Rick Stanbridge, VP & Chief Information Officer, Marco’s Pizza
The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic exposed both strengths and weaknesses in systems and organizations across every industry. Restaurant and entertainment concepts were confronted with an issue that shook the very core of the industry – how to produce the same customer experience sans human contact. Many concepts are still struggling to find their footing in this new space where convenience and contactfree is king, while others are poised to excel. A main differentiator for those that are forging ahead is technology. This has unfortunately left many customers with no choice but to leave behind businesses that were stuck in the past.
Our team at Marco’s Pizza is incredibly committed to innovation and setting the business foundation for “Marco’s of the Future”. While we were already headed in the direction of streamlined delivery, carryout and other upgrades to customer convenience, the pandemic accelerated these efforts. At the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak, the motive behind engineering contact-free delivery and carryout was to keep our customers and teams safe as we continued to feed communities across the country. Now, as vaccines begin to be distributed and administered, Marco’s remains focused on fortifying our technology for long term success as the need for convenience and safety won’t go away anytime soon.
Marco’s is piloting, testingand implementing several technologies including SMS, beacons and more to make contact-free delivery and curbside carryout services more automated. These technologies can be embedded into both our Marco’s app and POS systems. In addition to notifying the store when a customer arrives and letting a customer know that their order is available, we’re integrating various elements of artificial intelligence to streamline the process further.
For example, once a customer order is placed, they receive an email confirmation. This confirmation allows customers to notify the store upon arrival, a message is immediately sent to the POS system – sharing identifying information such as vehicle description and order number – so that the customer can be serviced quickly. There is also an option for customers to track an order to keep them updated every step of the way for seamless and safe exchanges.
Our leadership team is meeting with various manufacturers on integrating robotics into our kitchens with the goal to automate our high traffic locations for efficiency and accuracy. The primary benefit of utilizing this form of technology is speed – lowering delivery times and maximizing high-volume opportunity. At the same time, we need to ensure our quality standards are maintained.
Third-party delivery is booming and Marco’s Pizza will continue to be at the forefront, answering demand. One way to ensure customers the same great experience via a third-party app, like UberEats, Grubhub, Postmates or DoorDash, is to optimize your kitchen for those types of orders. We’re piloting virtual kitchens and ghost kitchens as we speak with franchisees across the country. These virtual or ghost kitchens are all about efficiency in a shared kitchen space, which also allow us to easily use third-party delivery drivers and provide a quick-to-open format.
Even as humanity re-emerges from this pandemic, the demand for convenience and safety is here to stay. This makes it essential for food and beverage companies to prioritize innovation and lead with technology. By using the pandemic to reflect on weaknesses, industry professionals have a unique opportunity to rise above and succeed for years to come.