October 3, 2006

Fast Food ATMs

Arby's has created self-serve kiosks inside their restaurants. You walk up, use a touch screen to order from an attractive, picture-laden menu, swipe your credit card, and pick up your food at the counter. The kiosks themselves are an ingenious addition, but Arby's uses an even better idea to entice you to use the things.

The brilliance is in the thinking behind it all (hopefully). For each order you place using one of the machines, you receive a free size upgrade to your meal or a free dessert. You immediately think they are being cheap, cutting costs of labor by automating the order process. Then you see the offer, and suddenly, your thoughts of corporate frugality transform into a feeling of delight from the graciousness of their newly offered efficiency.

They want you to move in and out of the restaurant faster. They are sending the right message. After months of use, the offer will probably go away. People will have become accustomed to the kiosks and then Arby's will be using them as a cost cutting measure. But by then you will have forgotten about how cheap corporations are and remember only how you were trained to order your roast beast sandwich - from a robot.