TECHNOLOGY | Staff Reporter, Australia

THR1VE sees potential to enhance customer engagement with new self-ordering kiosks

The data-rich nature of kiosk interaction identify opportunities to support their customers’ quest for health and well-being, says their founder and CEO.

Healthy fast food chain THR1VE has recently unveiled its new self-ordering kiosks, another step in transforming their business and creating a more sustainable business model.

The THR1VE Kiosks allow their customers to walk up to a screen where they can place their order straight to the kitchen using a touch-screen system that has a sleek design and easy-to-use features.

They recently launched the new tech at their Westfield Pitt Street store and are about to unveil them as well in their Australia Square location.

QSR Media spoke to THR1VE founder and CEO Josh Sparks, who discussed the potential of kiosk interaction, their philosophy in embracing innovation, and how they plan to further optimise the customer experience.

QSR Media: What were the main drivers that led to your decision in integrating self-ordering kiosks?
We spent time in the US researching the healthy QSR and fast casual space, particularly those that have or are starting to move into an omni-channel offer. We particularly liked the way Snap Kitchen was thinking about the omni-channel CX (customer experience), and accommodating customers desire for a seamless experience between in-store and online.

Many customers prefer shopping online for reasons of empowerment, customisation and control, yet they prefer the more immersive experience of retail for more emotional reasons. The challenge is how can you take the best of each channels offer, from the customers perspective, and we see the kiosk as the next phase of that.

QSR Media: Why do you think the trial was successful with your customer base?
Our customers are very well educated, independent thinkers, and early adopters of new technology. They know what they want, and they want it provided as conveniently and flexibly as possible. A combination of self-service kiosks and human POS operators best support that empowered customer experience.

QSR Media: Through the kiosks, it’s presumed that THR1VE will have access to customers’ data – their preferences, frequency of choices, navigation, etc. How and to what extent will this data will be used by the brand in improving their restaurant experience?
The data rich nature of kiosk interaction offers huge potential for us to enhance customer choice and empowerment, better focus our new product development, and identify opportunities to more proactively support our customers’ quest for health and well-being. We have a roadmap of 'next phase' developments to progressively address this opportunity, but this first phase is all about testing and iterating how customers want to use the kiosk. Goring forward we see opportunities in cross channel loyalty, health objective based suggestions including up-sell and cross-sell, and integration with partners who would also like to reward our customers’ healthy choices.

QSR Media: With access to such data, some companies have explored the use of menu engineering and personalised recommendations/promotions for their customers? Are any of these being considered at the moment?
Absolutely. While the next three months will be primarily about iterating V.1 of the kiosk now in deployment for ease of use, we will turn to utilising the resultant data to further optimise the customer experience in subsequent releases.

A customer tries the self-service kiosk at THR1VE's Westfield Pitt Street site. (Photo credit: THR1VE Facebook)

QSR Media: Thinking long-term, how do you foresee the kiosks transforming your business in other aspects?
The term 'omni-channel', though only a few years old, is rapidly becoming redundant. Our customers don't think of the retail and eCommerce offers of a brand as distinct - it is all retail now - so we need to update our language, as that tends to frame our thinking. The shift to self-directed, empowered and customised brand interaction, regardless of channel, is not merely cyclical but enduringly structural. So integrating the experience, from the CX through to the supply chain, is a critical [and] frankly daunting prospect.

I don't think the kiosk in isolation marks a particularly profound transformation, indeed our customers have taken to it quite intuitively - they are all well accustomed to finding and ordering exactly what they want online, be it desktop, phone or kiosk. However, the kiosk as one element of a truly integrated CX that draws on the best of high tech and high touch, is potentially transformative for both our customers and our business.

QSR Media: Also, how do the new kiosks fit with your brand’s marketing strategy?
THR1VE has always embraced innovation - sometimes to the detriment of our short term performance as we invest heavily in solving for the future state of our market - but that philosophy is baked into our DNA as a brand, and we believe, makes perfect sense for a brand with a 10 year plan. You have to experiment in the quest to best satisfy your customers, especially in a rapidly evolving market, and experimentation can prove frustrating and expensive in the short term.

Indeed, even when you successfully prove out an experiment and deploy the solution, that is just one part of a larger whole, the ROI may not initially appear obvious. On the flip side, our commitment to innovation, including our investment in proprietary technology, original university nutrition research, and continuous NPD (new product development), is exactly what THR1VE stands for. So the technology itself, quite apart from the many downstream opportunities a kiosk front end can provide, is 100% on brand.

QSR Media: Any particular technologies you plan to explore immediately? Will we see any more tech integration from your brand in the coming years?
Yes and yes! We focus our R+D on two distinct areas. Firstly, in original nutrition research, to ensure we can authentically claim th(at) our clean, nourishing and delicious food is definitively better for you. And secondly, the technology required to bring that menu promise to customers as seamlessly, conveniently and accessibly as possible.

QSR Media: Any other comments?
Our market is extremely fluid, yet our ability as brand owners to respond to that dynamic is constantly tested, by the fixed costs and inflexibility of a business model designed for another time. The impact of legacy rents, with rates set at a time prior to the launch of delivery aggregators, and with 5% annual reviews baked in, need to be challenged.

The continuous inflation in casual labour and utilities costs, in an environment where most permanent employees are seeing wage rises that don’t even keep pace with inflation, also needs to be addressed. And this is all doubly true for any brand committed to ingredient quality, and which refuses to punish the customer with sub quality food in order to offset cost increases.

I won’t pretend to know the perfect answer to this confluence of opportunities and threats, anyone who does is either a multi-billionaire or not being especially truthful, but I am absolutely confident that the same technologies that underpin new competitive threats can be deployed to fight back. We see the kiosk as just one front in a multi front war, to best serve our customers, to converge the brand experience across channels, to better focus our menu development and marketing, and ultimately create a more sustainable business model. 

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