How Self-Service Kiosks Tackle Staff Shortages & Supply Chain Hurdles

The food and retail industries face a double whammy: a persistent labor shortage and ongoing supply chain disruptions. Though not a recent phenomenon, the post-COVID era is witnessing unimpressive improvements even though the pandemic is all but over.

In fact, by the end of 2023, most industries in the USA had more job openings than before the pandemic hit. Surprising, isn’t it? Well, pair that up with supply chain disruptions, and you’ve got yourself in quite a pickle, right? And why? As per a recent study, supply chain disruptions result in about a 7% decrease in sales. Talk about revenue loss.

With such unavoidable challenges, businesses seek innovative solutions to maintain operations, enhance customer satisfaction, and generate higher revenue. One such groundbreaking solution is self-service kiosks. But how are they tackling these two prominent challenges head-on? That’s what we will explore. So, here we go!

Challenge 1: Staff Shortages

Labor or staff shortages are an ongoing problem and are not recent. It has been apparent since before the pandemic and continues to leave lasting effects. This is especially true in the food and retail sector. Now, there are several factors contributing to it: 

  • Wage Competition: While wages in these industries have grown, they may not be enough to compete with other sectors, especially considering the demands of the job. As the cost of living rises, potential employees may seek higher-paying opportunities.
  • Shifting Priorities: The pandemic has caused many to re-evaluate their careers, leading some to seek work-life balance or different career paths.
Expert Insights

How the New California Labor and Employment Law of 2024 is Affecting Businesses

California, a major player in both food service and retail, recently implemented some changes to its labor laws in 2024. These changes, while intended to benefit employees, could potentially add to staffing challenges for businesses:

Increased Minimum Wage: California’s minimum wage rose to $16 per hour in 2024. Also, specific fast food employees get a minimum wage rise to $20. While this can make these jobs more attractive to some, it can also strain business budgets and potentially lead to reduced hiring or cuts to other employee benefits.

Paid Sick Leave Expansion: The number of mandated paid sick days increased from three to five in California. While this improves employee well-being, it can also make scheduling more complex, especially with existing staffing shortages.

These rules, while welcomed with open arms, can cause some businesses to reconsider the number of staff they keep so they can fit into their existing budget and not go into loss.

Impact of Staff Shortages on Businesses

The labor shortage isn’t just an inconvenience for businesses; it negatively impacts their operations and bottom line. Here’s how: 

  • Reduced Service Levels: With less staff, businesses may be forced to reduce service hours, close off sections of a restaurant, or limit offerings on a menu. This can lead to customer frustration and lost revenue.
  • Increased Wait Times and Decreased Customer Service: Customers may experience longer wait times for service, whether for placing orders, receiving food, or getting assistance from staff. This can negatively impact customer satisfaction and potentially drive them to competitors.
  • Employee Burnout: When existing staff have to shoulder the workload of vacant positions, they can become burnt out. This can manifest in decreased productivity, increased mistakes, and higher turnover rates, creating a vicious cycle.
  • Training Challenges: The constant need to fill open positions can make it difficult for businesses to invest time and resources in adequately training new staff. This can lead to inconsistent service quality and contribute to the above mentioned issues.
The Domino Effect of Labor Shortage

The impact of staff shortages often creates a domino effect. Reduced service levels and long wait times can lead to frustrated customers and lost business, further straining profits and making it even harder to attract and retain staff.

Role of Self-Service Kiosks in Alleviating Staffing Issues

So you cannot clone your employees and get them to start working on the clock; big deal! Self-service kiosks can compensate (and overcompensate) for that. These digital assistants are more than just fancy touchscreens; they’re strategic allies that can help you conquer the staffing shortage challenge. How? Check it out: 

  • Reduced Reliance on Staff: Kiosks handle repetitive tasks like order placement, payment processing, and even basic customization options. This frees up your valuable human employees to focus on more complex tasks, like food preparation, customer service inquiries, and ensuring a smooth dining experience.
  • Improved Efficiency: By automating routine tasks, kiosks significantly streamline the ordering process and ensure 100% accuracy in ordering. Customers can browse menus, place orders, and pay without waiting in line. This translates to faster service, happier customers, and the ability to serve more people with a smaller staff.
  • Empowered Customers, Satisfied Customers: Customers appreciate the convenience and control kiosks offer. They can browse menus at their own pace, personalize their orders, and even explore upselling options without feeling rushed. This sense of control leads to a more positive dining or shopping experience.
  • 24/7 Availability: Kiosks never call in sick or need breaks. They’re always available to take orders, even during off-peak hours or when staffing is limited. This extended availability can boost sales and provide flexibility for your staff. Also, you no longer need to reduce your operational hours; in fact, you can increase them.
  • Increased Transaction Capacity: Self-service kiosks enable businesses to serve a larger number of customers simultaneously, as multiple kiosks can operate independently without requiring additional staff assistance. This increased transaction capacity helps you manage peak periods more effectively, reducing bottlenecks and improving customer flow.
  • Data Collection and Analytics: Self-service kiosks collect valuable data on customer preferences, purchasing behavior, and transaction patterns. You can then analyze this data to gain insights into market trends, identify opportunities for upselling and cross-selling, and optimize your product offerings to meet customer demand better.
  • More Opportunities for Employee Upskilling: With kiosks handling the basics, employees can focus on tasks that require specific training and expertise. This could include food preparation techniques, packaging training, or customer service skills. Also, employees can be cross-trained in different areas of the business, expanding their skill sets. This effectively reduces the need to hire new people for specific tasks or skills.

Challenge 2: Supply Chain Disruptions

What’s worse than telling a customer you are out of stock for their favorite items? You don’t know when it will be in stock again. Albeit disappointing but necessary, turning down customers because there was a disruption in the supply is part of every business risk. The reasons could be: 

  • Disruptions caused by natural disasters
  • Pandemics or epidemics
  • Geopolitical tensions 
  • Fluctuations in cost of raw materials and transportation
  • Logistics system failure

Can you do anything alone to resolve these issues? Most definitely not. But there is a solution to manage the supply chain, and that’s what we will uncover in this section.

Challenges Faced In Supply Chain Management

The supply chain hurdles mentioned above impact the availability of products and increase the complexity and cost of managing inventory and logistics. More specifically, they can cause: 

  • Inventory management problems: Due to the unforeseen nature of supply chain management, businesses tend to overstock and understock and experience stock inaccuracy. Additionally, managing seasonality and stock-keeping units (SKUs) becomes an added inventory problem.
  • Pricing disparities: Businesses often experience unintentional pricing disparities when the cost of acquiring goods (including raw materials, transportation, and other factors) fluctuates. This leads to a mismatch between the purchase price and the ideal selling price.
  • Demand forecasting issues: Forecasting consumer demand can become challenging, especially with consumer preferences shifting rapidly, influenced by trends, economic conditions, and competitor actions. Relying solely on historical sales data may not be enough to predict future demand, especially in a dynamic market.
  • Increased expenses and wastage: Overstocking can create additional problems, such as increased storage costs and handling costs. This leads to wastage of items that are not in demand, further leading to increased disposal costs.

Role of Self-service Kiosks in Streamlining Supply Chain Management

As we mentioned above, you may not have control over the unprecedented disruptions, but you can incorporate digital solutions that will help you stay ahead of possible disruptions. Self-service kiosks are here to handle that too:

  • Real-Time Inventory Management: Self-ordering kiosks can be linked directly to your inventory management system. This allows for real-time updates on available items, ensuring customers only see and order what’s actually in stock. This eliminates the frustration of ordering unavailable items and reduces the need for order cancellations or substitutions.
  • Dynamic Menu & Product Displays: Gone are the days of scrambling to update physical menus or signage when ingredients are missing. Kiosks can dynamically adjust menus in real time, highlighting available options and temporarily hiding unavailable items. This keeps your offerings accurate and avoids customer disappointment.
  • Omnichannel Integration: Self-service kiosks serve as a seamless link between online and offline channels, enabling omnichannel commerce and enhancing the customer shopping experience. Customers can use kiosks to browse products, check stock availability, and place orders for delivery or pickup, blurring the lines between physical and digital retail. This integration streamlines order fulfillment processes, facilitates inventory visibility across channels, and enables businesses to meet customer expectations.
  • Upselling & Product Bundling Opportunities: While a key ingredient might be missing, a delicious substitute might be available. Kiosks can suggest alternative options or even pre-configured product bundles that utilize what’s readily in stock. This can help maintain customer satisfaction and increase sales of complementary items.
  • Improved Demand Forecasting: The self-service kiosk gathers data that can provide valuable insights into customer preferences and real-time sales trends. You can use this data to refine demand forecasting, helping you better anticipate future needs and prevent stockouts.


Self-service kiosks are more than just a convenient way for customers to order; these digital marvels tackle broader issues like staff shortage and supply chain hurdles like a pro. By automating routine tasks, enhancing efficiency, and providing real-time data insights, self-service kiosks empower businesses to navigate these challenges effectively. This further helps you to maintain service levels and drive operational excellence in an increasingly dynamic and competitive environment.
So, if you are ready to take the next step to excellence, EZ-Chow can be your trusted partner. With advanced digital solutions like self-ordering kiosks and digital ordering platforms, you can guarantee exceptional service even when you face staff shortages or supply hurdles. So, go ahead and get in touch!

Learn how EZ-Chow can help you with these initiatives and more, get started by contacting us here.



Bernie Fussenegger
Bernie Fussenegger
Marketing,Branding & e-Commerce -Consultant
Click to learn more about Bernie Fussenegger

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