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Innnovation Advice

Smart Lockers Improving the Customer Delivery Experience

As a Cube insider, you'll get access to interesting new trends, what we think about them and how you can benefit.


New Trend: The Customer Delivery Experience

Customers are hooked on the conveniences of third-party delivery. There’s no doubt that drive thru, delivery, and takeout sales were the restaurant industry’s rock stars over the past two years. However, takeout and delivery come with their share of problems for the customer, the delivery driver, and the restaurant operator. Takeout is often inefficient for employees, disrupting their usual processes. Picking up an order doesn’t always go as planned, either—sometimes food or drink is taken by the wrong customer or delivery driver. Or, a driver arrives early and has to wait in the lobby, a drive-thru line or a curb-side pick-up spot leading to crowding, longer wait times and poor food quality. Lost orders must be remade, which eats into already-slim margins. Customers also have a poor pickup experience due to lines, unexpected waits, or missing orders. And when a customer has a bad experience, they often won’t come back.

“Delivery is the ultimate in restaurant convenience and consumer demand for convenience rarely recedes. This is evident when we take into account that 60 percent of Americans order restaurant takeout at least once a week. In addition, we have seen the price of groceries in the US rise by 14 percent while the price of restaurant food has increased by only 8 percent, making it more competitive as a meal solution.” - According to QSR Magazine.

Consumer behavior and habits for off-premises dining has changed, and successful franchisees and operators will be those that can effectively manage this growth and meet rising customer expectations for convenience and overall experience. Restaurant and foodservice operators have come to understand that there is a great opportunity to leverage “food tech” to capture increased sales and profit. Many have discovered that smart food lockers can greatly improve both metrics and guest experience.


New Insight: Improving the Delivery Experience with Smart Lockers

Smart lockers are an electronic storage and distribution solution with built-in technology that automates the purchase, notification and retrieval process for food delivery. The lockers can be configured to be hot and cold in the same unit. In most use cases, customers place an order through a register, mobile device or kiosk, and the order is immediately communicated with a business's back-end system. Once complete, the order is assigned a locker, and through text or email, the locker's software application alerts the customer it's ready. A unique PIN or QR code allows the patron to then open the corresponding locker door and retrieve the order. All while giving customers an engaging digital experience that feeds their appetite for convenience: contactless pickup, with no waiting and no lines.

Restaurant brands who have invested in contactless food order pickup lockers are able to reduce the dependency of their back-of-house labor and processes with the physical handoff of the order to a guest or third-party delivery service driver. This allows team members to return to the back-of-house order make and prep lines, driving a specialization approach and maximizing order capacity and efficiency.

The customer is happier because pickup is secure, contactless, and takes less than 10 seconds. They don’t have to search through multiple bags or wonder if anyone handled their order. Delivery drivers are happy, too, because lockers can sometimes be located in an exterior wall, so drivers don’t even have to come inside getting them in and out quickly, and onto their next order. Employees immediately save time and steps. They don’t have to check on the order, because they know it’ll be picked up by the right person. That helps increase throughput and reduce stress.

Many smart locker systems for food pickup that have appeared over the last couple of years. As the pandemic accelerated the transition towards delivery and contactless pickup, companies like Apex, Cargill, GRUBBR, Minnow, and others have stepped in to fill a need for restaurants and others to automate the final handoff of food to their customers.


New Action: What to Consider

Many brands are investing in technologies to optimize takeout and delivery. Smart Lockers help restaurants increase labor efficiency, eliminate mix-ups and remakes, and gain data insights for improving this critical area of their business.

But for those who are curious yet unsure exactly where to start the vetting process, it’s helpful to learn more about them and how to maximize their benefits. According to Food Service Director and Apex lockers, here are five major considerations and subcomponents to help prepare for the best possible execution.

  1. Understand how to use the data - Consistent reporting gives operators the data to make informed decisions. Smart locker systems can provide data on the following:

  • Time a specific order was picked up

  • Average order dwell times

  • Best times to fire orders and send notifications

  • Average order create-to-load times

  • Efficiency and wait times of Delivery Service Provider (DSP) services

  • More complete data trail/chain of custody for each order

  • Single location or system-wide performance

  1. Technical considerations - smart food lockers easily integrate with leading POS providers, kiosks, restaurant management tools, mobile order and aggregator solutions and other key tech partners creating a more efficient employee workflow and gives guests a delightful digital experience.

  2. Placement - For existing service locations, operators will want to study their current foot traffic patterns, as well as days and times when there are increased populations in the area. Knowing this will help identify the number of lockers and exact location(s) for an optimal guest experience.

  3. Team Engagement - Using lockers will change and perhaps even consolidate some roles within a foodservice operation’s team. Employees don't have to worry about orders being picked up. They can now focus almost exclusively on making and loading orders: the order load is frictionless, while the order hand-off is automated. This significantly reduces the amount of labor required to manage off-premises orders.

  4. Ready for rollout: Marketing – most locker solutions can be customized to maximize the restaurant’s marketing and branding efforts. The lockers can be branded with the organization’s logo, brand colors, photography, tagline, marketing messages or other enhancements.

With locker systems helping restaurants and retailers focusing on customer satisfaction and addressing operational challenges, now is the right time for many businesses to learn how a locker system could improve their operations.

Are you ready to explore smart lockers? We can help you evaluate the market and determine the best next steps. If you are interested in learning technologies that can help your company, N³ Innovation can help you! Contact us today!

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