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Executive Insight: How Automated Food Lockers Can Meet Customer Demand for Contactless Transactions

New restaurant designs accommodate new guest expectations — and many now include automated food lockers to ensure the secure handoff of orders from multiple channels to the right customers.
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Michael Wills, CEO, Apex Order Pickup Solutions

How have customer expectations around convenience and flexibility affected restaurants’ business models?

In the past year, customers quickly adopted new digital technologies that give them new options for how they order, and how they receive that order. They can order by mobile app or website, aggregator sites, at the drive thru, or more traditionally as a walk-in customer. They can also choose to receive the order via delivery, curbside pickup, the drive-thru, curbside and others. The restaurant is often overseeing the manual handoff of each order, leading to massive complexities and bottlenecks within their operation. That’s why we’re seeing new restaurant designs to accommodate all these choices – and many now include automated food lockers to ensure the secure handoff of orders from multiple channels to the right customers.

What are some of the ways that contactless food locker pickup can enhance customer confidence and satisfaction?

Customers want to know that when they arrive to pick up their order, it’s ready. But there’s a thin line between knowing it’s ready and wondering how long it sat there before they arrived. That’s why the best food locker solutions can send customers an order-ready notification precisely when that order is placed in the locker. They also give managers precise details as to how long each order has been in the compartment. That gives them the option to replace an order that’s been sitting too long to ensure the customer always enjoys the best experience with their brand.

What are some of the ways that food locker and order pickup solutions optimize labor efficiency?

An automated order pickup solution such as food lockers removes inefficiencies within the typical off-premises order workflow. It eliminates the dependency on having your labor wait for your customer to arrive to hand them their order or otherwise provide it to them in a contactless manner. It can also be done in a very highly secure and reliable manner. The combination unlocks many operational efficiencies while driving up tremendous customer experiences. Also, it gives employees an efficient, repeatable workflow that lets them quickly load many orders without frequent interruptions or delays. They know that once they load that order, it’s going to go to the right customer without any further effort on their part.

Why do restaurants need greater visibility to data from the order fulfillment and customer pickup processes?

Currently, most restaurants have zero data visibility to these critical steps in the customer journey. With real-time data, they can improve the customer experience several ways. You can ensure that customers are getting the best quality food, because you know precisely how long the order has been sitting there. You can also enhance the accuracy of your customer notifications. How long is it taking your kitchen to make orders? Is weather or traffic delaying customers for pickup? You can look at that information to adjust when you fire orders, so that when customers arrive, the order is the freshest possible. You can shape the customer’s experience so they arrive as close to that order pickup time as possible and are not waiting for it.