January 15, 2021, GREENWOOD VILLAGE, CO- Dining services at one of CulinArt’s newest accounts features innovative uses of technology that reflect unique needs brought on by the 2020 pandemic and pave the way for future openings to occur under similar conditions. The Plaza Bistro opened on Nov 2 with modified service to support a limited population of about 125. Offerings include a grill for breakfast and lunch, Quik Pik salads and sandwiches, packaged snacks, and beverages. Concepts and stations will be added as population grows toward full occupancy of 1,200 this year.
“The unit is the first in my region to be 100% cashier-less,” says Area Vice President John Drexel, who oversees accounts in eastern states including Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida, plus Colorado. Instead of at registers, customers pay for meals via one of two methods: the Eatify app, which allows them to peruse menu offerings, place orders, and make payment on a cellphone; or one of two Nextep kiosks, which were installed a month after opening. The Eatify app and the Nextep kiosks offer associates the ability to customize selections such as type of bread, cheese, toppings or sauce they would like on a Crispy Chicken Sandwich (one example). Eatify also allows customers to use their phone to select and pay for any bar-coded items via its Scan-and-pay module. “Scan-and-pay is helpful in a scenario whereby I ordered my burger and fries at the kiosk but forgot to select a beverage and bag of chips,” says Ali Bernardi, VP Marketing and Brand Strategy. “While I’m waiting for my burger, I can grab my bar-coded extras and checkout right on my phone.” Customers can also return to the kiosk to order these items if they prefer, she adds.
Each application has a database of menu items, prices, portion sizes, and other details, and integrating them requires a coupling of the two databases, according to Paul Calice, director of digital strategy, B&I, for Compass Digital Labs. The availability of the app and the kiosks gives customers a fair amount of choice that traditional payment systems cannot match, including mobile ordering with contactless pick-up, in-store ordering via kiosk with contactless pick-up, or individual scan-and-pay functionality.
According to Tony Frisch, CulinArt food service director, most customers use Eatify to place their orders. “That is what we had available when we opened initially,” Frisch says. “They are starting to warm up to the Nextep kiosks now—maybe about 10% usage and 5% on Eatify’s Scan and Pay. I would expect these percentages to ‘roller coaster’ quite dramatically once there are more people allowed on site.”
Just how much the scales tip toward either technology remains to be seen. “Folks seem to prefer being able to come into the café, pick up their order, and walk out,” Frisch explains, “without having to stand around in the café for more than a few minutes.” The limited variety of concepts may play a role in influencing that behavior, as well as the fact that “everything else is a scannable impulse or grab-and-go item,” he adds, especially bottled beverages.