Welcome to the Spoon’s weekly restaurant tech roundup. To subscribe, go here.
Achieving a contactless restaurant experience when it comes to the drive-thru lane is easier said than done, according to QSR Magazine’s 2020 Drive-Thru Study, released today in partnership with SeeLevelHX.
Every year, QSR Magazine’s study looks at various aspects of drive-thru performance, from speed of service to order accuracy to the effectiveness of digital menu boards. This year’s study includes all of those things as well as some elements that wouldn’t have made it in there if not for the COVID-19 pandemic.
The so-called contactless restaurant experience is one of them. If you follow the restaurant biz or are a regular reader of The Spoon, you’ll know that restaurant tech companies large and small have lately been championing software that enables contactless ordering and payments. Instead of a customer and staffer passing a credit card back and forth, guests order and pay from their own mobile phones.
That goes some distance in keeping unwanted germs at bay, but as we’ve said before, there’s no such thing as a truly contactless restaurant experience right now. And as QSR’s data suggests, there’s no such thing as a truly contactless drive-thru, either.
The survey found that 80.1 percent of all drive-thru orders were handed to the customer directly by the employee. In 16.4 percent of the cases surveyed, the order was placed on a tray. Rounding out the math, 1.3 percent of orders were placed on a window, and 2.2 percent were labeled “other.” Use your imagination.
QSR’s survey found that 78.1 percent of employees wear gloves at the drive-thru window, while 91.3 percent wear masks. But the survey’s basic conclusion to all of this is that contactless “proves easier said than done” when it comes to the drive-thru lane.
Unlike a physical restaurant space that can be altered to make room for pickup shelves or lockers, there’s not much in the way of architectural adjustments a drive-thru window can absorb that would make much sense. And actually, one could argue that too many alterations done in the name of contactless service would just confuse things, slow down service, and impair order accuracy.
If the restaurant industry wants a truly contactless drive-thru experience, it’s going to have to do some major overhauling when it comes to the design of the drive-thru process. Burger King hinted at this a while back with its new restaurant prototype that includes a conveyor belt system for retrieving food and a good deal of re-architecting of the physical store layout, among other things. That’s the first of what will likely be dozens more examples over the next year of what the drive-thru of the future will look like. As to whether the industry can ever achieve one that’s truly contactless, stay tuned.
Device of the Week: TableYeti’s Virtual Tip Jar
Besides having the best company name I’ve heard of in a while, hospitality payments company TableYeti also makes a virtual tip jar product called the “Tap to Tip BOX.” The device, which is powered by TIPJAR’s software, can be mounted to a wall, placed on a countertop or stationed at any other location in a bar or restaurant that’s highly visible to customers.
On its website, UK-based TableYeti says the BOX is meant to replace TRONC, which is the tipping pool system used in many bars, cafes, and restaurants around the country. Essentially it’s the digital version of the big jar of cash you’ll find next to many cash registers at eating and drinking establishments. Instead of dropping a few bills into the jar, you tap a credit card.
It’s a compelling product in this day and age when so much of the restaurant biz is going digital. It also comes at a time when the concept of a virtual tip jar is a little more widely known, thanks to various efforts to help restaurant industry workers during the height of lockdown. TableYeti’s product joins multiple other iterations of this idea, not just in the U.K. but all over the world.
TableYeti’s BOX is only available to U.K. businesses at the moment, though a U.S. equivalent is bound to surface at some point in the near future as restaurants get further digitized and cash gets increasingly less popular.
More Restaurant News
Food ordering platform Olo this week launched Serve, a revamped version of its ordering platform restaurants can use to consolidate order flows and manage their digital storefronts. The redesigned platform, which Olo says enables faster ordering and checkout and higher conversion rates, is available to all restaurant customers using the Olo platform.
Fast-casual chain Fazoli’s put something of a twist on the dark kitchen/virtual restaurant concept this week. The chain had been using some of its restaurants as dark kitchens to test a delivery-only chicken wing product. Said product has proven to be so popular Fazoli’s said this week it will now go on the chain’s regular brick-and-mortar menu. Which just goes to show you that the definitions of “ghost kitchen” and “dark kitchen” continue to evolve.
Taco Bell just launched the “Taco Gifter” on its website and mobile app that lets users, uh, gift tacos to one another. Pick an item, pay for it, and T. Bell will generate a unique URL the recipient can use to retrieve the order. Somehow I suspect this will be popular with those who need last-minute gift ideas for the holidays.