Rise Southern Biscuits and Righteous Chicken deployed their first self-order kiosk in 2015. Earlier this year, they deployed their first pickup lockers.
Cashiers are a thing of the past at Rise, but more importantly, these operational advances put the chain a step ahead by nearly 20 units when the pandemic hit. While other restaurants scrambled to embrace online ordering and contactless pickup and delivery to weather eat-in bans and stay-at-home regulations, Rise was in full swing.
|A customer places an order on an iPad.|
“It’s definitely helped us (during the pandemic) run smoothly,” said Ken Priest, CFO and co-owner, in an interview.
In search of efficiency
When the partners explored POS systems in 2014, they did not anticipate a COVID-19 situation that would require in-store dining to be closed. The company had been in business for two years and was looking for a system that would support a “plug and play” offering for franchisees.
“Our goal was to become as automated as possible in our space, and that meant embracing as much technology as possible,” Priest said during a phone interview.
Revel Systems offered a kitchen display system in addition to the POS, which was a key consideration, Priest said.
“It’s increased our efficiency in the kitchen tremendously,” Priest said.
In 2015, Rise used an iPad for self-ordering in addition to the two cash registers in its store.
“We just dipped our toe into online ordering back then,” Priest said, “and we used a third-party company.”
However, getting this company to make menu changes quickly was a problem.
“That was the reason I introduced online ordering in Revel, because any changes I make at the POS are instantly done online with the online ordering system,” said Priest.
Initial customer response slow
Although the team hoped regular customers would use the kiosks, only about 5% initially did so.
“We got into the party early with that,” Priest said.
Customers were also reluctant to accept third-party online orders, which Rise introduced in 2015.
However, as time went on, customer acceptance of self-service also increased. Priest credited McDonald’s and Amazon with improving customer acceptance of self-service.
Accept kiosk and online orders
By 2018, kiosks and third-party online orders accounted for 80% of orders, although there were still two staffed checkouts in stores. Of that 80%, kiosk came first, third-party delivery second, and online ordering third.
“We had to change something,” Priest said. “It’s hard for us to justify that 20% of the orders have registered staff present.”
So the company added another kiosk and removed one of the two manned checkouts, which didn’t impact sales but eventually proved more profitable. In the first three months, an employee was available to help customers at the kiosks during peak times.
“We spent a lot of money on training,” Priest said.
When franchisees came on board, they needed to have an iPad to self-order in addition to the busy tills. Franchisees were fine with it because the cost wasn’t high, Priest said.
Rise has since moved kiosks to the front and center of the store, added a loyalty program, introduced a digital gift card, and introduced its own online ordering – managed by Revel software.
“That’s one of the charms of using all of the Revel services; everything communicates with each other,” Priest said.
Customers can now pay at kiosks or online with loyalty points. You can still use cash, but there are at least two kiosks in each store, and former counter clerks fill other roles.
“We’re no longer taking orders from the company’s stores,” Priest said.
|More recently, the company introduced heated pickup truck lockers.|
New addition: pickup lockers
Rise recently released Revels heaten locker systems, which cost about $18,000 each, in two locations with plans to add them to three more by the end of the year.
“The lockers are stacked glass booths, each with its own heating system to keep food hot, even if you pick up your order an hour after ordering,” said Tom Ferguson, CEO and founder of Rise.
The lockers have led to an increase in business.
“Most importantly, I attribute this increase to the ease of use and the peace of mind that when you pick up your order, your order will be ready and hot,” he said.
technique for rescue
Although the pandemic was a setback for both Rise and almost every other restaurant in the world, Ferguson’s investment in technology made it short-lived.
Four weeks after the first outbreak of the coronavirus, for example, sales were back to pre-COVID levels and the team has kept all locations open.
Though he couldn’t comment on the total cost of the technology rollouts implemented since 2014, Ferguson said the investment has been worthwhile as business continues to improve and sales at this point are higher than last year.
Images courtesy of Revel Systems.