Why we released AirREGI Handy's self-ordering feature three months early
AirREGI Handy, launched in April 2018, is an order entry system that simplifies ordering, cooking, and serving in restaurants. Together with AirREGI, a free POS register application, and Restaurant Board, a cloud-based reservation and customer management system, AirREGI Handy enhances the quality of a restaurant's hospitality by improving streamlining day-to-day operations such as seating, order entry, order transmission, and bookkeeping. The new self-ordering feature, which lets customers order using their smartphones, was originally scheduled to launch in late 2020. However, the AirREGI Handy development team decided to release the feature three months ahead of schedule on July 30, 2020, in order to help restaurants limit contact during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The motivation behind solving the inconvenience of ordering
Kawasaki Shunji from the AirREGI Handy development team said the idea for a self-ordering feature was inspired by his own dining experience.
"There are two reasons why I wanted to offer a self-ordering feature. One was the desire to improve the customer's dining experience. Apart from the meal itself, a customer's dining experience consists of a greeting from the host or wait staff followed by perusing the menu, ordering, and paying. There are many points throughout the dining experience where the customer may become dissatisfied-long wait times, distracted wait staff, mixed up orders, etc. As I was developing a service to support restaurants, I wanted to create something that would increase the value of one of these aspects of the experience. The other reason was that I, as a restaurant customer, wanted to be able to self-order. When eating alone, it's easier to keep communication with the staff to a minimum," said Kawasaki.
An easy way to fix these problems is by creating a direct line of communication between the customer, the wait staff, and the kitchen to minimize information loss and wait times, and reduce the wait staff's workload. A self-ordering feature does just that, while also giving customers greater control over their dining experience.
How can we support restaurants affected by the spread of COVID-19?
The AirREGI Handy development team had been developing the self-ordering feature with plans to release in October 2020, however, restaurants were severely impacted by the spread of COVID-19 and many were forced to pause operations. So to help restaurants survive and navigate the unprecedented changes to their businesses, the AirREGI Handy team decided to release a limited version of the self-ordering feature three months ahead of schedule, with a free six-month campaign.
"If this environment continues, restaurants may be forced to close their stores in large numbers, which creates a strong sense of urgency. The team's priority at the moment is to protect the market by helping dining clients get through this crisis," said Kawasaki.
"Our dining clients were having trouble managing their businesses due to declining revenue, pressure on fixed costs, and social distancing regulations, leading to staff reductions. However, in a study during development, we found that the presence of even a few wait staff could prevent the loss of orders. In response to our clients' needs, we decided that it would be better to release the new feature as soon as possible and then focus on improving it based on their feedback," said Kawasaki.
However, even if a service is free, it means nothing if dining clients don't use it. Are there any concerns about the early release in the COVID-19 environment?
In addition to measuring the effectiveness of the feature, the team carefully observed and interviewed restaurants that had been carrying out a feasibility study. What does the wait staff say to the customer, how long does it take, and how does the customer react? How does the customer use the feature and order?
The team was confident that clients would be open to using the new feature, as we could have a concrete image in both quantitative and qualitative terms."
Our goal is to improve the dining experience so that restaurants can continue to attract customers
"Although contactless ordering is attracting a lot of attention as a way to prevent the spread of COVID-19, I think it is important not to lose sight of the essence of the restaurant business. Our goal is to enable restaurants to focus on customer service. By 'creating value' through improved communication, we help restaurants improve their management and thereby improve dining experiences for customers." said Kawasaki.
The team has been receiving a lot of positive feedback from their clients as well as interest from new clients:
"Thanks to the self-ordering system, we can now concentrate on hospitality as we have always wanted to do."
"I know the store across the street is using the system and I want to use it in my store too."
AirREGI Handy, which enables SMEs to reduce the time and cost of labor intensive operations, is part of Recruit's Air BusinessTools, which comes as a comprehensive bundled suite of operational and management support services and solutions. With a single AirID, store owners can access all of the services offered by Air BusinessTools, allowing them to utilize separate apps and web services seamlessly as if they were a single service and dramatically improve the efficiency of store operations.
Kawasaki talked about his enthusiasm for the future: "We will continue to support store owners in creating their dream stores."
AirREGI Handy, AirREGI
https://airregi.jp/handy/ (Available in Japanese only)
https://www.recruit.co.jp/newsroom/2020/0730_18770.html (Available in Japanese only) https://airregi.jp/ (Available in Japanese only)
Introduction of Air BusinessTools
Recruit Co., Ltd. Product Design and Marketing Management Office, Product Division, Product Office, SaaS Area Product Design Unit, SaaS Area Product Design Department, Food & Beverage Support Design 1G
Kawasaki moved to Recruit Lifestyle Co., Ltd. from an IT venture company. He worked on new product development on the O2O team as a web director and served as a development director for "SHOPLier" and other products before joining the "AirREGI Handy" team in 2018. He leads the development of the AirREGI Handy self-ordering feature.