Restaurant Brands International (RBI) announced today its plans to “modernize” the drive-thru at more than 10,000 Burger King and Tim Horton’s locations in North America by 2022. Additionally, a drive-thru modernization for Popeye’s, also owned by RBI, will kick off later this year.
RBI first hinted at this development back in February. Most of the updates and changes are around the digital menu boards on display in drive-thru lanes. These menu boards will be equipped in the future with “predictive selling technology” built in-house that can learn consumer purchasing habits and make recommendations based on those as well as factors like current weather and traffic.
These new menu boards will also incorporate loyalty programs and contactless order/payment features, with the latter being developed in partnership with Verifone. The first prototype of this order/payment integration is currently testing at a Tim Horton’s location in Canada. An additional 15 locations are set to test it by January 2021.
RBI notes that it already has a number of these newly revamped menu boards installed at its restaurant brand locations: 800 at Tim Horton’s locations in the U.S. in Canada and more than 1,500 at Burger King in the U.S. As noted above, Popeye’s will start to incorporate them into its drive-thru layout later this year.
Making menu boards more dynamic is just one way QSRs are modernizing their drive-thrus to make them faster, more efficient, and more contactless. That modernization, while broad in terms of real-world application, is necessary now that the pandemic has forced the restaurant biz to go off-premises. Drive-thru times are about 30 seconds slower right now than they were in 2019, a lag QSR Magazine says equates to lost revenue, typically around $64,182,668 annually per 2,000 stores. That’s a lag restaurant chains will have to fix in order to remain competitive, since the future of the dining room still hangs in the balance (because pandemic) and drive-thru sales can account for up to 70 percent of a chain’s overall sales.
Efforts from other restaurant companies of late include full-on pivots to drive-thru format from the likes of Shake Shack and Chipotle as the companies add more lanes and increase mobile order-ahead functionality for this format. KFC is exploring license plate-recognition technology, and of course there is McDonald’s Dynamic Yield technology that’s currently installed at thousands of the chain’s locations.
RBI actually has much more than menu boards up its sleeve when it comes to modernizing the drive-thru. The company recently showed off a Burger King prototype that features a conveyor belt system for delivering food to cars and a kitchen built over the drive-thru lanes. Undoubtedly, some of the ideas embedded in that prototype will make their way to other RBI brands and locations in the future.