Provo startup seeks to change the restaurant game with self-order kiosks

March 31, 2019 GMT

Self-checkout is a great thing. It’s fast, easy and convenient, and for introverted types, it can be a godsend on a Saturday night after running out of toilet paper.

So why isn’t self-checkout a thing everywhere? At the movies, or sports games, or restaurants?

A Provo startup is looking to change that — for restaurants, at least.

Weston Hafen and Jon Lund founded Flash Order, a digital ordering startup that has created an app for DIY self-order kiosks. Hafen and Lund work with the point-of-sale system, Square, which has over 3 million customers, many of them independent restaurants.

The app is free to download, and restaurant owners can upload their individualized menus, complete with photos and descriptions, also free. Once restaurant owners want to go live, however, there is a cost involved.

Beyond the app, there’s no other equipment needed. Restaurant owners can simply prop a tablet up in the front of their restaurant for customers to use.

For Sean Kang, owner of The Wash in Provo, the app and the ease of using it was “life-changing.” For Hafen and Lund it was also helpful, since Kang’s restaurant sort of served as their guinea pig.

Hafen and Lund reached out to Kang about using their product soon after The Wash first opened.

“We were just using a standard processor at the time,” Kang said. “It was definitely one of the best moves we made …. With how diverse our menu is, it really is a super versatile product.”

Kang said the concept of self-ordering at a restaurant is new to most people, but since The Wash’s target demographic is nearby college students, customers haven’t had any problems using the system. And, for Kang, it’s been extremely economical.

“(It’s been) super helpful on cutting down employee costs. It allows us to really be bartenders or prep people.”

In addition to cutting down employee costs, it can also be helpful when there’s a rush at the restaurant. Kang simply brings out a second tablet and it’s ready to take orders.

“We’ve done restaurants for 12 years,” Kang said. “I would recommend it for any restaurant.”

Of course, some restaurant owners may still be skeptical. That’s how it was for Devin Cash, owner of a small cafe called The Breakroom Bistro, located inside Teleperformance at 2239 Grant Ave., Ogden.

Cash knows Hafen and Lund personally, and said at the beginning, Hafen and Lund would consult with him about what the app should include, what restaurant owners were looking for. Initially, Cash wasn’t sure about the idea because he values the face-to-face interaction he gets with customers when he takes their order.

The Breakroom Bistro officially began using Flash Order a month ago. They set up a digital kiosk in addition to a traditional register, so people could choose which to order from.

“It quickly got to where it was so convenient and people were using it more than I thought they would,” Cash said.

Even his employees were skeptical, Cash said, but he estimates it took little over an hour for them to love the self-order kiosks as well.

In fact, the self-order kiosk became so popular, Cash took out the normal register and installed a second self-order kiosk.

It may be a coincidence, Cash said, but since installing the two self-order kiosks, the cafe has had at least one record-breaking hour. Perhaps, he suggested, because the two kiosks can handle more customers.

“Since people are doing the ordering themselves, we’re able to focus 100% on making the food,” Cash said. “It’s overall been a really positive experience.”

Cash still had concerns about his customers, namely, older customers who maybe aren’t as tech-savvy as the college kids Kang caters to. But Cash said, so far, none of his customers have had any problems.

As for interacting with customers, Cash said now he just does it in a different way, coming out and chatting with customers after they get their food.

“It’s overall been a really positive experience,” Cash said. He’s even recommended it to fellow restaurant owners at different colleges in the Salt Lake area.

Hafen and Lund hope more independent restaurants will begin using the app, as well as food trucks.

“Flash Order is perfect for independent restaurant owners,” Hafen said. “Kiosks can eliminate long lines, increase revenue, and with our DIY approach a location can be set up and ready to take customer orders in minutes.”

And the focus will continue to be on small, independent restaurants, Hafen and Lund explained.

“Digital technology and self-order kiosks can’t just be for big chains with big budgets,” Hafen said. “It has to be attainable for restaurants of all sizes. We launched Flash Order to make that possible.”

The Flash Order app is currently only available for Apple products. For more information about the product, visit http://FlashOrdr.co m or email info@FlashOrdr.com.