Humans or Machines?

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Picture this scenario: you walk into a fast-food restaurant, and there's a cashier ready to take your order, while a self-ordering kiosk is also available. Now, which one would you naturally gravitate towards?

Experience 1

One day at Jollibee, I found myself having a hard time going through the digital menu board, trying to understand the menu options.
Here is the conversation:

  • Cashier: Hi! what can I get you today?
  • Me: Hi, I would like the 3-piece chicken combo.
  • Cashier: do you want it spicy or non-spicy?
  • Me: Um, spicy.
  • Cashier: And for your side?
  • Me: what sides do you have?
  • Cashier: We've got fries, mashed potatoes, and steamed rice.
  • Me: Steamed rice??? um Fries please.
  • Cashier: How about your drink?
  • Me: what drink do you have?
  • Cashier: blah blah blah, and pineapple juice.
  • Me: I'll go with the pineapple juice.

I must say, the entire procedure took a bit of time, and I find myself under pressure when pondering my choices for too long. That's why, in situations like these, I lean towards using a self-ordering kiosk or an app.

Experience 2

It is a Korean chain restaurant nestled in a Chinese neighborhood in Canada. The unique approach they take for orders involves utilizing a tablet fixed on every table. The ordering system is quite versatile, supporting three languages: English, Chinese, and Korean. Additionally, the tablet allows for various requests, such as water refills, requesting the bill, or even ordering extra side dishes. In my experience, the system works very well.

Here is a comparison between human-assisted and machine-driven ordering experiences.

AspectHumanMachine(kiosk, tablet etc)
MenuMay not contain all menu items + digital menu scrolls awayAble to browse all menu items
PictureOnly a few picturesIndividual pictures
AccuracyDepends on the cashier and the communicationControlled steps, fewer errors
SpeedDepends on proficiency of the cashier and the queueDepends on user familiarity with the app, usually less wait
StressPressured if taking too longTake as long as you want

As I reflect on these experiences, I envision a future where an increasing number of restaurants will embrace automated systems to replace cashiers and waiters. Meanwhile, in upscale dining establishments, the personal touch of human service is expected to endure.