Asian Fast Food Chain Itsu Does COVID-driven Pivot To Self-Service Order Screens And Meal Status Displays

August 24, 2021 by Dave Haynes

The pandemic has forced a lot of fast food and fast casual restaurant operators to rethink how they operated – from adding drive-thru capability to reducing the amount of staff-to-customer interactions.

What the Asian-inspired Itsu chain is doing in the UK is a good, though certainly not unique, example of how those kinds of restaurants will operate.

The healthy fast-food brand has started opening stores that rely heavily on self-service touchscreen stations and use over the counter displays for order status and pickup notifications, instead of menus.

The ordering and payment kiosks are credit or debit card-only (so no cash handling), and allow customers to create personalized order combinations for items such as sushi and steamed buns and dumplings.

At least one of the stores used – like one on Great Portland Street in London that opened last year – uses robotics to do food prepr on sushi orders.

Chain founder Julian Metcalfe told MCA Insights: “I’ll put in whatever it takes to continue itsu’s success despite the obstacles posed by COVID. Little expense has been spared on this store of the future – it’s top-class stuff which would not look out of place in Kyoto. It’s far more than a business, it’s an absolute crusade. Not since the 50s has fast food caught up with changing tastes and nutrition needs. It’s a start. We will lead and many will follow.”

The conventional wisdom at the front of the pandemic was that no one would touch a screen again. Like never. But the opposite has happened as more understanding of the virus and how it spreads was developed, and restaurant operators concluded the greater transmission risk to staff and guests was one-to-one contact at order counters. A screen can be wiped and sanitizing our hands is now probably second-nature to most people.

Leave a comment