Many fast casuals boast a dine-in experience comparable to full-service establishments: unique interiors, comfortable seating, and tableside delivery of an order. That final element can prove difficult for limited-service operators, as food runners generally have to call a customer’s name or search for the right order number on a table tent.
But new technology is streamlining the search-and-deliver process and even fast-food chains are taking notice.
“It was originally born out of the idea for delivering food to the table faster for fast casuals. In the last year we’ve had a lot of requests coming from quick serve,” says Michelle Strong, chief marketing officer at Long Range Systems (LRS), a tech solution provider for the foodservice industry. She adds that many clients have said that they are “tired of moping around and circling tables.”
To combat this issue, guests are given a tracker, which transmits a signal to a back-of-house panel, alerting the food runner to the customer’s location once the order is ready. A number of companies have created their own system to meet the growing demand. LRS's program called its Table Tracker, and HME Wireless created Vuze.
Not only does these devices eliminate what Strong calls the “food waltz,” it also quickens throughput—an increasingly important consideration given the rise of customizable menus. Strong adds that Table Tracker enhances the atmosphere since guests need not listen for their names nor flag down a server who might be carrying their order.
Jason’s Deli and Pizza Ranch are among the brands utilizing Table Tracker, and Strong says that the benefits of the program go beyond order running. The latest iteration of Table Tracker, which launched a little more than a year ago, delves deeper into data.
“People wanted to be able to differentiate different types of orders. Analytics is definitely a place where we paid more attention,” Strong says. Through the system, operators can track an order from when it’s placed to when it’s delivered to the table. Brands in turn can use the data to home in on menu items that might be particularly time-intensive. “Seeing what orders are taking longer acts as a great team motivator,” she adds.
The newest edition also uploads data to an online portal so operators can compare their efficiency rates across different locations and geographic regions.
While Table Tracker seems like a natural fit for fast casual, Strong says that fast-food brands, are taking cues from the younger upstarts.
“Ambiance is really important so they’re addressing what that dining room experience is about,” she says. “If they’re evolving their product line and starting to introduce product customization opportunities, that might take a little bit longer to prep.”
Prep time, she says, that can then be recovered through an efficient tracker system.
By Nicole Duncan