the locker.


[1] J.Goldstein, Adapting to the New Retail Landscape: Embracing Omnichannel Strategies, Forbes Business Development Council, 2023.
[2] D.Klein, Why the Future of Fast Food is Phygital, QSR Magazine, 2023.
[3] Restaurant 2030 Report, National Restaurant Association, 2019
[4] O.Unlu, How Kiosks Empower Guests and Boost Restaurant Business, QSR Magazine, 2023
[5] A.Kelso,  Self-Order Kiosks Are Finally Having A Moment In The Fast Food Space, Forbes, 2019.


Sila Eser

Sila Eser

Experience Designer

Joey Unnold

Joey Unnold

Experience Manager

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