Video Analytics in Drive-thrus: Trends, Challenges, and Solutions
Over the past few years, Drive-thru service in fast-food chains has been on a rapid rise with restaurants realizing the increased convenience, capacity, and newer revenue streams. In the age of social distancing, drive-thrus are seen as an essential feature with their pandemic-friendly nature. As per a report by QSR Magazine, major fast-food restaurants across the US attribute 70% of their total revenue to drive-thru services. Their importance is even more substantial considering the QSR market accounts for $570 billion annually. Furthermore, Covid-19 has prompted a 26% increase in drive-thru visits for the second quarter of 2020, as per the NPD group. Owing to their fast and convenient service, restaurants are turning to drive-thrus to survive and thrive in the pandemic world.
The challenges encountered by customers at a drive-thru restaurant
Although drive-thrus act as a great source of revenues and sales, it certainly isn’t foolproof and has proved to be a cause of frustration for both employees and customers.
Employees are expected to deal with multiple orders from multiple lanes, take correct orders, and deliver them to the correct customer, appropriately package the food, and process the payments. Moreover, the advent of self-serving kiosks and mobile ordering adds to the confusion of the employees. On top of this, the employees are expected to deliver on time and maintain customer relationships. It sounds like a lot of tasks to manage and they certainly take their toll on the employees.
The demands and stress on the employees and their subsequent failings can further be demonstrated through an astonishing 150% employee turnover rate in the fast-food industry as of 2018. This goes to show one of two things: The employees are either under-trained or unequipped to deal with the fast-paced nature of a drive-thru or that the restaurant is understaffed and is operationally inept at catering to multiple customers.
Subsequently, the customers on the other side of the coin end up suffering from longer wait times, lag in food preparation, inaccurate deliveries, and unending queues means that the restaurant is left with frustrated and disappointed customers.
The missing ingredient of your Drive-thru restaurant: Video Analytics
Video analytics with its high efficiency, intelligent insights, and advanced pattern recognition, would positively enhance the operations of a drive-thru. It can measure and identify the key choke areas where the order process is getting held up to notify or alert the employees, helping alleviate the issues or even personalizing experiences of returning customers. With safety being the top priority in the pandemic world, video analytics powers businesses to proactively monitor safety standards and guidelines, be it within the kitchen or in the driveway through real-time alerts and resolutions.
The adoption of video analytics also means increased efficiency in queue management, accuracy in taking orders and deliveries, food preparation, speed in delivery, streamlining of the payment process, and more. Fast-food chains and drive-thru services would immensely benefit from the multi-layered technologies of machine learning and artificial intelligence, while directly contributing to customer satisfaction, profitability, competitor advantage, and business growth.
Here are some of the key solutions video analytics provides for drive-thrus
Queue length monitoring
Customers are likely to drive away at the sight of a long queue at a drive-thru restaurant. It becomes vital to manage the queue to enable not only attention to the current customers in the line but also to make way for the incoming customers.
As per a report from QSR Magazine, the average wait time at a drive-thru has increased from 190 seconds in 2013 to 234 seconds in 2018. This figure has further increased by 30 seconds due to the pandemic, which has led to a substantial loss in revenue for the drive-thru industry. Video analytics helps in reducing wait time and enhance the operations. Completing an order even by 10 seconds makes a huge difference.
Video analytics through its live video stream monitors the wait time of every customer in the queue. This will help the drive-thru in determining the priority of orders to be prepared and delivered. If nothing else, it helps in accurately predicting the time likely to be taken to prepare food which enables the restaurant in being honest. 10 minutes of wait doesn’t seem so bad when the customer knows it’s 10 minutes. It’s waiting in ignorance that drives people crazy.
By sorting out the priority orders through a structured time management framework, video analytics ensures efficiency in queue management.
Accuracy in delivery
With video analytics, drive-thrus can make sure the right orders are delivered to the right customers. It sounds obvious in plain sight, but when the employees are tasked with catering to multiple orders from multiple lanes at once, it is quite easy for a human brain to be confused.
Using a digital imaging system and still-frame images, video analytics captures each vehicle that enters the driveway as customers place their orders. It automatically detects the order number and ticketing details to link them with the vehicle image.
This will help the employees in visually verifying the order number and the vehicle it is associated with. The application would provide comprehensive order information using which every item on the list can be cross verified and delivered accurately.
Personalizing orders and streamlining payments
Video analytics greatly helps a drive-thru’s ability to offer personalized services to the customers. It is capable of deploying different menus to different customers, perform suggestive selling based on the customer’s preferences and orders. It also allows drive-thrus to customize their communication strategies to best suit the community in which they are located to achieve optimal engagement leading to a boost in sales.
Determining what payments are to be made by which customers can be a tedious task for a drive-thru when addressing multiple customers. It also shows unprofessionalism on part of the restaurant when the customer is asked what their order number or order items were.
Video analytics helps in streamlining the payment process by facilitating the cashier with clear visual images of each customer’s vehicle, their order number, and the payment to be made. Through these visuals, the cashier determines which ticket belongs to which customer. Video analytics, hence, makes the payment process straightforward and easily executable.
Kitchen safety and efficiency
In the day and age of social distancing and safety, it becomes vital to ensure that the employees adhere to the set protocols and guidelines. It involves keeping the kitchen sanitized and safe to prepare and serve food quickly.
By accurately monitoring whether the kitchen staff is wearing protective equipment like masks, gloves, and hair caps or if they’re maintaining social distancing, video analytics makes sure the industry-standard safety practices are followed. It also actively monitors the kitchen to alert and notify in case of any non-compliance or potential accidents.
Drive-thrus would greatly benefit from this attention to detail to serve not only the best food but also safe food. It would build trust and a sense of comfort for the customers to visit again.
Speed of service
In a fast-paced environment like the QSR market and specifically, a drive-thru, if the food or service isn’t delivered on time, it’ll leave the customers heavily dissatisfied. This in turn would affect the chances of building customer loyalty and subsequently customer retention.
By adopting video analytics, the drive-thru would be able to actively monitor the chain of command in the ordering process to optimize and cut down on valuable seconds at every possible opportunity. It would remind and direct the employees in delivering the right food to the right customer by allowing the employee to visually verify the customer, order number, and vehicle number.
By ensuring that there is no breakage in the line of service, video analytics helps with faster deliveries.
In conclusion, drive-thru services in the QSR market are on a rapid rise and have turned into the primary source of revenue for many fast-food chain restaurants. It, however, comes with certain limitations and problem areas for both employees and customers alike. The likes which include the chaos that comes with catering to multiple customers simultaneously, human errors in taking and delivering the correct orders, confusions over the payment process, etc., Video analytics can counter all these problems that come with manual monitoring and enhance operational efficiency through speed and accuracy in delivery, optimally monitoring the queues, streamlining of payments among others.
Drive-thru services will receive a major boost through the adoption of video analytics and its various service offerings that drive customer satisfaction, profitability, and business growth.
Wobot.ai specializes in video analytics to help the QSR market and especially the drive-thru restaurants in their everyday operations. We firmly believe drive-thru services are the way to go in the new normal and with our drive-thru checklists, we aim to deliver operational efficiency and customer satisfaction.
Some of our use cases for drive-thrus include:
✓ ANPR detection
✓ Queue length detection
✓ Vehicle wait time
Click here to know more about our services for the food sector.