First step: Geolocation
In Bluedot’s State of What Feeds Us survey, only 32 percent of customers who wanted automated check-in upon arrival received that service. Geolocation is a key part of smart kitchens and a centerpiece of what makes them smart. Location data in a restaurant’s app shows them where a customer is, when to start preparing an order, and when to complete each step of the order fulfillment process.
Customers ordering via an app are aware that a restaurant is tracking their location. From a customer’s perspective, that location data should also work for them and not just the restaurant. Automated check-in and reduced wait times are important improvements to the customer experience enabled by smart kitchens, yet many brands have not yet extended these benefits to their customers.
In Taco Bell’s Go Mobile concept, the kitchen can detect via geolocation when a customer arrives and suggests whether curbside, in-store or a dedicated drive-thru lane is the best route to get their food. Here, the combination of predictive analytics and customer geolocation provides a tangible and noticeable benefit to the customer.
Using Automation and Data to Create Value
Other smart kitchen designs are playing out at Chipotle, which is piloting a restaurant for digital orders only. Featuring a unique mobile-only drive-thru “Chipotlane,” these stores seek to provide a uniquely convenient experience for customers while significantly cutting operational costs. Across their fleet, nearly half of Chipotle’s orders are digital and 98 percent of restaurants already have a separate make-line for digital orders.
McDonald’s is piloting AI assistants at drive-thrus in a few locations to automate order taking. This technology has an 85 percent order accuracy rate and can handle 80 percent of orders, helping prevent incorrect orders and allowing the restaurant to deploy crew to other areas.
Marco’s Pizza has invested in technology to help the chain understand which products are most often made incorrectly and to quickly catch mistakes and improve training with those menu items.
These early pilots are showing promise, though the long-term ROI at scale is still being determined.
And while some smart kitchen innovations still feel futuristic, restaurants should take incremental steps toward smart kitchens as they recover, with customer experience at the center. This includes considering how they can better use systems and technology they already have and extend them in ways that will deliver the highest impact in the near-term, such as: