Casual dining restaurants and even fast-food joints are feverishly searching for ways to speed up service to increasingly time-crunched customers.
Indeed, more than 40 percent of sit-down restaurant operators polled by the National Restaurant Association said they expect takeout orders will make up a bigger part of their sales this year.
To speed up meal orders, restaurants are investing in new technologies that allow customers to place orders remotely via the Internet or through touch-screen kiosks at tables or next to cashiers.
For example, a display by Miami-based Boink Systems pointed to the future of the fast-food store. The company sells touch-screen ordering systems that fast-food restaurants can install in front of cashiers, in the store and in the drive-through.
Customers place orders by touching menu items on a screen. Some of Boink’s machines can also take credit cards and function as ATMs. The system frees up fast-food workers so they can make and sell a lot more orders, Chief Executive Officer William Toro said.
Toro said he expected the system, which is being tested in North Carolina, to make its debut in Central Florida this year at KFC and Taco Bell stores.
Another time-saving contraption garnering a lot of attention this week was an ice-cream-making machine that promises a couple of scoops of vanilla — or 11 other flavors — in about 45 seconds.
Customers can place an order on the machine’s touch screen and then marvel at the hard-packed fresh ice cream that comes out immediately. The MooBella company touts the device as a way that fast-food and casual restaurants can boost ice cream sales.