So how are restaurants using this data? Interestingly, with many also working to enhance the drive-thru experience – for example, using automation to make ordering faster – another related trend is restaurants incorporating data from digital loyalty programs to personalise the experience. One example of this comes from Burger King, which last year began testing Bluetooth technology to identify members of its Royal Perks program at the drive thru, and showing their previous or recommended orders on digital signage boards. The idea is that customers are likely to have a favourite or regular order, so automatically delivering this option creates a more tailored and convenient experience.
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Panera Bread is also working on automatic identification, integrating into its ‘Next Gen’ bakery store which opened late in 2021. The store, which is designed to offer a seamless experience for both dine-in and dine-out customers, automatically identifies loyalty members in both the drive thru and when entering the store. Speaking to CNBC, chief brand and concept officer, Edward Luz, explains that “Once you are identified, the vision is that we interact and acknowledge and treat you as a person, with preferences. It’s what you expect when you go to a neighbourhood cafe.”
In some ways, this also aims to offset the ‘contactless’ technology that restaurants are also using, which can often feel rather impersonal. Panera’s store aims to offer a personalised experience, one that recognises the individual rather than a faceless customer, even if the customer in question chooses to order via a digital kiosk. This also aligns with the rising consumer demand for multi-channel, acknowledging that even digital customers are not exclusively digital (and vice versa), and that long-term loyalty more likely stems from meeting customers wherever they are.