By Pedro Pereira, Business Solutions magazine
A solution that allows fast-food orders to be paid for using toll tags is quickly leading to additional sales for this solutions provider/ISV (independent software vendor).
If an electronic tag on a car windshield can pay road tolls, it should be able to pay for fast-food orders at the drive-through. It would speed up payments and, by capturing information about the tag owner, allow order takers to personalize service.
That’s what Eli Grinvald, president of solutions provider and ISV iDriveThru.com, reasoned, but to test his concept, he needed a willing customer. A franchisee that owns 21 fast-food locations in the New York-New Jersey area agreed to pilot his application, which leverages POS and payment verification systems to accept payments through in-vehicle toll tags.
The prospect of improving the drive-through experience appealed to the customer, Grinvald says. “Imagine using this technology to reduce drivethrough transaction time, enabling merchants to greet their customers by name and recognize their order preferences just as they are approaching the drivethrough ordering station,” he says. “Most people who use electronic tolling systems simply love them. It is faster and more convenient and usually confers discounts to the toll payer.” For the iDriveThru application to work properly, it would have to integrate with the franchisee’s POS (point of sale) system and a middleware payment verification system from Datacap Systems Inc., called NETePay. Contacted by Grinvald, Datacap agreed to help with the project.
RFID Readers At The Drive-Through
As many as 8 of 10 of the franchisee’s customers have windshield toll tags issued by E-ZPass, the East Coast’s predominant electronic toll system, says Grinvald. To collect payment through E-ZPass tags, iDriveThru installed an RFID reader at one of the franchisee’s drive-throughs.
Tag owners have to register with iDriveThru via the Web to use E-ZPass at the drive-through. When drivers pull in to the payment station, the RFID device reads the tag to determine if it is associated with a registered iDriveThru customer. If so, iDriveThru encrypts and transmits the details of the payment card linked to the iDriveThru account to Datacap’s NETePay system.
NETePay, in turn, sends the information to the merchant as if a card has been swiped. “iDriveThru and Datacap designed our solution to closely mimic the procedure for submitting a payment when a physical card is swiped,” Grinvald says.
iDriveThru’s integration with Datacap was straightforward, he says. The vendor’s one-to-many interface controls, which support electronic payments through every major payment processor, simplified integration.
The designing, building, and implementation of the iDriveThru solution took nine months. That included testing the system for six months at a drive-through dry cleaner to make sure it would work before adapting it to the more challenging environment of the fast-food franchise where the menu is more varied and extensive, the drive-through is busier, and time is of the essence for patrons and restaurant alike.
Rather than rush implementation, Grinvald wanted to methodically try different iterations of the solution and address exceptional-use cases to perfect the system. “We took our time and studied the behavior of the drive-through,” says Grinvald.
No Training Necessary
The first location with iDriveThru is fully operational and already producing results. It is the only place in the world where patrons pay for fast-food orders with toll tags, says Grinvald. iDriveThru has shaved 15 seconds off the average 2-minute drive-through stop, shortening the long lines that tend to discourage patrons, and potentially increasing overall volume of sales.
Since the RFID reader works automatically, no staff training on the solution is necessary. Order takers, however, have been trained on new ways to greet customers, now that they can capture names and preferences through the system.
Grinvald says the iDriveThru system also has been installed at a second location. Other locations will follow, and Grinvald believes as other merchants see the system in action, his client roster will quickly expand.