These may be common and I just haven’t come across them, but I was intrigued watching a video interview with QSR chain Chipotle’s CTO, talking about making a big pivot to digital when COVID hit.
Just about every restaurant had to adjust in a serious way, but it is a bigger challenge for companies that do a lot of order customization.
What caught my eye was Chipotle’s digital “makeline” – a replication of the line customers walk at the counter to order this and that for their burrito bowl or whatever. In food prep areas of many Chipotle stores there is a second line with all the ingredients and add-ons that is guided by digital signage displays.
Instead of a paper receipt to squint at, the order and add-on ingredients are dynamically visualized on a simple but dynamic food prep instructions on screens immediately in front of the worker.
Several years ago, Chipotle began installing second makelines in select locations to prepare for off-premise expansion. The expanded prep lines are in about 2,000 restaurants today, Boatwright said, and have been upgraded to “digital makelines” that are designed to boost order accuracy. About 200 Chipotle units, typically those in airports and malls, are too small for the second makeline. And about 300 stores are still slated to have them installed, he said.
Instead of relying on paper order receipts, LCD screens along the digital makeline highlight which ingredients are to be added to each bowl, burrito or taco, and a summary screen allows the expediter to double-check each item that needs to be packaged with the order. Under the old system, order add-ons such as chips, soda or guacamole often got left behind, he said.
Restaurants with the “complete digital ecosystem” are now able to churn out two to three off-premise orders a minute, compared to just one order per minute previously, Boatwright said.
He declined to say how much the digital makelines cost the company to install.
Beyond boosting speed and accuracy, the new systems are amping up employee satisfaction, he said.
You could argue these are just computer monitors and this is not digital signage, but that’s a semantics debate for someone else. These things are tied into a larger restaurant management system and part of the AV/IT mix that makes the place work, so to me they are just as much digital signage as digital menu boards.
Back of house operating stuff reflected on screens doesn’t get the attention of promo and menu displays, but there are interesting aspects to digital signage displays in the parts of QSRs you don’t see, doing things like training and visualizing and updating information on things like third-party delivery pickup status.
Again, you may tell me these makelines have been around forever, but they are new to me. And interesting.