The blurring of front- and back-of-house operations has been a fairly prominent trend in the UK market for some time now, but what is perhaps more interesting is the way that new technology is helping to facilitate service on both sides of the pass.
Nowhere is this more pronounced than in the quick service restaurant space, where operators spend considerable money and brainpower figuring out ways to gain an extra five seconds here or another 10 seconds there. In this environment, even the smallest gain can generate huge savings in time or increases in orders when multiplied across dozens of sites.
The growth of self-service kiosks is a particularly topical trend worth keeping tabs on, and it has already thrown up some compelling examples of best practice.
Take Tossed, the 26-strong chain whose business is built on providing fresh, healthy meals to its health-conscious customers quickly and efficiently. Like many busy quick service restaurants, it found that queues during peak times can impact the overall dining experience and so it sought a way to address that.
The introduction of ‘cashless’ kiosks has allowed Tossed to overcome the twin lunchtime challenge of speed and capacity while giving customers the opportunity to customise their food to suit their health and taste requirements. In turn, it has allowed the company to focus its energy on speed of production.
Ultimately, the kitchen is one of the areas that stands to benefit most from the deployment of such technology and, if operators can get the model right, they potentially face the prospect of business increasing without placing any added pressure on production.
Although there is a limit to how much food an operator can freshly prepare in an hour, experts insist a kiosk solution provides the visibility and autonomy to bolster volumes without creating a kiosk-kitchen clash.
The proof is in the pudding and, on the basis of what Tossed and others have done so far, it is inevitable that the relationship between front and back-of-house will continue to transcend what has traditionally been expected of it.