Restaurant Tech Co Debuts Screen-Driven Order Pick-Up Podiums

January 10, 2019 by Dave Haynes

Trends in fast casual and QSR restaurants are having an interesting impact on digital signage usage in that sector, and new technology coming out of San Francisco company is a great example of a company adapting to a changing landscape.

eatsa, which is somehow both a restaurant brand and technology provider, has announced the Spotlight Pickup System – which uses screen-based mini-podiums and dynamic data integration to simplify and streamline the order pickup process for customers and restaurant staff.

The rapid rise of QSR delivery systems, mobile order and pickup, and Build Your Own meal orders have all forced operators to adjust how their restaurants work in front of the counter.

The Spotlight Pickup System, says a press release, simplifies a crucial organizational challenge facing operators: how to increase off-premise order volume while alleviating overcrowding and bottlenecks often caused by mobile ordering and third-party delivery.

Upon arriving at the restaurant, each customer or delivery driver checks the digital Status Board to quickly understand the status of their order, and are then guided to their pickup ‘Spot’ where the customer’s name is clearly highlighted on the front display.

The Spotlight Pickup System has a modular design that’s quick to install and easy to customize in order to fit into existing restaurant layouts without construction or downtime. It includes an array of automated surfaces called ‘Spots,’ each equipped with product sensors, a toplight for status indication and a front display for customized digital messaging.

The System seamlessly integrates with ordering and order management solutions to orchestrate the handoff process, eliminating confusion, reducing errors, and providing unprecedented levels of operational and consumer data and analytics.  

This is necessitated by big changes in the restaurant business – between customization of food orders and a big jump in food delivery services, brought on by UberEats and a long list of other companies like Seamless and Skip The Dishes.

What’s interesting about it is how these changes mean a need for more digital screens in restaurants, which act as a version of queue management status screens for people picking up orders, for themselves or as delivery dri

“Third-party delivery is often the biggest growth opportunity for restaurant operators, but with the lack of organization around how to best manage customers and delivery personnel who are taking food to go, it’s frequently fraught with confusion and delays for customers and chaos for operators,” says Tim Young, CEO of eatsa. “Our Spotlight Pickup System alleviates this problem with a combination of automation and personalization as well as offering an engaging and fun way for brands to simplify the experience and guide their guests efficiently through the pickup process. We are thrilled to bring this product to restaurants to address this important challenge.”

The eatsa system is being trialed at three “lighthouse project partner” sites: fast-casual, build-your-own mac & cheese restaurant, MAC’D in San Francisco; gourmet-salad-to-go restaurant, Evergreens in Seattle; and the steamed buns and rice bowl concept, Wow Bao in Chicago, coming next month.

eatsa first gained attention in 2015 when it opened an eatery in San Francisco that was a modern, very digital take on the automat diners of the 1950s – with orders delivered to digital wall cubbies. Maybe this was always the case and intention, but eatsa seems much more a tech company now than a restaurant operator. It is referenced as a concept restaurant, and I could imagine some VC sitting with the operators back then and suggesting the real money was in marketing their tech, not their quinoa bowls. There are only two physical Eatsa diners, both in San Francisco.

The Spotlight Pickup System is part of the full eatsa platform – a complete, end-to-end technology suite for restaurant operations that integrates the entire process from digital ordering channels to pick up – which offers a flexible, integrated, scalable, data-driven technology solution to support rapid growth through operational improvements and exceptional guest experiences.

The System complements eatsa’s Omnichannel Intelligent Queue Software which integrates multiple order channels – including in-store kiosk and POS, mobile, third-party delivery and web – eliminating the need for manual queue handling from multiple third-party delivery tablets, and providing optimized order management with accurate order availability times. Working together, the Spotlight Pickup System and Omnichannel Intelligent Queue Software create a new operational model designed specifically for digital orders.

“Our customers value quick and efficient service, and the Spotlight Pickup System optimizes the pickup process, reducing confusion over order status and where to go,” said Antony Bello, Co-Founder of MAC’D in San Francisco. “When considering eatsa’s technology, it was critical for us to have the ability to customize it to fit both our space needs in the restaurant and our brand standards for how we communicate with our guests. We were able to install the Spotlight Pickup System overnight and it fits seamlessly into our restaurant design. The added benefit is it’s very fun and engaging for our customers. I’ve seen many smiles as they easily find their order and are able to go about their busy day.”

I assume what is going on here, technically, is a reasonably fine pitch LED strip in behind a veneer strip, that lights up and pushes text and vector images through in a way that looks like a projected image. Like these clocks.

Or I suppose there could be little Pico projectors in the podium (though you think they’d be more trouble-prone). Beats me. Doesn’t say.

Starbuck’s could use something like this for pickups of lattes and those terrifying giant urns of coffee, whipped cream and syrup I see people ordering on their way to Diabetesville. We’ve all squinted at the scribbles on the sides of paper cups, after not understanding whether some barista yelled Dave, Steve, or Wayne or Jane.

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