US 20060006025 A1
A system and method of queuing orders locates data-entry modules relative to a pickup location such that a customer who places an order after a customer who placed an earlier order can be signaled to approach a pickup location before the first customer if the second customer's order is ready before the first customer's order. The system can signal a customer to wait in a predetermined location until the order is ready or can signal the customer to approach the pickup location.
1. A drive-through operation system, comprising:
a data-receiving module;
a data-entry module capable of transmitting data indicative of an order for requested items by a customer to the data-receiving module; and
a signaling device coupled to the data-receiving module to indicate to the customer when to approach a pickup location to pick up the requested items.
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8. A method for receiving orders in a drive-through operation, the method comprising the steps of:
receiving an order for at least one item from a customer at a data-entry module;
transmitting the order for at least one item as data from the data-entry module to a data-receiving module;
communicating from the data-receiving module to a signaling device that the at least one item is ready for pick-up; and
signaling the customer, using the signaling device, to approach a pickup location to pick up the at least one item.
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This application claims priority to copending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/602,703, filed on Jun. 24, 2003, which claims benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/390,954, filed on Jun. 24, 2002, the entire disclosures of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.
The present invention relates to the field of drive-through business operations and, more particularly, to drive-through businesses that prepare items to order.
Drive-through or curbside delivery is becoming increasingly important in the current restaurant industry. Typically, forty to seventy percent of quick-serve restaurant (QSR) revenues come from drive-through customers, and curbside delivery is becoming an increasingly large component of sales in the fast-casual restaurant segment. Unfortunately, current ordering paradigms are fraught with problems. Specifically, current ordering paradigms utilize a single-queue approach that makes customers with small, quick orders wait behind customers with large complex orders. In addition, system capacity is constrained by processing time of the slowest orders and a practical way to significantly expand capacity is not readily available. These problems result in decreased customer satisfaction and significant loss of revenues. Unfortunately, potential customers may choose another restaurant if they see that the drive-through queue is unacceptably long.
Once the order has been confirmed (verbally or by monitor), the driver proceeds toward the drive-through pickup window WP, in queue behind any previous cars, where he submits his payment to the window person and then receives his food. Some restaurants use a two-window system during busy times, whereby the driver pays at a payment window W$ and receives his food at the pickup window WP.
This approach has a number of problems:
What is needed is a system that can overcome shortcomings of prior drive-through paradigms.
Embodiments of the present invention provide a system and method for queuing drive-through operations.
Briefly described, in architecture, one embodiment of the system, among others, can be implemented as follows. A drive-through operation system having a data-receiving module and first and second data entry modules capable of communicating with the data-receiving module. The data entry modules are capable of transmitting data indicative of an order for requested items by a respective first or second customer to the data-receiving module. The data-receiving module being capable of generating a signal that the respective first or second order is available for pickup and transmits the signal to the customer to approach a pick-up location.
The present invention can also be viewed as providing methods for queuing drive-through operations. In this regard, one embodiment of such a method, among other, can be broadly summarized by the following steps: receiving a first order from a first customer, receiving a second order from a second customer; and signaling the first customer to approach a pick-up location if the first order is ready for pickup and signaling the second customer to approach the pick-up location if the second order is ready for pickup.
Other systems, methods, features, and advantages of the present invention will be or become apparent to one with skill in the art upon examination of the following drawings and detailed description. It is intended that all such additional systems, methods, features, and advantages be included within this description, be within the scope of the present invention, and be protected by the accompanying claims.
May aspects of the invention can be better understood with reference to the following drawings. The components in the drawings are not necessarily to scale, emphasis instead being placed upon clearly illustrating the principles of the present invention. Moreover, in the drawing, like reference numerals designate corresponding parts throughout the several views.
The present invention is a system and method for processing orders for items to be prepared, for example food items ordered through a kiosk at a fast food restaurant.
The drive-through operation system of certain embodiments of the present invention can be implemented in hardware, software, firmware, or a combination thereof. In the preferred embodiment(s), the drive-through operation system is implemented in software or firmware that is stored in a memory and that is executed by a suitable instruction execution system. If implemented in hardware, as in an alternative embodiment, the drive-through operation system can be implemented with any or a combination of the following technologies, which are all well known in the art: a discrete logic circuit(s) having logic gates for implementing logic functions upon data signals, an application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) having appropriate combinational logic gates, a programmable gate array(s) (PGA), a field programmable gate array (FPGA), etc.
After the order has been received, the customer may be signaled either audibly or visually to wait for the order to be prepared. The audible signal may be broadcast over a speaker, preferably located in the kiosk K1, K2, K3. The visual signaling may be accomplished through the kiosk K1, K2, K3, a signaling device SD in view of the customer, or a moveable gate G disposed between the customer and the pickup window WP. The signaling device SD may be a light or message board disposed on the kiosk K1, K2, K3 or in the vicinity of the pickup window WP.
When the order is ready the customer is signaled to approach the pickup window WP where their food is presented immediately. Benefits of the present invention may include:
Not all drive-through operations lend themselves to the configuration in
When an order is complete, the appropriate customer can be signaled by a signaling device SD to go to the pickup window WP to pick up the order. In this configuration, a path from the kiosk K1, K2, K3 to the pickup window WP is not blocked by other vehicles waiting for their orders to be completed.
An alternative configuration is shown in
The service indicator SI, on or near the kiosk K1, may indicate that the kiosk K1 is available and in operation. The service indicator SI may include a pair of lights (e.g., Red and Green) that indicate whether the kiosk K1 is available for use (i.e., in-service or out-of-service). These lights may be visible from a distance and let customers know whether they should enter that lane or avoid it. Alternatively a controllable gate G may signal that the kiosk K1 is available and in operation. If a kiosk K1, through its internal diagnostics, detects that it is no longer operational, or if the operator, through the in-store console sets a kiosk's state to out-of-service, then the out-of-service indicator will light. Otherwise, the terminal is considered in-service and the in-service indicator will light.
The customer may select desired items using the touch screen TS1 or the customer may select desired items by simply speaking into the microphone M/S. The kiosk K1, K2 may employ currently available voice-recognition technology to convert the audible signals into data that can be transmitted to the in-store console IC. The customer may choose a payment method and submit payment (e.g., by credit card, debit card, cash, RFID, or fingerprint identification) through the payment device PD at the kiosk. If the customer was previously identified, the payment method associated with the identification system (e.g., RFID) can be selected to avoid the need to re-present the identification. Alternatively, the customer can opt to pay at a separate payment window P$ or the pick-up window PW.
After payment is received, the customer may receive a receipt with an order number that is presented to customer via a receipt printer P. The customer may then be signaled to wait for order preparation before approaching the pick-up window PW. The order may be submitted to the restaurant food preparation system via the Restaurant Manager RM component or alternatively a preparation slip may be printed inside the restaurant.
When the order has been prepared and assembled, the drive-through operator in the restaurant R may press a symbol for the order number on the in-store console IC which signals the customer that the order is ready at the pick-up window PW. The customer then presents the receipt at the pickup window PW and is handed the completed order. The operator then signals the system that the order has been delivered.
It is desirable that a large majority of orders, if not all of the orders, are placed without assistance from a human operator. Occasionally, however, a customer may require assistance or a kiosk may be compromised (e.g., out of printer paper). If a customer needs assistance, the customer may request assistance by pressing a call button CB. This can alternatively be a virtual button on the touchscreen or a verbal signal, such as saying “Help Me”. The kiosk might respond with a “Please Wait” prompt. The system can be programmed to send a signal to the in-store console IC, which causes the operator's headset to be connected to the microphone/speaker M/S within the kiosk K1, K2. An audible signal (e.g., beep) alerts the operator that a customer is on the line for help. The operator has the ability to change the mode of the display on the in-store console IC by touching/actuating the touch screen TS2 and is able to see the same display as the customer that is being assisted. The operator can either talk the customer through the problem or use his own touchscreen TS2 to complete the customer's order. The system is capable of allowing the operator to toggle back and forth between the customer's screen and normal functions (e.g., confirming orders) so that he can continue to present food to other customers while assisting a given customer.
If a second customer requests help while a first is being helped, the operator can be signaled, for example, by an audible tone. The in-store console IC then allows the operator to switch to the second customer at that time or leave that customer “on hold” until the first customer is satisfied. In this way, the operator can be helping any number of customers while still processing deliveries.
The Restaurant Manager RM component records transaction data including food items, payment and customer information, and timings of each step in the process as shown in
An Operations Analysis Application analyses the statistics and presents them to restaurant personnel to support management decisions, such as, but not limited to:
Although the preferred embodiments have been disclosed in relation to a drive-through restaurant, the method and system also has applicability for other drive-through applications, such as pharmacies, grocery stores, bakeries, liquor stores, and donut shops, where a customer can place an order and/or pick it up without having to get out of their vehicle.
It should be emphasized that the above-described embodiments of the present invention are merely some possible examples of implementation, set forth for a clear understanding of the principles of the invention. Many variations and modifications may be made to the above-described embodiments of the invention without departing substantially from the spirit and principles of the invention. All such modifications and variations are intended to be included herein within the scope of this disclosure and the present invention, and protected by the following claims.