- Eatsa, a San Francisco-based restaurant known for its automation technology, is testing a new digital shelving innovation at select MAC'D, Wow Bao and Evergreens stores, according to a company release. The Spotlight Pickup System unit features a digital status board that directs consumers and delivery drivers to their pickup order, which rest on shelves that digitally display customer names on the front.
- The automated "spots" link with ordering and order management solutions to minimize errors and give restaurants access to additional consumer and operational data and analytics.
- The product was created to minimize confusion and delays for consumers and operators as third-party delivery couriers increasingly pick up to-go food alongside customers, eatsa CEO Tim Young said in the release.
As consumer demand for convenience grows, restaurants across categories are investing more dollars into off-premise initiatives. It's a savvy investment — a recent CHD Expert study predicted that takeout for pickup would hit $124 billion in sales in 2018, with takeout delivered by third-party services expected to generate $13 billion and takeout delivered directly by restaurants expected to reach $32 billion.
And while traditionally this has meant partnering with a third-party delivery service such as Grubhub or DoorDash — or launching an in-house delivery fleet like Panera — competition is driving chains to experimental tech that yields increased efficiency.
Casual dining chain BJ's, for example, partnered with reservations and pre-ordering platform Allset to test a new dine-in pre-ordering service. The pilot's technology allows customers to make reservations, place their order and pay for their meal before ever setting foot in the restaurant. The initiative was created to cut down dining times and boost foot traffic, which casual eateries have struggled to grow as consumers continue to turn to the fast-growing (and faster-paced) fast casual segment.
Platforms like eatsa's digital pickup shelving, however, could benefit both of these categories — as well as QSR chains — as restaurants struggle to make operations work for both in-store and third-party delivery orders. The technology could help eliminate confusion at pickup and reduce the chances of incorrect orders being taken by delivery drivers by mistake.
Still, this doesn't ease the increased number of orders some chains are processing as third-party delivery surges. This operational stress prompted Chick-fil-A to launch store prototypes designed solely for delivery and catering orders. The test locations don't have drive-thrus or dining rooms, and are staffed with catering delivery drivers as well as traditional staff teams, according to Forbes.
If eatsa's tech streamlines operations at MAC'D, Wow Bao and Evergreen, it could spark further adoption or drive chains to develop similar proprietary technology. Companies like Sweetgreen are already dabbling in technology that straddles the lines between delivery, catering and traditional pickup in order to differentiate, and many major casual dining chains are testing new concepts to improve off-premise capabilities. Buffalo Wild Wings, for example, has developed a designated to-go room with a separate entrance from the main restaurant and special parking places to grow its off-premise business, which drive 16% of overall sales.