Generally speaking, restaurants with drive-thrus have often fared better than most over the last year and a half of shutdowns, dining room restrictions, and overall uncertainty. But even as demand for this format rises and major QSRs say they’ll focus more on it in future store designs, wait times at the drive-thru have gotten longer, the accuracy of orders more dubious.
Lots of companies are throwing tech at the problem to try and solve it. One of the more interesting we’ve come across recently is from Bite Ninja, which supplies restaurants with “virtual” cashiers and drive-thru operators that can take orders remotely. This has the potential to speed up the order-taking process and simultaneously addresses the labor issues currently impacting the restaurant industry.
Bite Ninja essentially lets restaurants outsource their staffing needs for the drive-thru lane to gig workers that take orders from their own homes, or wherever they happen to be. Workers — also known as “ninjas” — sign up for a shift via the Bite Ninja platform, which manages the scheduling and logistics of getting the worker set up with their shift at the restaurant. It also trains workers on both the technology (it’s Bite Ninja’s own proprietary system) and how to take a restaurant order, both generally and for specific brands.
Customers pulling into the drive-thru lane will see the cashier’s face appear on the ordering screen. The cashier will then walk the customer through the ordering process. From a customer experience perspective, the drive-thru process isn’t significantly altered. You just happen to be talking to a person that’s not actually at the restaurant (and through a system with reportedly better audio quality).
Bite Ninja’s cofounders are no strangers to the QSR world. The idea for the platform started at one of cofounder Will Clem’s own restaurants, Baby Jack’s in Tennessee. Clem, who is also one of the original cofounders of cultivated meat company Memphis Meats (which as since rebranded as Upside), decided to use his laptop and a videoconferencing tool one evening to take orders at his drive-thru remotely. After realizing how well the concept worked, he and cofounder Orin Wilson decided to try offering the Bite Ninja platform to the wider industry.
Clem and Wilson say their platform can increase order accuracy and upsell rates for restaurants. For workers, it’s a way of making extra money without having to clock in at the actual restaurant. And it goes without saying that having your drive-thru cashiers work remotely is more social-distancing-friendly than on-premises work.
While the technology is currently only up and running at Baby Jack’s, Clem and Wilson told The Spoon they have been contacted by “most of the major fast food restaurants in America” and are currently onboarding a few of them. (Actual names of brands will be disclosed once a trial period is completed.) And drive-thru isn’t the only place we may soon be able to find Bite Ninja. The company says its platform is also currently available as a front-of-house kiosk, and that curbside, phone, and online ordering capabilities are in the works.
In the meantime, if you’re interested in learning more about Bite Ninja’s place in the restaurant industry, join The Spoon and guests on August 17 for a virtual Restaurant Tech Summit. Bite Ninja will join the likes of Wow Bao, Fat Brands. Sevenrooms, Kitchen United, and many more companies and individuals from the restaurant industry. Grab a ticket here, and come ready to ask some questions.
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