Pickup lockers can become an efficient and convenient solution for handling the increasing challenge of restaurant pickup and delivery orders.
Pickup lockers offer a quick, often simple, safe and secure way to pick up food without staff contact. Often resembling traditional lockers in appearance, foodservice operators fill these units’ roomy compartments with individual orders. In many cases, customers and delivery drivers receive a unique code they input on a keypad or touch screen to access their food, though locker technology continues to evolve rapidly.
Generally, these systems are designated for customers who order online or from an on-site kiosk as well as for in-house or third-party delivery drivers. Depending on the size, operators can place orders in one locker or split orders between two or three when space becomes an issue.
While some restaurants may consolidate orders for customers and delivery into one pickup locker unit, others may designate separate units and/or areas for each to minimize or eliminate wait times for access, potential crowding or lines.
Sheet metal is a common material used when manufacturing pickup lockers. Some feature glass doors to make it easier for guests to see the contents inside the locker. Many lines come in a variety of colors, with some offering branding capabilities on the exterior or door. Interior lighting, including LED options, is available with some lockers.
Front-load-only and flow-through lockers with two-sided access for staff loading and customer pickups are available. Operators can choose between floor-mounted, countertop, built-in or freestanding units. Common configurations include the smaller 2 by 2 with a total of 4 lockers and a larger system of 4 lockers tall by 3 wide for a total of 12 spaces.
Compartments are modular with varying sizes. Typical dimensions are 1 foot tall by 1 foot wide and 16 inches deep or 40 inches tall by 40 inches wide and 22 inches deep. Custom sizes and shapes are also available from some suppliers to conform to the designated pickup space and operation’s volume.
Ambient locker types can hold both hot and cold food items. Some lockers feature heating or cooling systems built in to keep food at specified temperatures during storage. Timers on some units keep food hot or cold for a designated period of time, typically up to 45 minutes.
As this segment grows, expect technological innovations to keep emerging. For example, some units utilize advanced controllers and interfaces that can connect numerous satellite units or lockers to one controller.
Software suites also are available that provide restaurant operators with detailed data and analytics on pickup volume and the time it takes food to travel from the kitchen to the locker to being picked up. In addition, locker functionality can be linked with a restaurant’s branded app for customer use and marketing capabilities.