Technology featured at the 2005 North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers Show shows how the lines between quick-service, fast-casual, and full-service restaurants are beginning to blur.
Where speed and service once set these three separate concepts apart, new technology is helping to bridge the gap--and fast-casual seems to be benefitting the most. While quick-serve restaurants have traditionally been known as the speediest operations, fast-casual is picking up with innovations that allow them to compete with the lightning speed of the quick-serve drive-thru.
One example of a product that's bringing fast-casual up to speed is the Curbside To-Go camera solution from Long Range Systems. Fast-casuals and full-serves that offer curbside to-go service previously had to have one team member dedicated to watching camera footage of parking spaces designated for patrons waiting to receive their food. Now, with the Long Range Systems product, that kind of tedious monitoring can be eliminated with a pager system that alerts employees when a curbside delivery needs to be made. The system can also record data to show how long it took for a curbside customer to be greeted, allowing fast-casuals and full-serves to keep the kind of statistics quick-serves have relied on for years to analyze and speed their drive-thru operations.
Another product from Long Range Systems is allowing fast-casuals to function more like full-service restaurants. The company now offers a product that allows fast-casuals to easily offer patrons table service without tying up a lot of their labor. Patrons are simply given a card that works in conjunction with a table locator system. After ordering, they take the card back to their table and insert it into a slot in a small reader placed on the table. The reader then sends information back to a central computer, which tells fast-casual employees where to bring an order when it is filled--eliminating the need for patrons to retreive their own orders from the counter.
"One waiter or waitress can serve the whole restaurant almost as good as at a full-service restaurant," says Ken Lovegreen, president of Long Range Systems.
Look for the lines to continue to disappear as more technology advances allow fast-casuals and full-serves to pick up the pace.