QSRs use tech to advance mobile ordering
Restaurant innovation

Trending: Malibu Poke Gets Personal With Facial Recognition To Order, Pay

U.S. consumers are increasingly turning to digital technology to place food orders.

A recent study found online food delivery orders increased nearly 15 percent since last year with more restaurants looking to enhance the digital ordering experience. These findings indicate that restaurants face increased pressure to deliver a seamless digital ordering experience that encourages customers to place return orders — whether patrons choose to eat in-restaurant or get delivery at home.

Restaurant brands are turning to a wide range of new technologies to deliver on these ordering preferences. The new Order To Eat Tracker® highlights how solutions from facial recognition, voice and virtual-only models are becoming increasingly common on the restaurant landscape.

Recent Developments From the Restaurant Front 

New data has troubling news for restaurants with drive-thru windows. Consumers spent an average of 20 seconds longer waiting in the drive-thru lane in 2019 than they did last year. Some brands like McDonald’s are turning to voice recognition technology to keep orders moving smoothly.

In September, McDonald’s acquired voice technology solutions provider Apprente and plans to use the firm’s technology to integrate into its McD Tech Labs division. The acquisition aims to help McDonald’s improve order-taking operations from its drive-thru facilities by implementing voice-recognition technology to help customers navigate increasingly complex quick-service restaurant (QSR) menus.

In a similar vein, McDonald’s also invested in voice technology to help owners of Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant devices begin the job application process for entry-level positions.

While some brands invest in voice technology, others are turning to new virtual-only storefront models that only offer delivery services. Among these firms is Uber Eats, which recently partnered with celebrity chef and television personality Rachael Ray to provide food delivery options from a network of more than a dozen pop-up locations across the U.S. Customers were able to order Rachael Ray-inspired meals for delivery exclusively through the Uber Eats program.

Uber Eats is not alone in its virtual restaurant investment. Rival delivery service Grubhub recently entered its own partnership with fast-casual restaurant chain Just Salad on a new, virtual restaurant concept that focuses on healthier meal selections. The concept is known as Health Tribes and allows consumers to place orders through Grubhub or Just Salad’s mobile app or on its website and search by specific dietary guidelines, including gluten-free, keto, paleo and vegan options.

How NFC Can Drive Restaurant Consumer Loyalty

Loyalty is an essential element for restaurants to build up a reliable base of supporters. As digital technology evolves, however, consumers no longer want to fish for a physical punch card or to sort through their mail to get rewards. Instead, they want their rewards programs to be available to them at any time, including at the point of sale (POS) in a restaurant.

Near field communication (NFC) technology, also known as contactless payment technology, could provide restaurants with the opportunity to offer loyalty programs with ordering capabilities to smartphone-savvy customers. The Tracker’s Deep Dive highlights the potential for NFC technology to give restaurants’ loyalty programs an upgrade.

Self-Service Kiosks Get a Face Lift 

Delivering personalized service is essential for any restaurant that aims to keep its customers loyal. This task gets increasingly challenging the more menu items and possible combinations that an establishment offers.

Some restaurants, like Dallas-based Malibu Poke — which offers more than 63,000 possible order combinations for its Hawaiian-inspired poke bowls — are using facial recognition technology to allow customers to re-order their meals by glancing at self-service kiosks. In the Tracker’s Feature Story, Malibu Poke owner Jon Alexis explains how the biometric solution and rewards program is delivering a more personalized experience for the chain’s customers.

About The Tracker

The Order To Eat Tracker®, a PYMNTS and Paytronix collaboration, is a monthly report that examines the evolving restaurant space. The report highlights how fast food, fast-casual and QSR establishments are embracing technology, enhancing loyalty offerings and working with aggregated service providers to offer more seamless in-house and delivery ordering experiences, and improve customer engagement.

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