Customer Experience

Ultimate Guide to Using a Self-Ordering iPad Kiosk

By Dana Krook

illustration of self-ordering kiosk

When you’re running a busy quick service or fast casual restaurant, efficiency is everything.

That’s why, more and more, restaurants are turning to self-ordering kiosks to complement – not replace – workers with technology that can boost efficiency and sales. McDonalds, which has fully integrated kiosks in Canada, Australia, and the UK, is rolling out terminals in 1,000 stores per quarter in the U.S. to help make service faster and more effective in their busy locations.

But a restaurant kiosk is about more than just efficiency. Kiosks give more control to the customer, allowing them to order a customized meal with a certain level of privacy.

What does that mean for a restaurant owner? Increased check sizes, for one. When they can order privately, people are naturally more inclined to upsize, add premium toppings, and order more items in general.

McDonalds actually reported that customers spent about one dollar more per order, resulting in a 30% increase in average check size.


Before you dismiss this trend as something only the big chains can achieve, you might want to take a closer look at your options. More independent, multi- and single-location quick service and fast casual restaurants are achieving similar results by using an iPad kiosk that integrates with their POS.

But, like any tool, an iPad kiosk is only as good as how you use it.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about setting up a self-ordering iPad kiosk in your restaurant to help you get the most from this new technology.

We’ll go over how to:

  • Map your customer experience
  • Optimize your menu
  • Prepare your front-of-house staff
  • Prepare your back-of-house staff
  • Track inventory
  • Set up payment
  • Determine how to measure ROI

What Is an iPad Kiosk?

In the restaurant world, an iPad kiosk is a standalone, interactive iPad terminal that uses software to display a menu and lets customers place orders directly from its touch screen. A self-ordering kiosk guides customers through the ordering process, then directs them to the next step – whether that’s verifying their order, paying, or picking up food at the counter. 

Restaurant kiosks are like sophisticated vending machines combined with a menu concierge, not just taking a customer’s order – however complex – but making recommendations for how they can make it better (upgrade to sweet potato fries or add guacamole for extra kick!).

Add the fact that kiosks are now available on a sleek iPad instead of a clunky machine that takes up a lot of space, and it’s no wonder quick service and fast casual restaurants are flocking to iPad kiosks right now.

7 Steps to Prepare Your Restaurant for a Self-Ordering iPad Kiosk

As sophisticated as the iPad kiosk system may be, it’s still not as simple as plunking a screen down in your restaurant and hitting play.

Once you decide a self-ordering kiosk is the right option for your venue, there are seven steps you need to take to get your restaurant ready so you and your customers get the full benefit from kiosk.

Let’s get started.

Woman tapping on an iPad to order food from a self-ordering kiosk
Restaurant Kiosks: Set-Up Checklist

How do you get your restaurant ready for a self-ordering kiosk?

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1. Map Your Customer Experience

The first thing you want to think about when preparing for an iPad kiosk is the customer journey through your restaurant layout – from the moment they walk through the front doors to the getting your food in their hands.

Leading Up to the Kiosk

Understanding your customer journey will help you decide how many kiosks you need and where to place them in your venue. 

In an ideal world, customers walk in and immediately look for a self-ordering kiosk – without prompts, directions, or any other hiccups. But in the real world, kiosks are still a rising trend, not common enough to be part of the organic customer experience – not yet, anyway. 

So restaurants that want the benefits of this technology need to install some training wheels.

Here’s what we mean by that.

Up until now, a customer’s experience with quick service and fast casual restaurants has trained them to walk into any venue, scan the room for someone at the counter, and head over to place an order. It’s automatic. A reflex.

If you want this traffic to walk in and do something different (i.e. order at a kiosk instead), your layout should be designed to guide them there. The kiosk should be placed in the customer’s direct line of sight the moment they enter the restaurant, so it feels intuitive to walk over to the screens first. 

Some venues also opt for signage – whether arrows on the floor or attention-grabbing cues on the kiosk hardware – that help nudge customers in the right direction.

You should also consider how many kiosks you need at this point. If your customers typically come in droves, having more than one iPad kiosk will help streamline the ordering process and prevent bottlenecks.

Take a look at how much space you’re allocating for these kiosks. One of the customer benefits of self-ordering is being able to place their order in privacy, without pressure or judgment. Do you have room to maintain this level of privacy at each screen? If the kiosks are placed too close together, the process won’t be as comfortable or enjoyable for customers.

What Happens After the Kiosk

So what happens after the customer has placed an order on the iPad kiosk? The order confirmation screen should give them the answer. But it doesn’t end there.

Make sure to clearly indicate, through your restaurant layout as well as signage, where customers go after they place an order. That could be to pay with cash at the counter, move to a designated area to wait for food, or to head to the dine-in section where their order will be brought out to them. 

Whatever that next step is, it needs to be can’t-get-it-wrong-if-you-tried obvious.

If you get this right, your new customer flow will happen as naturally as it does now at your counter. You just need to give people extra support until that happens.

Woman tapping on an iPad to order food from a self-ordering kiosk
Restaurant Kiosks: Set-Up Checklist

How do you get your restaurant ready for a self-ordering kiosk?

Get Checklist Now

2. Optimize Your Menu

Optimizing your menu for kiosk isn’t just about ease of use – it’s about engineering your menu so that people are primed to order more in an environment that encourages them to. 

It’s no secret that we read differently on a screen than we do on a printed page. And kiosk menus, unlike even online menus, aren’t just meant to be read. A two-way street, kiosk menus should be optimized for customer interactions.

You want your kiosk menu to look different. That’s where the benefits come from: the higher average check sizes (for the restaurateur) and the better, more autonomous experiences (for the customer). Kiosk allows you to enhance your menu, optimizing it to sell more.

self-ordering iPad

To optimize your menu for kiosk, concentrate on the following elements:


With an iPad kiosk, you have the opportunity to showcase your amazing food and drink to a captive audience on a high-resolution screen.

So show off a little! Consider hiring a professional photographer to make your menu look its best. There’s nothing like seeing a juicy burger stacked high with fresh ingredients to prompt customers to add premium, paid toppings. See, want, order – the kiosk experience is immediate.


The words used to describe each menu item makes the case for why the customer should choose it. Be specific about why it’s tastiest, the freshest, the healthiest – whatever your angle. 

Some kiosk menus also list most if not all ingredients. You have your customer’s undivided attention at a kiosk – capitalize on that by giving them more information. You’ll be preventing dissatisfied customers who realize too late that an item has the kind of cheese they hate, for example, which in turn helps you prevent expensive voids. 

Also include common allergens that customers may need to know about (such as peanuts or dairy). And, just like with photos, you might want to bring in a professional wordsmith to help you make your food sound its best. Remember: your customers are shopping independently, so the descriptions – combined with the photos – have to be especially enticing.


These puppies are pure kiosk gold. While a printed menu may have a general list of extras you can add or upgrade, a kiosk menu intuitively prompts for paid modifiers as part of the menu selection process. Customers can say yes in one tap. Instant upsell

How you can make more money with modifiers

Set up your menu for these automatic prompts and watch your average check increase by 20–30%.

how you can make more money with modifiers infographic

This will allow guests to customize their order and help increase your average check size. Win-win.


Most iPad kiosks also allow you to customize the look of your menu, so this is an opportunity to reinforce the branding of your restaurant within the self-ordering experience. Change the background color to match the aesthetic of your restaurant, include your logo on the Start Order screen, and more.

3. Prepare Your Front-of-House Staff

Because self-ordering kiosks are designed to complement front-of-house workers, getting them prepared for this new technology is super important.

We recommend getting staff involved as soon as you’ve purchased kiosk (before installation), helping them understand the coming changes and how these changes will affect their roles. Remember: focus on the benefits.

3 things you can tell employees to help calm fears about kiosk replacing their jobs

  • Enjoy freedom from being chained behind the counter
  • Get more opportunities for interesting and engaging work
  • Build problem solving and customer service skills

Next, we suggest formal software training to turn your staff – even the skeptics – into kiosk experts. Start with your superstars, employees who are respected in your restaurant and excited by the new technology. Once they sit in on your system’s training and become experts, they can help train others and share the responsibility of answering employee questions or concerns.

Similar to POS training, kiosk training should get staff comfortable navigating the menu, adding modifiers, reviewing orders, and processing payments – so they can help customers do the same. Your kiosk provider should be able to help organize this training.

These are the other areas you want to focus on during staff kiosk training:

  • Customer satisfaction: A part of the job transformation for your front-of-house staff will be taking on tasks that are more about improving the overall customer experience rather than just taking orders. Focus on building their problem solving skills and defining the kind of quality experience you’re after for your customers, so your staff can work to achieve that level every time.
  • Customer confusion: Many customers will be new to self-ordering kiosks, so you want to train staff in dealing with confusion over how the technology works. This is about the technical side of things as well as the human side – your staff should be trained to spot customers who need help, the ones lookin’ a lil lost – so they can step in before there’s any frustration.
  • Customer apprehension: Some customers may be reluctant to try out this new way of ordering – some may just flat out refuse. Train your staff to know how to react when a customer doesn’t want to use a kiosk: with patience, understanding, and an alternative option to order through staff at the counter.

While you may not see customers who refuse to use a self-ordering kiosk all that often, knowing it’s a possibility is a good reminder – once again – that you still need front-of-house staff, just in a different capacity.

So really, when you implement an iPad kiosk, you can think about repurposing some front-of-house staff to:

  • Help customers use kiosk
  • Deal with manual transactions
  • Validate any alcohol orders
  • Accept cash payments for kiosk orders
friends around a table raising their coffee cups

Managers should also ensure that the iPad is locked on the app screen, so people can’t use other apps (no free Netflix, people) or navigate onto admin screens. You can also lock the screen on certain menus if you have different ones for different times of the day. This way, customers can’t place a breakfast order that you’re not prepared to make at 9:00 pm.

4. Prepare Your Back-of-House Staff

Unlike with the front of house, iPad kiosks won’t change the responsibilities of your back-of-house staff – but they may add more work. More sales = more work = …not the worst problem in the world.

In some cases, a kiosk will increase the number orders your back of house needs to prepare and the speed at which they do it. For other venues, a kiosk may just increase what’s on each order – more upgrades, more customization, higher quantities, etc. In both of these situations, your restaurant may need to hire more staff.

But your hiring needs will be dictated by how your business changes when using kiosk, which you won’t know until you start using it. So rather than staffing up in anticipation of launching kiosk, we recommend a trial period of at least a few weeks before hiring additional help. 

In some cases, you may just need to hire for – or shift an existing staff member to – an expediting role, someone who is dedicated to organizing and prioritizing kiosk orders (similar to someone tasked specifically with takeout orders).

Monitor sales and order times during this trial period. On-the-go reporting apps will help you stay on top of what’s happening without you needing to be at the restaurant or in front of a desktop.

Also collect feedback from staff to determine who you need to hire and for what role. Are there any backlogs? During what times? Is it an issue of increased volume or increased complexity of orders?

Paying close attention to reports and staff will help you answer these questions after the launch of kiosk. Reports will also help you anticipate future hiring needs as your business continues to build the more you use kiosk.

Woman tapping on an iPad to order food from a self-ordering kiosk
Restaurant Kiosks: Set-Up Checklist

How do you get your restaurant ready for a self-ordering kiosk?

Get Checklist Now

5. Track Inventory

There’s nothing more frustrating for a customer than placing the perfect, customized order only to be told that the guy before them walked out with the last fish taco with habanero cheddar (“The universe is out to get me!”).

To give your customers a smooth ordering process, your kiosk should always have the most up-to-date information about your menu. This is where inventory management comes into play.

You can track inventory either by ingredient or by menu items as a whole and sync with your POS, so everything is monitored through the same system. The right method for you will depend on your menu – if most of your items have a lot of layers (prep and ingredients), you may want to consider the more detailed approach of tracking by ingredient.

Tracking your inventory ensures that the kiosk menu accurately reflects what items are available for purchase, automatically 86’ing dishes, so customers can’t order what you’ve run out of. You don’t have to worry about manually monitoring inventory levels and racing to update the system when you realize your most popular item is out of stock.

6. Set Up Payment

Like a salt shaker never goes anywhere without its pepper companion, your kiosk needs to go hand in hand with your payment processor.

You’ll need to (wirelessly) connect an integrated terminal to each kiosk through the software. Make sure it’s enabled in the system and able to accept payments. This allows customers to pay directly at the kiosk using debit or credit, providing a seamless transaction. If they want to pay cash, the kiosk will direct them to the counter, where staff can accept payment and make change.

Do you want to include a tipping option? Make sure the kiosk and terminal are set up to include this step if you want to give your customers the opportunity to tip by debit or credit.

Once the payment is complete, customers will receive a credit or debit receipt. The full, itemized ticket is printed in the back of house on a printer specific to the kiosk. Your kiosk provider can help walk you through the steps for setup.

server giving customer their change

It’s also possible to set up kiosk without integrated payment, directing customers to pay with cash, credit, and debit at the counter. While some restaurateurs feel better about physically handling all payments, remember that this will slow down the self-ordering process, so we don’t recommend it. If you do opt for payment at the counter, be sure to incorporate this into the layout and flow of traffic at your restaurant.

7. Determine How to Measure ROI

Knowing that you’ve spent time and money on your iPad kiosk, you want to know all the ways it’s delivering the goods.

There are four things you should track to see how kiosk is both saving you money and helping you make more:

  • Average check size: Use your POS reports to determine your average check size before launching kiosk. Once things get up and running, monitor this number and measure the increase on a weekly, monthly, and yearly basis.
  • Sales volume: Pull reports on both the number of transactions and overall revenue on any given day at your venue. After you launch kiosk, track the growth of both. Revenue is the most important number of the two because it directly impacts your profit, but knowing the increase in transactions also plays into your sales number, showing you how kiosk is speeding up service and allowing your restaurant to process more orders.
  • Waste: Because kiosk lets customers review full menu item descriptions, as well as the entire order before submitting, the number of voids should decrease once you start using a kiosk. That means fewer orders are made incorrectly, getting comped, or just becoming waste. Track these numbers through your POS reports, making note of the average number of voids before kiosk and after.
  • Labor productivity: With Kiosk taking some of the weight off your staff, you should start seeing higher productivity in other areas. Monitor average check sizes of counter sales, which often rise because your staff has more time to spend with customers who order directly from them. But also monitor online reviews and verbal recognition, which may show happier customers who are enjoying with the faster service and added attention they get from staff.

Putting processes in place to track these numbers on an ongoing basis will paint you a clear picture of what kiosk is doing behind the scenes.

Self-ordering iPad kiosks provide new and exciting opportunities for quick service and fast casual restaurants. The best way to achieve the height of those opportunities is to give you and your team the knowledge and time they need to prepare for a new system that will optimize how the restaurant currently runs.

Download our free checklist to help you prepare for a self-ordering kiosk in your restaurant.

Woman tapping on an iPad to order food from a self-ordering kiosk
Restaurant Kiosks: Set-Up Checklist

How do you get your restaurant ready for a self-ordering kiosk?

Get Checklist Now
Photo of Dana Krook
by Dana Krook

Dana is the former Content Marketing Manager at TouchBistro, sharing tips for and stories of restaurateurs turning their passion into success. She loves homemade hot sauce, deep fried pickles and finding excuses to consume real maple syrup.

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