How technology is served at a fast food restaurant near you

The pandemic has forced retailers – and their customers – to see it differently. As a shopping center and in-with in-store traffic and restaurant dining decreases, retailers are reinventing the physical footprint of their stores to meet changing customer needs.

Quick-service restaurants have had to completely rethink the way they do business, from digital orders and drive-thru, to curbside choice, to online shopping or in-store pickup. But what fast services lacked in the physical space, they made up for with next-gen technology.

In today’s fast-paced and secure environment, diners increasingly expect state-of-the-art experiences that will help them stay healthy. As restaurants seek to meet customer demands, here are some technology adaptations they should continue to consider:

Contactless ordering and payment process

Customers always seek convenience in their busy lives, and one area where quick service brands can meet this demand is the ordering and payment process. Recent research has shown that mobile apps account for around 60 percent of all digital restaurant orders. Mobile apps are a way not only to keep transactions contactless and secure, but also to retain customers by offering points, discounts or other offers.

Another example of advanced technology is automated payment systems, which can take different forms. When a customer places an order from a mobile app or in-store pickup, tagging technology and analytics can be used to recognize the customer and verify that the order has been paid for, all within from the WiFi network. This allows the customer the convenience of grabbing and going. A similar variation of grab and go involves placing mobile orders in an in-store locker. Customers can scan a code from their phone to find and unlock their locker.

Rationalization of the back-of-house

In addition to the customer-centric technologies mentioned above, Rapid Services also uses in-house technologies to increase sales and streamline operations. Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of those technologies that brands are experimenting with.

AI can be used to order suggestions and generate upselling opportunities. For example, if a customer has ordered a hamburger in the past, a mobile app can suggest it again as a suggestion, personalizing the customer’s experience. Even if a small percentage of diners buy into the offer, it can add significant income to the bottom line.

Quick service restaurants are also increasingly integrating point-of-sale (POS) systems to streamline operations. Point of sale systems are integrated to promote personalization and even send signals to other parts of the restaurant to automate tasks. For example, if a customer orders a milkshake, the point of sale can send a signal to the milkshake machine to start brewing.

Voice commands also allow workers to keep their hands free. These orders can be used to check the status of an order, create staff schedules, and streamline inventory tasks, saving brands time and money.

Communication network

For all of these technologies to be implemented, a network that supports the technology and applications of a quick service restaurant is more important than ever. Not only must the underlying connectivity to their locations be fast, but also flexible, reliable and secure. Having a reliable network means that all applications should perform as intended at all times, regardless of the underlying communications network. A scalable network must be able to meet increasing demands as more and more customers use mobile technologies and applications that require higher speeds and throughput. Managing and securing this type of network architecture is essential to protect confidential customer data and the overall reputation of the restaurant brand.

To meet and manage these network requirements, quick-service restaurants increasingly rely on software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN) and Unified Threat Management (UTM). SD-WAN provides both a network service provider and an enterprise IT department with the control and visibility to manage thousands of locations through a centralized system. UTM allows the protection of data entering and leaving their restaurants. When a restaurant’s safety is compromised, the entire brand can be put at risk. With high-speed, reliable connectivity and SD-WAN paired with powerful UTM technology, restaurants can help control their environments securely to power their applications and maintain their brand.

Rise above the competition

There are nearly 200,000 quick service restaurant franchises scattered across the United States, and given the current pandemic, competition is fierce to meet the demands of today’s customers. What sets successful restaurants apart from their competition comes down to the technology used to streamline operations and ultimately improve the customer experience.

Glenn katz is senior vice president and general manager of enterprise solutions for Comcast Enterprise, a leader in communication services for the SME and business market. Katz leads the enterprise solutions organization that sells and delivers managed enterprise solutions to large Fortune 1000 enterprise customers nationwide. He holds a master’s and bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, located in Atlanta, Georgia.

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