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How IoT-button can enhance Drive-Thru customer experience (Part 1)

Smartphones & broader tech has been changing nearly every facet of the quick-service (fast food) industry… and now it is IoT‘s turn to do it’s bit

From the success of smartphone ordering through to Geo-fence based coupons and even smart fryers; the fast food industry is hard at techifying every part of it’s store operations in a bid to enhance their overall customer experience

Those long snaking lines

Like clockwork; every mornings, afternoons & even evenings we notice the long snaking lines around a myriad of fast food restaurants…

…whether be it a bitter cold snowy (Chicago) morning, torrential downpour, screaming kids in the backseat, running late for a 8am meeting or just feeling just plain lazy out of the ordinary; many folk’s daily lifestyle depend on it…

…I am of course referring to Drive-Thru; which is said to contribute up to an average 65% of total daily sales of a typical fast food restaurant’s business

Challenge: Drive-Thrus are taking longer than ever

According to an annual study conducted by QSR Magazine; the average drive-thru time has jumped to ~222 secs (~3.7 mins); representing a ~20 sec slow down from a year ago

Sounds ironic doesn’t it? Aside from the convenience of picking up food & beverage from the comfort of one’s seat; Drive-Thrus were also meant to save time (at least over the more conventional getting in-&-out of the store)

To test this; I myself tried out a few drive-thrus (combination of restaurants, neighborhoods & peak/off-peak periods) scoring a little over 4 mins per trip

It’s in the process- how it is done today

Typically a visit to the Drive-Thru entails –

Entering Drive-Thru lane Waiting… Inching Forward Slowly… Waiting Scanning menu board (for any last minute changes) Placing order through the voice box WaitingCrawling to Delivery Window… Waiting Paying (or fumbling with change if cash) + Collecting food/drink Driving away

Of course, the wait times depend on several variables such as time of the day (peak / off-peak), store location (inner city, suburbia), promotional offers, seasonal variations et al.

Key Challenges with the current process

A. Long wait times

Particularly at peak periods & closer to inner city zones or near business-dense locations

B. Missed Opportunity

Aside from pre-planned routine trips & the occasional sensory urge to eat a burger / have a frappe; how could fast food restaurants entice customers on-the-go?

Enter IoT…

Let’s explore a renewed ordering scenario

Imagine consumers could order their meal/drink on-the-go with the help of an IoT button (a là Amazon Dash)… with a push of a button (rather than fumbling with a smartphone & an App) be able to place an order for their (pre-preferred) meal… all whilst driving and no distraction!

Visualizing how the IoT based process looks like

Connected Corners

Benefits an IoT button-based solution could present

An IoT button could (in theory) bypass the in-lane wait period and most importantly improve customer experience… by potentially allowing users to pick up their order even before entering the traditional Drive-Thru line

A ‘physical’ IoT button should allow users to order whilst in motion (driving); with virtually no distraction as opposed to fumbling with a standalone App-only (distracting) based solution

An IoT button (backed by a companion App) could also increase the frequency of ‘casual ordering’… that could be triggered with assistance of beacon/geo-fencing & contextual Ads even out of the user’s regular routine

Up-Sell/X-Sell Opportunity: Restaurants could have an opportunity to push Up-sell/X-sell offers (think: Meal Upsize, Add-ons, Extra drink for a $1) once the user has pushed their ‘pre-selected’ order and en-route to pickup their order

Customer Insights & Order Recommendations: An IoT button-based solution; (which by default) would require a pre-saved user-profile & payment method(s)would allow the restaurant to learn more about their customers, their ordering behavior, daily routine, route patterns and target the right offers @ the right time to encourage repeat visit/purchase

An (physical) IoT button that is stuck on the car’s dashboard has the potential to bring the entire ordering process down to a simple click; all whilst keeping the user’s eyes on the road with a key aim of reaching to the nearest Fast Food Drive-Thru

The next segment will cover the IoT solution’s User Interface (UI) & Experience (UX), process overview (order confirmation, rejection & up-sell), key challenges and partnership opportunities in more detail

Stay tuned!