The Pros and Cons of Automated Food To-Go

The Pros and Cons of Automated Food To-Go

Automated Food To-Go from A Go-To Resource from Hatco

What do you think about Automated Food Pick Up Solutions?

Foodservice establishments have the opportunity to offer automated food pick-up solutions to their customers by having the information and the right equipment in place.  Several operations have great success with this concept and find that their customers love it. Hatco dug in deep on this subject and provided information that sheds some light on the subject. They identified the pros and cons of automated food pick-up solutions.

THE PROS OF AUTOMATED FOOD PICK UP SOLUTIONS

Contactless advantages— A PRO

Convenience is a significant driver for loyal and potential customers. How convenient and easy is it to pick up their food? The pandemic pushed contactless food pick-up technologies into the front seat, but the convenience of quick pick-up with minimal interaction kept it in place. Today, customers have the opportunity to place a food order, pull into a pick-up location, click on their mobile device to alert the establishment’s point-of-sale (POS) system of their arrival, and a server carries the order directly to their vehicle (or open trunk). Then with a quick smile and a wave, the customer is off — convenience and contactless meal in hand. It’s a win, win for both the customer and the restaurant.

Speed of service— A PRO

How fast can they get their food? The last thing your customer wants to see when they arrive to pick up their order is a long line. Automated pick-up solutions can circumvent long lines by separating call-in or delivery orders from dine-in customers. One way to speed up service is with heated lockers. Patrons can walk to the heated locker, punch in a code and grab their warm meal, turning the long wait into shorter lines, quicker service, and happier customers.

Fresher food— A PRO

Although customers want speed and convenience when ordering food, they are unwilling to give up freshness and quality. One tech that ups the convenience factor is geofencing. With a downloaded app, artificial intelligence (AI), and GPS technology, geofencing enables establishments to track customers on their way to the restaurant. Once the tech shows that a customer has arrived within a certain radius of the restaurant, the kitchen fires up the order. As a result, the customer gets a fresh meal without the wait. Another win, win for the customer and the restaurant.

Labor savings— A PRO

Labor is a critical challenge today and one of the most significant factors of any foodservice operation’s budget. Automated pick-up technologies, such as foodservice lockers, can free up employee time and decrease labor costs. For example, having multiple lockers allows staff to fill them quickly and walk away, knowing to-go orders will stay at optimal temperatures. In addition, automated pick-up lowers operation’s labor needs by providing a means for digital ordering and payment processing, putting less work on cashiers and servers.

WE CAN'T TALK ABOUT THE PROS WITHOUT ADDRESSING THE CONS

 Technology snags— A CON

Internet systems can go down. Mobile phones can lose service, and emails can get lost somewhere in cyberspace. If you can’t deliver on the tech, it’ll take most automation benefits off the table. Be sure to go with a technology application or equipment solution that’s high quality with excellent customer service. It’s also helpful to have trained and qualified staff on hand to handle any tech hiccups. In addition, always have a backup plan.

Lack of personalization— A CON

Some patrons want the contactless aspect of service, but customer service and a human face (especially a smile) are part of the dining experience for others. If your operation has a robust automated pick-up service, be sure to boost the personalization of the whole digital experience. For example, consider collecting data points on what customers typically choose and ask questions like, “would you like your regular today?” In addition, providing ways for customers to interact digitally with customization capabilities can improve the experience. 

Operational challenges— A CON

Everyone knows that change can be difficult and presents its own set of challenges and frustrations. However, through excellent management, training, and trial and error, each establishment will find what works best for its unique operation and teams.

In summary

Automation is a solution and an opportunity for your operation to save on labor, increase sales, and increase customer satisfaction. If you think about it, patrons are willing to pay twice as much money at a convenience store for the same item available at a grocery store for a lower price. That’s how essential convenience is to many people. So if you can offer a solution to meet the need for speed of service for your customers while improving your operation and increasing sales, it seems like a worthy application to explore for your business.