No more yelling for the waiter as tech takes frustration out of ordering

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No more yelling for the waiter as tech takes frustration out of ordering

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Five customers take their seats at an American food restaurant in Bundang District in Seongnam, Gyeonggi. Not a single person raises their hand to call the waiter. Instead, one person takes out their smart phone and scans the QR code on the table with an app that features 120 food choices, and a photo pops up on the screen.

The scene is increasingly common, as remote ordering devices are becoming more common and as people are more inclined to deal with automated machines than with human beings.

Remote ordering (or untact ordering) services, which require no interaction between servers and customers, are on the rise among restaurants offline. So far, the service is well received, since ordering and payment are done in one go at the convenience of a smart phone app. IT companies like Naver and the operator of the Baedal Minjok food delivery service, Woowa Brothers, are trying to dominate the market.

Naver introduced its “table ordering” service in September. After positive feedback during the test period, Naver decided to take the service nationwide. Customers can access a restaurant’s digital menu using a QR code and pay via Naver Pay, Naver’s digital wallet. Even with a large group of people, each can order and pay for the food individually with the app.

“We’ve received positive feedback from customers saying that they did not have to wait for the server to come to the table during busy hours, and it’s easier to split the bill,” an official from Naver said. “We are receiving more inquiries from restaurants who want to use our service.”

The service received positive feedback from restaurant owners as well. Kim Hyo-seon, a restaurateur who used the service during the test period said, “Since we offer more than 120 menu items, our part-time workers used to make a lot of mistakes since they had a hard time remembering them all, however, the burden has lessened after we introduced the ordering service. We’ve also solved the issue of customers having to wait in long lines to pay at the counter. About 20 percent of our customers use the ‘table ordering’ system.”

NHN Payco debuted the “Payco order” service in July. It allows customers to access the menu through a QR code, order and digitally pay for their food on a smart phone app all at once. Some 1,000 restaurants and cafes, including the Sulbing dessert franchise, started using the service. Shop owners find the service convenient since it’s connected to a point of sale, or POS, system provided by NHN KCP, a local payment gateway.

Woowa Brothers is targeting the unmanned ordering service market through its “Baemin order” service. Currently, 30,000 restaurants are in the company’s network. Among them, around 1,000 shops accept payments through QR codes. An executive from Woowa Brothers said, “We are receiving positive feedback from shop owners. Around 78 percent of our users are mom-and-pop store owners.”

The untact ordering market is expected to steadily grow. According to a survey conducted by Hyundai Card, 69.4 percent of 1,000 customers between the ages of 20 to 59 answered they were satisfied with the service. Lee Moo-weon, a business professor at Yonsei University, explains that the market is “growing in a way that orders and payments can be made through a smart phone app without the need for a QR code.”

Critics said that companies should be considerate of seniors who are unfamiliar with smart devices and come up with measures to help them. NHN Payco said the company has posted instructions inside restaurants and offered service training to shop owners. It’s also renewing the layout, font size and brightness of the app to enhance the user experience.

BY PARK MIN-JE [kang.jae.eun@joongang.co.kr]

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