Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Heavenly Hot Dogs! Retail POS to the Cloud

The Melt, a fast-growing eatery invented by the creator of the Flip video camera system, has some interesting new ideas about selling and delivering food in their stores.

While flat-panel TVs are in many bars and restaurants, patrons eyes at The Melt seem fixed on their "Order Board" display in the store or through their smartphone (note the QR code at the pickup counter).  Anyone who has stood at one of Apple's Genius Bars knows the feeling of watching their appointment come up.  The similarity to Apple might be due to Ron Johnson's presence on The Melt's Board of Directors.

Another striking similarity with Apple's retail vision is the Personal Pickup option.  Apple customers use their smartphone to place orders and pay in advance using their iTunes account, then pick up their items in the store.

According to their marketing literature, "The Melt uses mobile technology that allows customers to remotely place a meal order from their computer or mobile phone and pick it up at any Melt location, always hot and ready, anytime. Every Melt location knows about every customer order, so a customer never needs to decide when or where to pick up their meal. After ordering, the customer will receive a QR code on their smartphone that can be scanned at any restaurant location, allowing them to skip the line and pick up their freshly-made order within minutes."

While the store experience is important, the taste of the food has to match.  Other food services startups are attempting to bring good food to customers in a streamlined way.  Lyfe Kitchen is testing their systems and menus and could benefit from an Order Board and smartphone ordering.

The infrastructure for remote ordering, displaying pickup queues on Order Boards, etc are slowly coming forward.  Yorder has deployed in-stadium purchasing using PayPal and their smartphone apps.  Customers can watch a baseball game, use their smartphone to order and have their food brought to their seat.  Yorder has developed the back end systems to enable any mobile kitchen or food truck to receive smartphone orders for pick-up or delivery.

We think it's worth paying attention to these experiments.