Delivery seems to be the topic of conversation these days for those in the restaurant industry—and for good reason. Revenue in the U.S. online food delivery amounts to over $22 million in 2019 and is expected to grow annually at a rate of 6.5 percent. The largest segment is, you guessed it, restaurant-to-consumer.
And restaurants are taking notice. From take-away only venues to drive-thru pizzerias, businesses are looking for the best way to tap into this lucrative segment without disturbing their in-house guests. Let’s take a look at those that are on the cutting edge in the delivery space.
It’s no surprise that this fast food enterprise is also taking risks in the delivery arena. It has been their ability to adapt that has risen them from a struggling contender to the number one fast-food chain.
Recently, McDonald’s acquired Dynamic Yield for $300 million. This decision and personalization technology company has, among other things, developed a software program that factors in the weather, time of day, trending menu items, and even restaurant traffic, and uses this information to determine food it will display on the digital drive-thru menu boards. It can also suggest items based on a customer’s order.
McDonald’s is also testing a new store concept in London. This to-go only concept offers a limited menu that is designed for speed of service. Orders are placed at a touchscreen kiosk and no seating is available. Word is out that they are also experimenting with AI voice and facial recognition as well as scanning license plates that offer customer recognition and can process payments automatically.
This popular fast-casual pizza chain is gearing up to be one of the few in their segment to offer drive-thru service. Their first drive-thru, which will serve as a model for future units offering this service, recently opened up in Mt. Pleasant, WI. Customers simply put their order in online or on the Blaze Pizza smartphone app, drive up, give their name, and pick-up their pizza. They’ll be keeping the drive-thru open until the wee morning hours—3am—on Thursdays through Saturdays. Their big push is in the delivery segment with a focus on convenience and speed.
It seems to be working. They first opened their doors in 2012 and, in just five years, reached $279 million in total sales.
Good Times Burgers
According to Restaurant Technology News, the world’s first AI-enabled order taker was initiated at Good Times Burgers & Frozen Custard in Denver, CO—their pilot location that’s trying out the technology on their breakfast drive-thru guests. Instead of placing their order with a human, an AI-enabled chatbot is at the receiving end. Not only does this type of system help those restaurants that find themselves facing labor shortages, it also cuts down on the time their customers are in the drive-thru line. Reports suggest that incorporating this type of technology has reduced wait time for customers during high-traffic periods by 50 percent.
You might wonder if their guests are missing the human experience. This was also one of Good Times Burger’s concerns. To this end, they put up a sign telling their customers that they could opt out of the AI ordering by asking for a person. While they thought their opt-out rate would end up falling in the 50 to 60 percent range, in ended up that only 5 percent of their customers requested to speak to a person.
Restaurants continue to determine what works best for them in the delivery and quick service space and, in many instances, there’s a time of trial and error as they seek resolution to some of the challenges including space, logistics, and labor. It’s clear that this arena has become a vital element and a powerful driver for those looking to increase customer satisfaction and their bottom line.
While the use of Artificial Intelligence or to-go-only venues may be a little over-the-top for some restaurateurs, those that want to thrive may very well have to adapt and find a method that works for them—a process that creates fast quality food. From adapting one’s menu to embracing technological advances, or incorporating branded mobile apps, if operators have not looked into advancing this area of their business, now is the time. According to Toast’s 2019 Industry Statistics, when guests ordered online, their number one priority was speed, followed by value and then quality. Times have changed.