Burger King, Tim Hortons and Popeyes Plan to Modernize the Drive-Thru Experience

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Burger King, Tim Hortons and Popeyes Plan to Modernize the Drive-Thru Experience

By Anna Wolfe - 10/29/2020
Tim Hortons has installed digital drive-thru menu boards at approximately 800 locations in the U.S. and Canada.

Restaurant Brands International Inc. revealed its plan to modernizing the drive-thru experience at more than 10,000 Burger King and Tim Hortons locations. Popeyes will begin rolling out the new technology later this year.  

More than 40,000 digital screens are being installed with powerful 'predictive selling' technology, integration with restaurant loyalty programs at the point of order and the ability for remote, contactless payment, reflecting the strategic importance and value of the drive-thru experience to RBI's brands.

Consumer demand for drive-thru has spurred QSR and fast casual brands to revisit their store development plans, adding drive-thrus and contactless pickup options to their new designs. Taco Bell Go Mobile restaurants, coming in Q1 '21, will have two drive-thru lanes including a new priority pick-up lane for customers who order via the Taco Bell app. Shake Shack plans to debut its first drive-thru next year. White Castle is piloting vehicle recognition technology in its drive-thrus.

Demand for Drive-Thru

In recent months RBI's "guests have sought out our drive-thru lanes for our iconic food and beverages throughout the COVID-19 pandemic – even in the face of mandated dining room closures around the world," said Jose Cil, CEO of RBI.  "We believe strongly that it is time to modernize our drive-thru lanes throughout the US and Canada to provide even better, quicker and contactless service for our guests."

Contactless service is gaining in popularity as consumers seek out safer alternatives and as hospitality brands look to protect their No. 1 asset: employees. According to a study from GetApp, 82% of customers expect contactless experiences in 2021 and beyond.

Predictive Selling: The digital drive-thru menu boards are designed with powerful 'predictive selling' technology designed by RBI's in-house Guest Intelligence team, allowing for special promotions to be tailored based on previous orders, regional weather patterns, the time of day and many other factors.  This home-grown technology can dynamically learn preferred ordering habits and also show the latest and trending menu items most-ordered in your location. The RBI Guest Intelligence team will continue to refine technology to further enhance guests' ordering experience.

Integrated Loyalty Programs: The menu boards have been designed with the ability to integrate loyalty programs, allowing for customized menu options to be displayed that are based on guest's favorite purchases and redemption history.  This functionality is currently live and being tested at 30 locations in Canada with the Tims Rewards loyalty program. All digital drive-thru menu boards in the US and Canada have been designed to accommodate loyalty integration via scanning, Bluetooth or near-field communication.

Remote, Contactless Payment: The digital drive-thru menu boards also have the flexibility to add immediate, remote contactless payment to allow guests to order and pay simultaneously and speed up drive-thru lanes.  RBI has partnered with Verifone to develop a new global remote contactless payment device for a drive-thru lane.  The first prototype is currently installed at a Tim Hortons restaurant in Canada, with 15 more locations to test this functionality by January 2021.

Weather-Proof Installations:  New installations are using enclosures that have been designed to withstand the heat of the southern United States, the cold of Canada's north and the corrosive, salty air from cities along North America's oceans.  The enclosures are also IP56 certified – meaning they are fully waterproof and can sustain continuous water pressure, even from powerful waterjets.  Existing installations will be retrofitted to this level of protection to ensure the long-term integrity of this important guest touch point. 

Technology:  The 40,000+ outdoor-rated 46" screens are powered by the latest STRATACACHE Media Engines that are clustered together, redundantly, for high-availability – meaning that if any one of the four digital screens in a standard drive-thru loses communication with its primary media player, the secondary media player will take over and ensure that content continues to be displayed correctly.  STRATACACHE has the capability to manage any digital screen and to update or modify menu board content across remaining digital screens in the event of a hard screen failure.

As of September, Tim Hortons has installed digital drive-thru menu boards at approximately 800 locations in the U.S. and Canada; Burger King has installed digital drive-thru menu boards at more than 1,500 locations in the U.S.; and Popeyes is starting installation at new locations later this year.  A typical drive-thru lane includes 4 digital screens, while double drive-thru lanes typically include a total of 7 digital screens. RBI is assessing drive-thru locations and, where possible, is installing double drive-thru lanes to increase capacity and efficiency at our restaurants.

To see what the drive-thru experience will be like at Burger King, watch the 58-second video below.