QSR chain Dunkin’ will launch its cashierless checkout pilot program in October at a store in California, according to Nation’s Restaurant News. And in doing so, it may set new standards for restaurant chains when it comes to how they deploy contactless tech.
News of Dunkin’s foray into the world of Amazon Go-style checkout first surfaced at the end of August, when Mastercard announced several partnerships to deploy its newly launched Shop Anywhere platform, which is powered by Accel Robotics. Shop Anywhere uses the computer vision and AI technology of Accel robotics provide checkout-free restaurant and retail experiences.
At the California Dunkin’ location, that means customers will opt into the Shop Anywhere platform via the Dunkin’ mobile app, then receive a QR code to enter the store. From there, customers can grab their coffee and donuts and simply walk out of the store. Accel’s system uses computer vision to keep track of items and sends a digital receipt to the customer once they leave the store.
Companies are already testing this “grab-and-go” format in several grocery and convenience store formats, but Dunkin’ is one of the first to make such an announcement in the QSR realm.
And cashierless tech may well set the chain apart at a time when more and more QSRs are making public their high-tech visions of future store formats. At the end of last week, Burger King unveiled its plans for a physically smaller space that emphasizes to-go formats and contactless ordering and payments. Taco Bell brought news of its “Go Mobile” format in August. Shake Shack and Chipotle have also made announcements of their own around new formats driven by more technology and fewer interactions between customers and restaurant staff.
All of those examples still rely on customers placing orders, manually paying, then waiting for their food. Being able to simply grab an item and leave the store without having to do any of those things would definitely provide a faster, more efficient, and truly contactless restaurant experience.
Dunkin’s menu, which is primarily coffee and donuts, rather than customized orders, lends itself to such a model. But there are plenty of QSRs out there at which the cashierless format would make sense, Starbucks being the prime example. Cashierless checkout could even make sense at other chains for certain items that can be pre-prepped — for example, if someone just wanted to grab some chips and queso from Chipotle. White Castle, too, plans to experiment with cashierless checkout, and is another Mastercard partner planning too deploy Shop Anywhere later this fall.
None of this is quite a reality yet, but Dunkin’ for the last couple years has proven itself an early adopter of restaurant tech. It was one of the first to offer drive-thru lanes dedicated to mobile orders, and has since opened several of its next-generation stores that feature self-service kiosks, geofence-enabled delivery, and other to-go-friendly tools and technologies. Seen in that light, cashierless checkout seems the next logical step, and one others will inevitably take as well in the near future.