Drive-Thru customer experience revolutionized with AI | Modern restaurant management


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The current COVID-19 crisis has not only transformed the global social, political and economic climate, but has also changed the way businesses operate. Restaurants have been hit particularly hard, and as dust settles on the pandemic’s impact on the industry, they are forever changed. As a result, many beloved restaurants have closed for good, there is a labor shortage across the industry, and the future is still shrouded in uncertainty.

The last year completely changed the way customers ate: Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) relied heavily on drive-thru for their business. Joe Erlinger, head of McDonald’s U.S. operations, told analysts in April 2021 that more … than 90% of their turnover was generated by their drive-thru. Fast food chains dominated the restaurant market for 12 months ending March 2021, according to data from the NPD Group, gaining 7.1% of the market share lost by full-service restaurants.

Strategic investments before the pandemic in restaurants were justified, as these represented the largest contribution to income. But, almost overnight, restaurants saw their revenue percentages change and were forced to switch from dining to drive-thru, curbside pickups and deliveries. With urgent and emerging needs to serve customers in the pandemic era while delivering a high-quality experience, restaurants are turning to new sources of data and information to help them optimize efficiency and ensure that they are well placed to handle the sudden shift in focus of inner restoration. to external services.

Restaurants have turned to technology to fill the void. The obvious issues to be resolved were traffic control and speed of service. Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick-fil-A, recently estimated that around 30% of drive-thru customers leave by car, giving up the wait because the queues are so long, which human observation and traditional data means, like sales , can not fully capture. Restaurants need to visualize, analyze, predict and act on context in real time to ensure positive customer experiences.

The key is to take advantage of the tools that businesses might already have and improve upon them to meet key customer goals. This is where the rubber meets the road to vision AI. QSRs already have outdoor video cameras and can easily convert this infrastructure into a data stream for computer vision. Vision AI models can uncover unprecedented operational efficiencies and deliver precise, high-quality information to inform decisions. The use of video cameras with AI-powered visual data analysis is an emerging combination of technologies that enables assessment, prediction and action based on what is happening in real time in service lines at steering wheel and curbside collection areas.

Possible applications include:

  • Accelerate the performance of the Drive-Thru line: Monitor lines, classify activity and accurately record desired measurements, from the arrival of a vehicle to the receipt of orders and the departure of a vehicle. By detecting customer visits, understanding frequency, and combining them with other criteria, QSRs can improve immediate service and long-term planning while proactively informing customers of wait times, offers specials and updates for increased customer satisfaction.
  • Improve customer service: With real-time and predictive information on service volumes, QSRs improve customer experience and turnaround times by setting customer expectations with precise wait time notifications by location. Teams can be informed through automated detection and alerting of line arrivals, volume and wait times. This information is not limited to single locations, as real-time data can be collected and analyzed from many cameras spread across multiple locations.
  • Reduce staff burnout and stress: Automate predictive ordering and faster execution by merging information on point of sale, weather, location, and more, with real-time video to inform teams to act on weather forecasts. ‘waiting before the thresholds are reached. Managers can use this information to manage staffing needs to facilitate the delivery of good service and avoid burnout.

This pandemic has had a transformative effect on the way restaurants provide service to customers around the world. QSRs that identified change in customer behavior early and innovated quickly are successful. As a result, they achieved an increase in drive-thru revenue. As service delivery continues to evolve throughout the various phases of the pandemic, QSRs are investing to secure their increased revenues as traditional restaurants and services welcome customers once again. By unlocking the value of existing video cameras and visual data collection, QSRs can strengthen their positioning, maintain competitive advantages, and secure revenue gains with real-time information powered by AI.

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About Imogene T. Bishop

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