SEOUL, March 12 (Korea Bizwire) — Changes are occurring rapidly in the service industry as the minimum wage hike implemented this year has spurred on efforts to scale back labor costs.
While convenience store chains are expeditiously implementing automated stores, dining establishments are actively experimenting with expanded self-service and self-checkout policies.
Per industry insiders, Emart 24 (formerly With Me) has since last September been trialing six automated stores.
Customers enter these locations via a self-authentication process using their credit card. They can check-out using the automated cashier, and if in need of help, can communicate with the supervisor stationed at company headquarters via CCTV and a microphone inside the store.
The returns revealed that automated stores’ earnings were 1.5 to 2.5 times higher relative to manned stores. Emart 24 is targeting the opening of two or three more workerless locations by the end of June.
Other convenience store chains are also making inroads into automation. CU currently operates its “Buy-Self” smartphone-based purchasing system at one location in the country’s tech hub Pangyo, with plans for expansion this year. Ministop is set to open up a handful of vending machine-use stores near office clusters by the end of April.
CU with SK is currently working to develop a futuristic version of a convenience store that fully integrates existing technology.
Meanwhile, in the dining industry, “self-service” is the buzzword of the moment, with established buffet restaurant franchises such as Shinsegae Food’s Olbaan and E-land’s Ashley testing customer response to varying levels of self-service.
Across the fast food industry, where self-service is a given, Lotteria, Burger King and McDonald’s have placed ordering kiosks in over 30 percent of their respective franchises, with the eventual goal of putting one in every store.
An individual from the Korea Foodservice Industry Association said automation and self-service would become major trends among mid-sized and larger dining companies that are in pursuit of lower labor costs.