New technology is bringing the drive-thru order wherever consumers’ cars may be. On Dec. 16, BurgerFi, a North Palm Beach, Florida-based fast-casual chain with around 140 physical and virtual locations, announced that it is launching in-car ordering in 5G-enabled cars in partnership with in-vehicle commerce company Mavi.io. The feature will allow consumers to order in their cars by voice or through the vehicle’s dashboard.
“A driver can just tell their car that they’re hungry, for example, and the technology does the rest, identifying the best location for them to order from based on their destination, helping them order and pay, and timing their curbside pickup perfectly, so their meal is fresh and ready right when they swing by,” Cynthia Hollen, CEO and co-founder of Mavi.io, said in a statement.
Voice commerce is a powerful way to tap into restaurants’ connected customer base, according to data from PYMNTS’ How We Eat Playbook, created in collaboration with Carat from Fiserv, which featured a census-balanced survey of more than 5,200 U.S. adults. The study found that consumers who order more of their groceries and restaurant meals online are three times as likely as others to use voice assistants.
This BurgerFi initiative is in line with the prediction that Andrew Robbins, co-founder and CEO at restaurant Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company Paytronix, made in an interview earlier in the year with Karen Webster. He projected that if a consumer gets into their car wanting a caffeine boost, the interface will be able to “order you the large iced coffee, and route and navigate you to the nearest Dunkin.”
The share of people actually utilizing these technologies remains quite small, but there is a significant amount of untapped demand. The Playbook found that 6% of consumers who order online say they already use voice assistants to shop and pay, and more than twice that (14%) would like to do so going forward.
Of course, the car has been central to the quick-service restaurant experience for nearly as long as there have been QSRs, and since the start of the pandemic, the drive-thru has grown even more crucial to these chains’ business. Consequently, restaurants are making major investments in the channel.
In the past couple of months, Shake Shack announced its first drive-thru location, Burger King shared that it is streamlining its menu for more efficient drive-thru times, and Chipotle announced its first Chipotlane Digital Kitchen, featuring drive-thru and walk-up pickup but no dining room. In late October, McDonald’s announced its partnership with IBM to develop and implement automated order-taking (AOT) capabilities at its drive-thrus.
Consumers are even more enthusiastic about the drive-thru than restaurants’ managers, according to data from PYMNTS’ 2021 Restaurant Readiness Index, created in collaboration with Paytronix. Forty percent of diners believe the ability to pick up orders at a drive-thru will be important to restaurants’ future success, while 26% of managers say the same. Additionally, the study found that the most successful restaurants are more than three times more likely than their least successful counterparts to offer the option, with 57% of top performers featuring drive-thrus, compared to 16% of bottom performers.