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Rising to the Challenge: Automate Customer and Delivery Pickups

As if a worldwide pandemic wasn’t bad enough, today’s restaurants are contending with rising food costs, labor challenges and supply chain interruptions that have put many operators over the edge.

According to a July 29, 2022 report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently raised its forecast on food price increases for 2022. The agency now estimates that all food prices will increase between 8.5% and 9.5% in 2022.

This means it is more important than ever to control food costs by working in tandem with vendors, reengineering and/or shrinking menus, purchasing products in bulk such as vegetables and meat, and minimizing waste.

In addition, finding qualified and dedicated staff has become more difficult, as the supply of workers is not keeping up with the demand.

Restaurant operators can create a positive environment where people look forward to coming to work. This starts with compensation and incentives that show the employees they are valued. Also, providing a safe and productive workplace with the appropriate equipment to do the job right and that is properly maintained to prevent breakdowns are key. In addition, safety measures that ensure no injuries occur on the job should be put in place and followed. This will minimize downtime for workers.

Supply chain challenges are out of everyone’s control, so managing this is not so cut and dried. For restaurant operators, it pays to be nimble and versatile. Being prepared with ingredient substitutions and alternative menu offerings goes a long way in handling product shortages that are inevitable in today’s climate.

There’s no doubt many of today’s challenges are unprecedented, but for those who think outside the box and can pivot, these issues can be overcome.

MPP 8I noA INThe Pickup Pod keeps food fresh and secure until it’s ready to be picked up.

Automate Customer and Delivery Pickups

Q&A with Ryan Catarozoli, Key Accounts Sales Manager, Hatco Corp

Q: Talk about the challenges restaurants have with a pickup/delivery service model.

Ryan Catarozoli: One of the big ones is incorrect orders. Restaurants often utilize a shelf for takeout/pickup orders, which means the delivery driver or customer has to search for the correct item. It’s easy to grab the wrong order or leave food behind if there are multiple bags. Also, theft is a concern when food is accessible. 

Q: How can the Pickup Pod™, propelled by Minnow™, address these challenges?

RC: The Hatco Pickup Pod, propelled by Minnow, addresses these challenges, as it creates a convenient and secure pickup zone. It is a bank of eight individually insulated cubbies that are only accessible to those who have a hyperlink on their smartphone to open their reserved space. Restaurants utilize the delivery driver or customer’s phone number to provide this link, the only way to open the cubby. Customers are assured their order is safe, secure and that they are getting what they ordered. And customers can pick up their orders when it’s convenient for them.

Q: How does the Pickup Pod ensure order accuracy?

RC: Customers and delivery drivers don’t have to check orders or look at receipts since the entire order is contained in the Pickup Pod. This avoids restaurants having to remake food due to incorrect orders, reducing food costs and improving customer service. 

Q: How does the Pickup Pod address labor challenges?

RC: In a traditional setting with only a shelf out front for food orders, there can be confusion. This requires a staff member to tend to the area and assist customers and delivery drivers. Also, guests picking up orders for the first time may needlessly stand in line to pick up their order when it is waiting on the shelf. This extra time compromises food quality. The Pickup Pod is intuitive and easy to use. Customers and drivers just scan the QR code they received via text and press ‘open’ on the locker. This allows restaurants to reallocate staff who would normally be working this area for tasks that make the restaurant money.

Q: Discuss how data analytics come into play.

RC: The Pickup Pod provides analytics, including dwell and how many orders went through the locker each day. The administrator has access to the software and also is notified if a locker is malfunctioning or there are connectivity issues. If a chain is operating lockers at multiple sites, the restaurant operator has access to a portal that provides visibility of all the Pickup Pods’ activity. This is a self-contained unit that isn’t required to tie into a point of sale system.

Q: Is the Minnow Pod difficult to set up?

RC: Unlike other locker systems, The Pickup Pod is specifically designed for food and NSF, and UL certified, only takes up less than three square feet of floor space and can be installed anywhere. It requires only a standard 120V electrical outlet and can operate on a WiFi or cellular network.