Fast food at some joints is now even faster and more convenient, thanks to self-service kiosks.
With customisable burgers on its menu, the two-month-old BurgerUp at Yishun 10 Cineplex may appear to be just another eatery jumping on the local burger trend.
But its novelty lies in its self-service kiosks, which has eliminated the need for service staff to take orders from customers.
With five kiosks flanking both entrances of the restaurant, customers can order set meals or customise their burgers and meals via the machines.
They then proceed to the counter to pay and collect their food.
The restaurant's owners say the kiosks are there primarily to provide a smoother ordering experience for customers.
"We always notice other fast food establishments having long queues when taking orders, so we wanted to make ordering easier and faster at our restaurant," says Mr Paul Kwan, 42, the managing director, who started BurgerUp with his friends, Mr Jason Sim and Mr Charlie Tan.
But it is debatable whether the kiosk actually saves more time for the customer than ordering over the counter, as that would depend on how long each customer takes to order.
Mr Kwan says the kiosks allow customers to manage their customisable orders better as there is no service staff to get the orders wrong.
"It also helps to cut down on food wastage.
"I often see people removing what they don't want from their burgers when their instructions to remove certain ingredients are not followed," he adds.
Since there is no need for service staff to take orders - the restaurant currently hires two promoters, a cashier, an expeditor and four kitchen staff - do the kiosks help cut down on manpower costs?
Not at the moment, Mr Sim, 44, the director of operations, says.
"We are still a new restaurant so we need the promoters to help customers familiarise themselves with the system," he explains.
"But after a trial period of three to four months, we will start to reduce the number of promoters."
While BurgerUp is the only fast food restaurant to rely entirely on self-service kiosks, other fast food establishments such as McDonald's and Yoshinoya also have such kiosks alongside order counters.
Japanese chain Yoshinoya has had at least one kiosk in 12 of its 15 outlets since 2011.
"It was a step towards innovation to reduce waiting time and speed up service. This also allows more efficient use of our manpower and improves customer satisfaction," says a spokesman for Yoshinoya.
For fast food giant McDonald's, the introduction of self-service kiosks is in its pilot phase, with the system implemented only at the outlet in Suntec City.
"We have been looking to improve productivity and to enable our staff to focus more on bringing simple, easy enjoyment to our customers.
"We will continue our evaluation of the Self-Ordering Kiosk system based on our restaurant and customers' feedback to explore taking such initiatives to the rest of our restaurants where it is relevant and feasible," says a spokesman for McDonald's.
To cut costs on frontline staff, some non-fast food eateries also use self-service kiosks, such as do-it-yourself pancake house The Nook in Bukit Timah and Curry Times Tingkat, which has two outlets, in Alexandra Road and Kallang Wave Mall.
Response to the self-service ordering system at BurgerUp has generally been positive among customers SundayLife! spoke to at the restaurant.
"It's much easier for both staff and customers, especially when you have a special order.
"You don't have to repeat yourself or have your order wrongly taken," says student Ann Francis, 19, who was visiting the restaurant for a second time.
Mr Freddy Ng, 32, who was there with his colleagues from the Land Transport Authority, thinks that the concept can be improved with a few adjustments.
"To cut down on unnecessary waiting time, I think the kitchen can start to prepare the food once the orders are sent from the machines. Currently, preparation starts only when customers go to the counter to pay," he says.
BurgerUp's owners say they are working on a mobile app for customers to place orders before they arrive at the restaurant.
This article was first published on Feb 15, 2015.
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