- Shake Shack opened its first cashierless location in New York City in October. The intention was to move toward cashless stores with digital ordering and payment systems.
- By mid-2018, the fast-casual burger joint had abandoned these plans, in part because of customer backlash.
- Shake Shack now plans to have automated kiosks in conjunction with cashiers.
- We visited the cashless Astor Place Shake Shack location and found the experience to be much easier than the reviews made it out to be.
Though the intention was to transition to a more seamless operation and become more digitally inclined, the plan backfired – by May of this year, the chain had already abandoned its plans to go cashless.
On an earnings call in May, CEO Randy Garutti said, “Some of the things we’ve clearly seen is that our guests do often want to pay with cash.”
He continued: “In the first rollout at Astor Place, we did not accept cash at all, and there are people who have told us very clearly, ‘We want to pay with cash.'”
One Yelp user wrote in a review of the Astor Place location in Manhattan: “The new kiosk ordering system is the worst. It makes this Shake Shack ‘card only’ and you can barely customise your food the way you can when you order with an actual human being. The kiosks are also supposed to make things go quicker, but the wait is even longer than at a Shake Shack where you can order with an actual person.”
Though the plans to go cashless were abandoned, the fast-casual chain still plans on adding kiosks in its newest locations, though those kiosks will be in conjunction with cashiers who accept cash. Shake Shack said in its May earnings call that it planned to open four or five new locations with kiosks by the end of the second quarter.
Shake Shack isn’t the only fast-food chain with plans to automate some of its operations. McDonald’s recently announced that it planned to add ordering kiosks to 1,000 of its stores every quarter for the next two years, and Panera has committed to digitising its ordering process.
We visited the Astor Place Shake Shack in New York City to see what it was like to order at the kiosks. Here’s what we found:
The Shake Shack on Astor Place has replaced all of its cashiers with kiosks. Upon walking in, I was directed to the kiosks by two employees who were stationed near the entrance.
There were close to 10 kiosks at the front of the store, and they were set up in a semicircle. I went pretty early in the day, and no one who walked in had to wait in line.
The welcome screen on the kiosk directed me to tap on a category. My options were drinks, retail, flat-top dogs, burgers and chicken, crinkle-cut fries, shakes and custard, and beer and wine.
The category pages were pretty straightforward. On each page, you can see a photo of the item, the price, and the categories. To see more, you can swipe in either direction as you would on an iPad or smartphone.
As someone who typically takes forever to decide what to order, it was a huge advantage to be able to go back and forth on the menu without anyone staring at me, waiting for me to decide.
Once I tapped on the burger I wanted, I was able to see more details about it and select how many I wanted to add to my cart.
In the top corner were two buttons for more information. Tapping on the “allergens” button allows you to select which foods you need your meal to be prepared without.
The other button in the corner alerts the restaurant staff that you need help with something or have a question.
Once I was ready to check out, I was able to see everything that I had added to my cart. The system suggested other options I might want to tack on to my order.
The kiosks had a card reader that you could insert your card chip into. It accepted credit and debit cards, Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay, but not cash. The entire restaurant was cashless.
After placing my order, I was prompted to enter my name and phone number so I could be contacted when it was ready.
The last screen allowed me to enter my email so I could be sent my receipt.
I received a text about 10 minutes after I placed my order, telling me my food was almost ready.
The kiosks were straightforward and clear to use, and it was easy to customise meals. It also seemed to speed up the ordering process quite a bit – there were always open kiosks, and there was never a line. Though some customers had expressed confusion about the process, there was a big “help” button on the kiosk at all times, and there were plenty of people standing by to assist.
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