Machine learning takes the guesswork out of drive-thru optimization.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the drive thru was already one of the biggest sales drivers for quick-service restaurants, leading brands to make significant investments in drive-thru efficiency. Yet in 2020, as lockdown orders closed dining rooms and social distancing guidelines lowered their capacity, more guests turned to the drive thru than ever before. While the increased traffic has been a boon for many brands, longer lines and wait times threaten to harm the customer experience.

“Since COVID, drive thrus are now generating up to 90 percent of a restaurant’s revenue,” says Luke Irving, CEO and founder of Fingermark, a leading data-driven solution provider. “Many restaurants are focused on suggestive selling and menuboards, but they aren’t dealing with speed, even though speed underpins everything in the drive thru. If you have slow service, it doesn’t matter what you upsell or how you personalize the experience, because you won’t have customers.”    

With so much of a brand’s business hanging in the balance, restaurants cannot afford to alienate drive-thru guests with long wait times, inaccurate orders, and a poor overall experience. Yet without the right access to data, finding the sources of slowdowns and errors before they cause significant reputational harm has presented significant challenges.

Now, however, AI-backed data solutions such as Fingermark’s Eyecue system offer quick-service restaurants unprecedented insights into their drive thru performance with more accuracy than other solutions. So far, the New Zealand-based company has worked with some of the world’s largest brands.

“Fingermark has more than 15 years of experience helping restaurants improve their operations, and we’re already a global partner of two out of three of the biggest restaurant brands in the world,” Irving says. “We’ve developed our technology with them, so we understand what success means to them and their customers, because we’re working with the most successful restaurant companies in the world.”

Not only has Eyecue been used at Chick-fil-A and more than 100 McDonald’s Australia restaurants, but Eyecue was also used at KFC’s first drive-thru only store, which opened in Sydney, Australia, at the end of 2019. Through partnerships such as these, Fingermark has fine-tuned its Eyecue platform and has helped restaurants worldwide optimize their drive thrus.

“Our brand partners helped us become the first company to nail machine vision as a real-time timing and behavioral tracking system,” Irving says. “With Eyecue, we’re able to track cars from the minute they arrive on the lot until they leave, helping restaurants uncover blind spots and giving operators better data so they can make better decisions and achieve better velocity, better car counts, and a better customer experience.”

Yet while Fingermark has worked with some of the world’s leading brands, Irving says the company recognizes that each brand is different. As a result, the company built Eyecue to be flexible. The system includes a set of widgets and live customizable dashboards, which restaurant leaders can customize to display the data most important to their brands. Additionally, dashboards use gamification to help drive staff engagement and fuel performance.

Eyecue’s real genius, however, comes from the system’s built-in AI, which uses machine learning to analyze trends, collate and display data, identify slowdowns, and even suggest changes brands can make that help them optimize their operations. For example, Irving says Eyecue might tell managers when it’s time to open a second drive-thru window or when to deploy another drive-thru team member rather than waiting for the restaurant to become busy before reacting.

“We don’t just provide data and insights,” Irving says. “We gather and present live data and then use machine learning to simplify the decision-making process for shift managers, taking the cognitive load off them and letting them focus on important tasks.”

Fingermark also intends to continue adding features to the Eyecue platform. For example, later this year the company is slated to roll out a feature that uses digital screens to direct traffic toward the fastest pickup options to further improve the guest experience.

“We love technology, and we’re very good at developing it,” Irving says. “We’re pushing the boundaries of quick service and working with the best to develop new products. We believe now is the time to put Eyecue into the marketplace because drive thru is changing and customers have higher expectations. By implementing a system that keeps staff engaged and helps restaurants deliver a great experience to every customer, we can help restaurants build customer loyalty, and that’s the real key to success.”

To learn how Eyecue can help you optimize your drive thru, download Fingermark’s info pack.

By Peggy Carouthers

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