Panera Bread is turning to a high-tech solution to improve the customer experience at its restaurants. The company, according to reports, is reducing the number of cashiers at its counters and turning to kiosks, mobile and online to enable customers to place their own orders. By doing so, the company expects to reduce the amount of time its customers have to wait to get their meals, improve the accuracy of orders and improve service as workers who once took orders will now be delivering them to customers' tables.
Long wait times have been identified as a problem by Panera's management and the company has increased labor hours in an effort to address the issue in the short term. By 2016, the chain expects to have kiosks in all its locations, effectively cutting the number of cashiers in each restaurant by half. Some of the employees who have been used to take orders and run the registers, Panera founder and CEO Ron Shaich told USA Today, will now be used to deliver orders to customers' tables. No one, he said, would lose a job as a result of the new technology.
Panera is also looking to improve its takeout business. Using a computer or a mobile device, consumers will now be able to place orders up to five days in advance and pick them up at a set time.
Mr. Shaich also believes that order accuracy will increase as a result of more customers placing their own orders. "The dirty little secret in the food industry is one in seven orders is wrong," he told Bloomberg Businessweek. "We're one in ten, a little better than average. Half of those inaccuracies happen during order input."
How likely is Panera Bread's use of kiosks, mobile and online ordering to improve the speed and accuracy of its service?