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Quick Serve Restaurant — to be (edge) or not to be (edge) is the question

Categories Edge Computing News  |  Guest Posts  |  Hardware
Quick Serve Restaurant — to be (edge) or not to be (edge) is the question

Imagine you overslept 15 min longer and ignored Siri’s alarm reminder.

You are late for your important work meeting.

You badly need your regular dose of caffeine to hyperfocus and get into your best performance zone before you pitch to your senior leadership about that new project.

Wait a minute.

What does this have to do with the edge?

What does a Quick Serve Restaurant (QSR) have to do with edge computing?

What does being late have to do with edge computing?

Buckle up — we are going to take you through a quick ride through a QSR drive-thru.

What is a Quick Serve Restaurant?

Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) are the most popular types of restaurants in the food industry. As per QSR Magazine, the top QSR drive-thru in 2021 included McDonald’s, Dunkin, Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, Burger King and others. People can pick up a quick bite or your favorite beverage and dine-in, on-the-go via drive-thru, or pick-up.

A drive-thru is not a new feature: it is a 100-year-old innovation that grew alongside the explosive growth of automobiles. It started as a convenience for those on the go but became a lifeline for businesses during the recent pandemic.

What does edge computing have to do with QSRs?

QSR drive-thrus importance to the industry has only been amplified by the pandemic where 60% to 70% of the orders are through the drive-thru lanes. The drive-thrus involve a lot of IT systems to operate successfully:

  • Microphonics system (end-to-end audio systems w/ headset)
  • Point of sale / online ordering system
  • Kitchen display system
  • Camera sensors for detecting customer activity
  • Digital signage/menus

All this for an experience that takes between 60 to 90 seconds for placing the order.

Now with the significant labor shortage, the industry has started to see some significant changes in Restaurant Tech by leveraging edge computing to enable technology executives to achieve a lot of the processes on-site on the edge and achieve superior performance and serve more customers.

The below is a quote from Amazon CTO Werner Vogels’ Technology Predictions for 2022. His second prediction is very aptly named “The everywhere cloud has an edge.”

“To fully realize the benefits of the cloud in workshops and warehouses, in restaurants and retail stores, or out in remote locations, there must be tailored solutions at the edge.” – Werner Vogels, AWS

Possible Applications of edge computing in QSR-DriveThru’s

In the context of a restaurant, edge computing has a number of possible applications. Customer-facing uses include:

  • Digital signage — powered by edge devices, signs could be dynamically updated based on product availability.
  • Location-based services — beacons or other low compute devices on the edge that pick the customer’s arrival.
  • Automated order taking — voice-based conversational AI for automating the order-taking process.
  • Video analytics — continuous monitoring and video analytics of customer arrival and overall drive-thru speed and efficiency of operation.
  • Speech analytics — monitoring and drive-thru speech conversational analytics and experience management.

Restaurant employee facing use cases include:

  • Automated order entry — Listen to the customer request and directly enter the order into the POS system.
  • Video Analytics Dashboard — Real-time monitoring and dashboard of upcoming customers in the drive-thru lanes.
  • Payment systems — Seamless integration to card, QR code and other payment mechanisms.

Who is doing what for edge in QSRs?

What does the landscape for hardware and software at the retail edge look like? From the perspective of an edge AI application developer, some relevant vendors include:

Hardware/ edge solution vendors

AWS AWS Outposts gives you on-premises compute and storage that is monitored and managed by AWS, and controlled by the same, familiar AWS APIs.

Lenovo Lenovo has exclusively built servers that are applicable to the market.

HPE HP Engage edge is the company’s purpose-built hardware for retail and hospitality.

Nvidia Using their Jetson GPU on the edge, Nvidia is building custom solutions for restaurant and hospitality needs.

Restaurant IT / Innovation Teams

Several of the large QSR Brands have started building low compute-storage solution to perform functions at the edge. For example, McDonald’s is working with IBM to build a Automated Order Taking solutions which are a combination of edge and cloud-based technologies. Additionally, quite a few startups are trying to address challenges on both customer and employee facing applications using a variety of offerings from the edge server providers. QSR’s are sometimes buying the whole startup to jump-start innovation efforts, sometimes with a side of indigestion. McDonald’s acquired Dynamic Yield, only to sell the company two years later in 2021. The company also sold its McD Tech Labs (formed from the acquisition of conversational tech company Apprente in 2019) — to IBM.

Final Thoughts

As the shortage of labor and technology adoption continues, QSRs face a bigger challenge to transform their digital experience platform to provide a more seamless experience to their customers. The edge computing and the providers are going to see lot more activities in this space with more applications and adoptions to emerging trends as well. Customer check-ins, real-time dashboards for monitoring customer locations, rewards, payments are all ripe for innovation. Every second eliminated from the current metrics will result in accommodating more customers for sales opportunities and increasing customer satisfaction.

About the author

Kiran Kadekoppa is co-founder and CTO of Huex. Huex is building voice-enabled conversational AI applications with a focus on the retail and QSR markets.

DISCLAIMER: Guest posts are submitted content. The views expressed in this post are that of the author, and don’t necessarily reflect the views of Edge Industry Review (EdgeIR.com).

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