(WHTM) — People in the Midstate have been ordering food from a kiosk, rather than a person, at places like Sheetz and Turkey Hill for years. Like it or not, the trend seems to be catching on in lots of other places too.
So are the days of ordering from humans coming to an end?
Even though central Pennsylvania has had automated ordering kiosks for much longer than other places, it doesn’t mean we have them everywhere around here. At least, for now.
“No automation here. All manual — manual stuff,” said Cory Kegris of The Jackson House, a Harrisburg hoagie shop.
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“It works. Yeah. It’s been working. And if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?” Cory Kegris added.
That’s pretty much the motto of the Jackson House, which hasn’t changed much in the 40 years since Dave Kegris opened it.
“My dad’s been, he’s old school, so it’s been like that all the time. You know, cash only,” Cory Kegris said. “My brother is Chris, who makes the hoagies.”
The Kegris’ are all last-movers when it comes to new technology.
“There’s no app, no kiosk. No app, no Doordash,” Cory said.
Even getting the restaurant to pick up the phone is hard enough.
“Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Unless you call at 8:30 in the morning, it gets busy” Cory said.
And there is no loyalty card needed at this hoagie shop.
“I wouldn’t want to mess with the uniqueness of it, you know what I mean?” Cory added.
At a recent restaurant conference, the topic of ordering at kiosks was front and center.
“Self-ordering kiosks for restaurants were on everybody’s mind,” said Kristen Hawley, founder of the restaurant newsletter Expedite.
Hawley is a national expert in the restaurant industry. She lives in San Francisco but is from the Midstate.
“I went to Central Dauphin East High School, class of 2000,” she said.
Hawley knows all about one of America’s earliest adopters of kiosks.
“Sheetz was a very early adopter. I was in high school over 20 years ago and I tapped a screen to get an MTO at like midnight when I was a senior,” Hawley said.
But customers resisted kiosks at a lot of places.
“They were, I would say, until a couple of years ago deemed pretty inhospitable like, you know, I don’t want to touch a screen. I want to talk to a person,” Hawley added.
But short-staffed restaurants embraced kiosks and something surprising happened.
Shake Shack, which was once skeptical of the technology, says customers spend more with kiosks than when they order any other way. But why?
“It’s way more effective to show a really appetizing photograph of a french fry side than it is to just talk about it. You know, like you look at it, you’re like, you know, I do want that. I do,” Hawley said.
And not only at chain restaurants.
“There are a number of technology companies that are building kiosk ordering solutions that can be deployed at an independent restaurant,” Hawley concluded.
So does that mean more kiosks in surprising places? Maybe even at a restaurant like The Jackson House?
“No, there’ll never be a kiosk here,” Cory Kegris said.
Hawley also said within about three years you will see ordering kiosks in a lot of places where you don’t see them today.