Three Arby’s restaurants in the East Valley have ordertakers that never ask for a day off. The stores are the first to offer two machines inside each restaurant that feature full touch-screen menus for customers to select their orders and pay, similar to self-service kiosks used by Home Depot, Southwest Airlines and Albertsons.
Based on customer response, how it affects the time spent waiting in line, and whether it increases revenue, the company said some of the busiest Arby’s restaurants will be seeing them in the future.
The stores are located at Alma School and Queen Creek roads in Chandler, Indian Bend Road and Loop 101 in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and at Broadway Road and Roosevelt Street in Tempe.
Jay Johnson, director of operations for Scottsdalebased Fx4, which owns 47 Arby’s in Arizona, said the biggest benefit of the machines is their ability to cut the line in half during rush periods.
"The average person gets about 22 minutes for a lunch break from the time they leave the office to the time they get back." Johnson said, "If they walk into a restaurant and see a huge line, they’re going to go somewhere else. We want to get people in and out as soon as possible without losing friendliness."
Johnson said the shorter lines will encourage more customers to stay, which will eventually increase sales and produce higher revenue. Because the machines have only been in use for a month or so, however, it is too soon to tell whether they are financially benefiting the restaurants.
"It really helps with the speed of service as well as with staffing issues," said Paul Jones, store manager for the Arby’s restaurant in Tempe.
For the customers who have never used them, an Arby’s employee stands near the order station to answer any questions. Employees still stand at a register to take orders the standard way if customers prefer.
"I prefer the counter, but I could see the use for it if it was really crowded," Tempe resident Marilyn Grimaldi said.
The machines feature a "modify" button for special orders, in case a customer wants extra lettuce or no mayonnaise.
The customer pays at the machine itself, either with a debit or credit card or cash. The cash feature is able to sort out a stack of bills, so the customer doesn’t have to insert them one at a time. Johnson said Fx4 first saw the technology at a trade show but it is not their intention for the touch-screen systems to replace counter personnel.
"No employees have had their hours cut, and in fact now we’re able to put more people in the kitchen to help get the food to the customer faster," he said.
Johnson said he thinks the customers’ reactions to the technology is a mixture of good and bad.