RFID Helps Fast Casual Get Faster

What’s Fast Casual and How Does it Work?
Fast casual restaurants seem to be popping up everywhere these days—they offer a nice combination of fast service and affordable prices, with slightly more upscale food. Sometimes, you may go pick up your food at the counter, such as at Panera, but other fast casual restaurants, such as Noodles, will bring your food to your table.

Typically, the cashier gives the customer a laminated piece of paper with a number printed on it. Once the customer chooses a table, he/she places the number in a cardholder. When the food is ready, a runner will look for the card and find the customer, giving them the correct order. However, sometimes if it’s crowded, runners don’t always have time to look around and the view of the numbers can easily become obstructed.

Fast Casual Changes with RFID
Recently, some fast casual restaurants have been looking to RFID to facilitate the food delivery process. Namely, Jason’s Deli has been placing an RFID mat on each table, which is pre-programmed with a table number. After the customer orders, they receive an RFID reader and the cashier enters the identification number on the device into the POS system.

Once the customer places their RFID reader, which resembles a coaster, on their table, the reader gets the table number from the mat and sends it to a computer at the food prep station. The food runner will then see the RFID device’s ID number on the order ticket and aligns it with the location information for that device, quickly determining where food should be delivered, without having to look around. This greatly speeds up the food delivery process, as food runners can go directly to the foods’ final destination without having to stop and scan the room for the right number. The system is particularly handy for locations with outside seating.

In addition to helping the food runner and customers, the technology also tracks order time from payment to delivery in order for management to get a better idea of how long the food preparation is taking.

Michael Johnson, a Jason’s Deli regional manager, said chain officials decided to test the new technology because they were searching for “a solid way to measure ticket times” and observed the “speed and accuracy of service to the customer” it provided to another operator. He noted that the system’s time-tracking capability gives operators insights into service performance and, through programmable parameters, gives expeditors the ability to prioritize production chores.

Expanding RFID
Jason’s Deli has been piloting the system for about a year, and it is currently in use at a restaurant in Chicago and two sites within the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. So far, results are positive, and Jason’s Deli has formed an assessment team in order to precisely determine their ROI before expanding it into additional stores.

Learn more about RFID in fast casual restaurants.