‘Old school Italian meets new school technology’Kiosk Marketplace

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The mission is to serve top quality Italian food without the wait normally associated. Making it happen required successful technology partnerships.

A customer checks out at the self-serve kiosk.

As QSRs scramble to install self-serve kiosks, fast casuals are not far behind.

Late last year, Italy-based Puro Gusto Café entered the U.S. marketplace with a restaurant in the nation’s capital featuring authentic Italian fare with no waited table service. The mission is to serve top quality Italian food without the wait normally associated.

Puro Gusto, which means “pure taste” in Italian, originally launched in Milan, Italy in 2006 and offers sweet and savory options, along with breakfast pizza, yogurts and fruits.

The company — owned by Adastra, a division of Autogrill, an Italy-based company that operates restaurants worldwide, including HMS Host Inc. in North America — partners with Lavazza Premium Coffee to serve genuine Italian coffee, as well as Campari for alcoholic beverages (and is the only D.C. restaurant to serve Avetrol Spritz, a light summer drink, on tap.)

There is also a full bar with Peroni beer in addition to local offerings.

Bryce Iapicca welcomes guests to Puro Gusto Café in Washington, D.C.

“A customer could really come to Puro Gusto just once a day or even three times a day if they want to get breakfast, lunch and Apertizo,” Bryce Iapicca, director of operations, Puro Gusto Café in Washington, D.C., told Kiosk Marketplace in a phone interview.

Versatile offerings

Guests can choose from a variety of fresh sandwiches, salads, fruit, soft drinks, beer, wine and canned cocktails from “grab and go” coolers, then use the self-checkout kiosk to complete their transaction. Guests pay using a credit card or Apple Pay.

For those selecting alcohol, the self-checkout machine automatically alerts the staff to do an ID check.

In addition to the self-checkout kiosk, guests can order via the store’s mobile app or website, order at a table using a QR code, order ahead and have it delivered via Uber Eats, order at the counter and take it to go or have it delivered to their table.

There are two cashier stations in the store, but only one is active at a time.

There is also a pickup station that consists of a shelf built into a wall where order tickets are sorted by customers’ names. The tickets are printed at the front of the house or in the kitchen, depending on how the order comes in.

The restaurant, open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, has four to six employees working at any given time.

Technology partnerships

Designing such a quality-focused offering, with convenience at top of mind, placed a premium on technology partnerships. Key partners included Square (POS), Elo Touch Solutions (kiosk touchscreens), Grubbrr (self-checkout software) and Uber (meal delivery).

“We work with Square as kind of our central hub,” said Iapicca, who brought experience working at HMS Host in airport stores and at Starbucks in Baltimore. “The ease of integration with Square with all of our technology partners has been really remarkable in terms of not having to duplicate work. They have tons of integrations with different mobile vendors.”

“At Puro Gusto, old school Italian meets new school technology,” observed Bhavin Asher, founder and CTO at Grubbrr. “Their innovative use of the kiosk means that customers can enjoy their favorite upscale Italian goods and dishes via a seamless ordering experience. Not only do the kiosks increase average ticket size, but also improve the customer experience and streamline operations.”

To date, guests have embraced all sales touchpoints.

Approximately 5% to 10% of the restaurant’s orders are self-checkout, Iapicca said, while 20% are delivered by Uber Eats, 10% to 15% are mobile app or online orders and 15% are via the in-store QR code. The company also offers gift cards.

A customer scans a sandwich at the self-checkout kiosk.

Cash accounts for less than 5% of the sales.

The hardware required a $15,000 investment, Iapicca said, along with about $750 monthly software fees.

A multicultural focus

The company chose D.C. for its first U.S. Puro Gusto since it offers a multicultural community which the company saw as being receptive to the brand, Iapicca said.

Most of the 30 Puro Gusto restaurants in Europe and Asia are in travel venues where it is often the only establishment offering self-checkout.

The company is currently looking to have stores nationwide in the U.S., focusing on urban markets, Iapicca said. There will be both company-owned and franchisee-owned locations.

At the end of the day, the company hopes to set a new bar in convenience for high quality food.

Photos provided by Puro Gusto Café.

Elliot Maras is the editor of Kiosk Marketplace and Vending Times. He brings three decades covering unattended retail and commercial foodservice.

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