Welcome to The Internet of QSR Things

There’s such a wide range of technologies available at various stages of maturity that an IoT play can seem hard to implement, particularly in a fast turnover environment like a QSR chain. However, if you break it down, it doesn’t have to be hard and it definitely doesn’t have to be all at once. Download our Internet of QSR Things Primer or read on...

Start with location

Let’s start with a location aware mobile app – many restaurants have one of these already, it’s maybe just not working as hard as it could be.

A guest has just opened up your mobile app for the first time around lunchtime – that’s one data point we can use already, find out their current location and we now know that they’re 400 yards from one of our stores. Add in weather data and we now know that it’s currently a hot, sunny day in that location. Already, we’ve got some useful data that can tailor the content that customer sees to be much more relevant to them.

If you’ve got to this stage already, pat yourself on the back and take a moment to make sure everything is working as planned, but not too long because the next bit is important.

The next step: combining live and historic data

All restaurants are already collecting data at the point of sale, but most of it is just transaction data. On its own, this is useful for identifying broad trends across different locations, or times of day, but it doesn’t give us much else.

Let’s take that location and weather data and give the customer a relevant limited time offer for them to use while they’re in-store; a coupon in their mobile app that they can scan - via a simple QR code, NFC or BLE.

When the customer scans that coupon, the POS and the mobile app now have a common point of reference and we can marry up that transaction data with the customer data from the mobile app – we not only know what offer got the customer into the restaurant but also what else they ordered and how much they spent while they were there.

Already, we’ve created a fairly deep set of data by connecting three systems: our mobile app, a weather database and the POS system.

Let’s add some Things to that Internet!

Up to here, we’ve largely used existing systems, making the initial rollout easy and cost effective. So once you’ve got that central hub for your internet of things, you can easily start to add additional connected devices.

First mix in a few beacons

Given that they require very little in terms of connection and installation, BLE beacons (iBeacon and others) are an easy first step and basically bring the location awareness of your mobile app inside your walls.

Start with the entrance – now your system can detect the exact point when a guest enters, more accurately than GPS alone. This gives you the opportunity to change app functionality: changing to an ordering app, or pushing a relevant offer to particular customers just as they enter.

More valuable still is the data you collect for use later. If we add a few more beacons then we can fairly easily start to target customers based on their in-store behavior (both real time and historical): identifying those who dine in vs takeout, or those who visit the playground.

Of course, beacons of all types come with some caveats – not everyone has a phone capable of picking up a beacon signal, and although the percentage of guests that do is constantly increasing, visitors still need to have Bluetooth and location services switched on to take advantage of beacon technology.

Then connect more tech for a more exciting customer experience

This is where pulling in some other in-store tech can help. An easy tool is in-store WiFi – encourage your customers to connect, and your WiFi network becomes as good as another entrance beacon. Getting a little more advanced, smart tables and on table ordering systems give you another opportunity to establish location and dwell time within the store.

If you’re implementing a tablet ordering system, for example, keep it simple and encourage customers to scan a mobile loyalty card from your mobile app – no complex hardware integration required, but by linking the ordering system and the mobile app, you instantly connect it to your whole Internet of Things. Now you know which store the guest is at, what the weather is like, when they entered the store, which table they’re sitting at, what they order, how long it takes them to decide and what else they look at. And all that data can be used to improve their experience while at the restaurant, re-target them after leaving, and improve their future visits.

Connections go both ways

Of course it’s not just about adding data from connected devices – by connecting your tablet ordering system or smart table top, you not only improve what the other elements of your system can offer, you can also improve the content delivered on the tablet or table top display.

So now, your guest walks into the restaurant, sits down at the table and fires up the on table ordering system. A low range beacon at the table has been picked up by their phone, so the ordering system for that table knows right away who’s sitting there, what they’ve bought in the past and what deals have worked the best to get them to spend money. It can instantly tailor the content displayed to the person or group of people who are at the table – load favorite menu items, suggest relevant up-sells and provide targeted advertising and offers.

And again, there’s a bunch of ways around linking table top systems and mobile apps – it doesn’t have to be a beacon. Similar to at the till, encouraging customers to scan their loyalty card can be a really effective way of making the connection. Also, more quirky and entertaining options like an augmented reality game can be used to identify where a user is and encourage them to use their mobile app.

Dynamic displays & beyond

Wall mounted in-store displays, digital menu boards and fridge displays can be hooked into your internet of things to display content based on who’s around (in the case of a menu board, it’s more about appealing to the widest range of guests). You can pull a sample of demographic data from all the guests whose mobile apps have been detected in the store, but it’s always only going to be a subset - at times, there will be more new, non-app using customers than others.

So that’s where it can pay to look at adding in some face detection. Combine the two data sets and you’ve got a really accurate picture of who’s in the restaurant. Not only that, but your detection system can recognize the total number of guests. Which means you can get a really accurate picture of who’s using that precious revenue generating mobile app and who’s not, and then target any groups who aren't with some compelling offers to get them on board!

So now that we’ve got that grand picture of a connected restaurant that recognizes every customer who walks in, knows when they last visited, what they ate, how long it took them to eat and what the weather is like outside. Let’s rewind and look at what we started with – a simple mobile app with a smart back-end.

Internet of things, connected restaurant, pick your catchy buzzword title – what you really need in order to implement a successful strategy is a solid hub. Start with a flexible system that can be easily extended, use as little additional hardware as possible. And remember, it’s all about the customer so make sure they’re at the center of it all.