Technology & Equipment

Considering Food Lockers? Here Are Four Questions To Ask

Apex Order Pickup Solutions

Smart food lockers are becoming standard amenities on dozens of college campuses, as well as in healthcare systems and business and industry dining programs. These solutions help operators provide convenient, digital order pickup in less than 10 seconds, while streamlining employee labor and ensuring the right order goes to the right customer, every time.

Foodservice directors might find it hard to decide if smart food lockers would be a good addition to their operation, however.  After all, every dining program operates under unique conditions and parameters. Yet, they also share many of the same challenges. Use the following questions as a guide. If the answer to any is “yes,” it's likely that smart food lockers will provide valuable improvements in guest experience, labor efficiency, order accuracy and digital transformation.

  1. Do mobile order guests have to wait in line to pick up their orders?

In recent years, digital ordering has become common in college and university dining as well as on corporate and healthcare campuses. Guests love it because it’s a time-saver that lets them order and pay in advance, then pick up when they have a break in their schedule. However, as digital ordering grows, there can be bottlenecks for pickup during peak hours if guests have to wait for a team member to hand them their order.

Smart food locker solutions let guests pick up their orders in less than 10 seconds, without waiting for an employee’s help. For students rushing between classes, or busy workers trying to squeeze their lunch into a half-hour break, this is invaluable. Picking up from smart food lockers is a quick, reliable experience that gives guests more time to enjoy their meal, instead of standing in line. Another advantage is shorter “dwell times” (the time the order spends inside the food locker). Many onsite dining programs find that since guests are close by, their order dwell times are often an average of just four to five minutes. This indicates most guests are indeed timing their orders to coincide with their arrival time, picking up promptly and heading on their way.  

  1. Are there challenges keeping the foodservice team fully staffed?

Although labor shortages have eased a bit in the past year, keeping the dining team fully staffed is still difficult for most foodservice operators. As wages increase, it’s also vitally important to make the best use of each team member’s time. Many operations find it’s not practical to dedicate an employee to hand off to-go orders. Instead, they find greater value in focusing employees' efforts on order production or improving the guest experience.

With smart food lockers like those from Apex Order Pickup Solutions, employees no longer have to hand guests to-go orders. Workers simply make the order, load it into the locker, and move on to the next order.  When cinema chain Santikos Entertainment added smart food lockers, they knew guests would love getting their orders faster. What they didn’t expect was such significant labor savings. COO Rob Lehman said, “We’ve found that each locker saves us the equivalent of eight labor hours every day.” Across its 10 locations, Santikos reassigned 29 employees from food order handoff to tasks that improve the guest experience.

  1. Do orders “walk away” or get picked up by the wrong person?

Keeping track of dozens of bags of mobile orders every day can be a challenge for any team. Simply placing orders on a counter or pickup shelf makes them vulnerable to being taken by the wrong person, whether intentionally or not. Then, when the real owner of that order finds out that their order is missing, they’re rightfully upset. A team member must drop what they’re doing to quickly remake that order, so guests in line have longer waits. Guest service suffers and food costs rise.

The Carolina Food Co. at the University of South Carolina solved this challenge with Smart Food Lockers from Apex. Guests can order ahead using the Grubhub Campus app, and employees load orders into a secure compartment of the locker. This keeps orders secure until the right guest arrives, then they can pick it up in less than 10 seconds. There are fewer disruptions and hassles for employees, too, so they can focus on order production and better guest service.

  1. Is data missing for the last step of the digital order journey?

Foodservice managers rely on accurate data to evaluate the performance of their operation, from the moment an order is placed until it’s given to the customer. However, for to-go orders, the data collection often ends the moment the order is placed on the counter or shelf for pickup. Managers don’t know how long the order sat there, when it was picked up or who took it. 

When operators integrate their Smart Food Lockers from Apex with their mobile app or other enterprise system, they create an end-to-end digital order chain of custody. This provides data that helps brands effectively manage and continuously improve the handling of off-premises orders, all while enhancing the guest’s experience.

Offering smart food lockers brings many benefits to foodservice operations, from order security and labor efficiency to accurate pickup data. More importantly, they provide fast, reliable pickup experiences that bring guests back more often, leaving no doubt that they are a great choice for managing digital orders

This post is sponsored by Apex Order Pickup Solutions