Robert Marsden, Managing Director of Addictive Technology said, “While we have a lot of experience in making and providing for better drive through experiences, there is always room to innovate and grow. We looked at the technologies now available and came up with a system that provides a faster, more frictionless ordering system, based on the latest licence plate recognition (LPR) technology.”
Customers expect a fast, seamless drive-through experience, and are often under time pressure, especially if they are ordering food and coffee on their morning commute. Long queues and wait time can detract from the drive-through experience, and have a significant effect on customer satisfaction and loyalty.
The success of the drive-through café or restaurant itself depends on getting as many customers serviced as possible in any given hour, especially at peak times. The fast food and beverage market is very competitive during commute times, and an efficient drive through service can be the difference between success or failure.
White Label Software built an in-house software solution that sits between a restaurant or cafe’s PoS system and networked video cameras, based on Milestone Systems’ open XProtect video management software (VMS) platform. The software uses LPR technology to identify regular customers as they drive up to place their order, accesses the restaurant’s database of VIP customers in real time to see if they have a favourite coffee or snack, and sends a message to the kitchen to start preparing those items before the customer has arrived at the sales window.
The customer’s coffee will be ready before they arrive at the order point, and the system will also allow cross-checking to ensure that the predicted order matches the customer’s actual order.
“Our PoS system has an API, and that application sits in the middle of Milestone and our PoS system. A Windows application reads the licence plates then talks to the PoS system. It is an SQL based system with a database stored in the cloud on Amazon Web servers, so it does all this in a few seconds,” said Marsden.
The solution is also flexible. Outlets can decide whether they want customers to register in advance and confirm what they want ahead of time, so that the same order is placed every time or they have the option of using the predictive analysis built into White Label’s proprietary PoS software. This analysis proves accurate for 90 percent of orders,with just 10 percent of customers deciding they want something different on a specific day. The PoS software will analyse the customer’s last ten or more orders and pick the one that comes up the most. The cost of any wastage using this system is considerably less than the cost of a slower drive-through experience.
The innovation stems from Addictive Technology’s extensive experience working with Drive Thru food outlets. When provisioning a drive-through space, the SI deploys all technologies themselves from PoS through to networking and wireless, LPR software and all associated integrations.
Addictive’s Milestone Systems LPR solution provides a minimum of four or five seconds head-start for each predicted order, and as much as two minutes head-start for high volume outlets during busy times. This head-start can be critical to avoiding congestion at busy times, and make the difference between an efficient and streamlined ordering process, and one which backs up and causes customers to be delayed.
The solution means that when cars are queued at the order point, the outlet can already be making coffee for the car behind it. In the quick service restaurant industry, outlets survive or perish based on their customer satisfaction, and the number of cars that are able to physically pass through their drive-through on an hourly basis.
The Milestone solution
Milestone Systems is an open platform, meaning that developers are able – and openly encouraged – to build upon the code. This has enabled Addictive Technology to adapt the existing LPR software to their own needs, and integrate it with their proprietary PoS software solution. Software is seldom used in a stand-alone capacity these days, so the power of an open platform means that integrators such as Addictive Technology are able to harness the power of a major platform, and combine with several other solutions to provide customers with a fully integrated system that fits their specific needs.
“The power of an open platform such as Milestone allows us to tailor solutions directly to our customers’ requirements, and then extend our ongoing services to those customers after the build. Everybody wins – customers get the system that works best for their financial outlay; as a systems integrator we get to provide the sort of solutions and services that we want, rather than being forced to follow someone else’s guidelines, and we get to administer that solution after it is deployed in order to maintain satisfied customers,” explained Marsden.
Due to the flexibility of Milestone Systems’ platform, Addictive Technology is also able to keep customer costs down. Rather than rely on specific cameras with extended functionality for LPR use, the solution is able to use relatively cost-effective cameras, so long as the resolution is of high enough quality.
Further to this, Addictive Technology is able to deploy the Milestone LPR software on a physical CCTV server along with cameras and storage, rather than provision a dedicated server, which further reduces costs or run it on dedicated Milestone hardware.
In other instances the SI has built a virtualised LPR server based on a VMware running Windows 10, in order to re-use existing hardware. “This again demonstrates the flexibility and power of the software-driven solution,” explained Marsden.
The bespoke PoS and LPR solutions designed and implemented by Addictive Technology are also made available to other companies wishing to licence them, which opens up another window of opportunity for Addictive Technology.
Marsden explained that on the next version of the software, currently being built by White Label, orders will be sent straight to the kitchen video system as well as different locations throughout the shop or café. The solution can also be rolled out to anything that can use a white list or black list, and therefore show details of what is coming up. Security gates, car washes, logistics and freight centres can all make use of the system, basically anything that can be linked to a VIP list or database.