How will Computer Vision improve the Future of Drive-thrus?

Before the pandemic, the very definition of restaurants was starting to change, thanks to ghost kitchens and virtual brands. When the pandemic struck, and dining got closed due to the Covid-19 outbreak, restauranters realized they don’t need a brick-and-mortar food space to serve food to their customers. Slowly, many restaurants converted their parking spaces to drive-thrus to add to the ongoing demand for them.

In just a few days and months, drive-thru started seeing excessive demand and accounted for 82.4% of the total restaurant sales in 2020.

However, now that labor shortage is plaguing the foodservice industry, we are looking at an unprecedented situation. Labour shortage coupled with increased demand has made food service establishments look for new ways to streamline processes and improve productivity.

This situation enhances the need for AI and automation for scaling processes and increasing operational efficiencies. Computer vision is one such technology. Here, automated AI models collect accurate and reliable data from cameras. The insights generated from this data can help you, as food service establishment owners, to make critical business decisions.

In this blog, we will dive deeper into how computer vision can transform drive-thrus with its applications.

How can Computer Vision Technology help Drive-thrus?

Computer Vision provides real-time data and critical insights on operations so that you can measure, analyze, and act upon crucial data points that can optimize processes and improve labor efficiencies.

Cameras can detect license plates, car models, and vehicle types in your drive-thrus. When you pair this data with POS, voice bots, and other third-party tools (whether predictors), you get the information to identify repeat customers, personalize digital menus, and speed of service. This combined information can also help you upsell by recommending items based on a customer’s past orders, current weather, time of day, and much more.

Top Computer Vision Applications for Drive-thrus

With the help of computer vision, you can see many things with your existing cameras. This section will look at some of the most efficient applications that can transform how your business works.

  1. Queue Length

    Queues cause frustration and delay the pleasure of eating a meal. On average, there are 3.2 vehicles in line when a car pulls into a drive-thru. Even though eliminating queues is not possible, we can reduce queues to manageable sizes with queue length detection.

    Automatic queue length detection in a drive-thru using computer vision

    With queue length detection, you can know how many cars are currently in queues in your various location. Knowing this information can help you split the lines, take orders before a vehicle reaches the order window, and give customers an accurate timeline of how long they might need to wait in the lines. This way, you can manage your customers’ expectations while also reducing their wait time.

  2. Vehicle Wait-time

    When you get real-time visibility into your multiple locations and understand how many vehicles are waiting in the lanes and for how long, you can tackle various challenges that you face every day. One of the biggest challenges here is understanding the difference between expected service time and the actual service time, which can help you optimize your operations.

    Vehicle wait-time in action in a drive-thru queue

    With wait-time insights provided by computer vision technology, understanding how factors like particular day, time, weather, holidays, and seasons impact your wait-time becomes easier. When you have such insights, you can strategize staffing and inform in-line customers about the approximate serving time ahead of time.

  3. Vehicle Drop-offs

    Cameras in your drive-thrus can see the events that you might miss. For example, a lot of the time customers enter your premises and leave without taking an order because of the long queues. You do not even know about their presence, but these drop-offs cost you revenue.

    However, Computer Vision powered cameras can see the make, model, type, and license plate in your premises based on your state laws and regulations. Therefore, it can see how many vehicles are pulling out of your establishment without placing an order. By this, you can gain valuable insights into what factors directly affect customer drop-off in your establishment and how much revenue you are losing. You can then create mechanisms to tackle this issue and maximize your sales, profits, and customer satisfaction.

  4. Safety and Cleanliness Measures

    Customers are and will be very anxious about their health and safety in the coming times. It is essential to make Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) mandatory to ease their worry and protect them and your employees from life-threatening viruses. Computer Vision technologies can see PPE, social distancing as well as various cleaning methods in your kitchens. It can see if your staff is wearing facemasks at all times and for how long and they are washing their hands.

    Employee wearing gloves and mask giving a customer their meal at a drive-thru

    If you have a preset cleaning schedule, for example: mopping the floors at 6:00 AM and 6:00 PM, you don’t need to have employees physically present to check the activity, as Computer Vision powered cameras can do it for you.

    This way, you can improve back-of-house sanitary measures and protect your employees’ and customers’ wellbeing in real-time by reminding them to follow the safety measures.

The Future of Drive-thrus

The future of drive-thrus is a place with multiple lanes, multiple pickup points, and where technology powers everything. To survive amongst the thriving competition, demand, and labor shortage, you need to take charge of all the different elements that will help you increase service speed while improving the quality of service. For this, it is crucial to consider all the stages of a customer’s journey inside your premises to understand which areas can be improved upon and modified. brings various benefits to life for drive-thrus around the world. Wobot’s AI-powered video analytics help you optimize customer flow from order taking to exit. Drive-throughs that deploy can reduce wait-time, manage queue length, track customer drive-offs, get alerts on returning customers, and use data to make critical business decisions.

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