The Post-COVID Future of Quick Service and Fast Casual Restaurants

As we start to think about life in a post-COVID world, one of the main questions is what part of our revamped lifestyles are here to stay? Financial crises, natural disasters, and societal developments always lead to innovation and transformation, and COVID-19 is no different. Among the trends that will be long-lasting is the shift away from touch-based interactions toward touchless ones. We believe that the future is touchless everything.

In the quick-serve restaurant (QSR) industry, touchless everything means the whole experience from ordering, menus, payment, drive-thru and pickup. As dining in has been limited, the demand for drive-thru and pickup has increased exponentially. Increased demand, though, has its downsides. Long lines mean poor customer experience and lost sales opportunities as drivers may be deterred from waiting.

In fact, according to one study, the use of digital menu boards, which shaves off 12.3 seconds of throughput, can result in nearly $28,000 in savings per location, equating to hundreds of millions of dollars for large QSRs. The reverse is true in an industry that saw wait times increase by nearly 30 seconds across the board. This means that digital innovation is key to removing friction from the ordering, payment, and pickup interactions so brands can serve more customers, faster and safer.

In addition to digital menus, the use of mobile technologies paired with biometrics provide other opportunities for improved customer experiences. For example, with facial recognition, a guest may simply drive-up to the digital menu and be automatically identified to gain access to personalized special offers, recall a previous order, redeem loyalty rewards and make a payment. This saves time and gives the customer the type of experience that drives incremental sales and creates strong brand loyalty.

Creating Wow Experiences with Facial Recognition

The NEC I:Delight platform is specially designed to create these wow experiences. Adding the I:Delight platform to new or existing apps is simple. Users can easily register by taking a quick selfie for their online profile to create a Digital ID. Once registered, they can simply log-in to the mobile app with their face, or in store at a kiosk, to place an order and approve payment using their secure Digital ID. If a guest is picking up their order in-person, a simple glance at a tablet can alert staff that they have arrived to ensure they receive their order quickly and safely.

Drive-Thru Ordering and Payment

The NEC I:Delight platform can also be incorporated at the drive-thru for enhanced, personalized service and operational efficiency. When a customer pulls-up to the drive-thru, the platform recognizes their Digital ID and alerts staff to the customer’s arrival. Stored preferences and targeted promotions appear on the digital menu screen, and staff can greet the customer by name. If a payment method is saved in the customer’s loyalty account, face verification or a saved PIN is all that is needed to complete the transaction.

According to a recent study commissioned by the Kellogg School of Management, Columbia Graduate School of Business and Harvard Business School, every 7 seconds saved in drive-thru wait times equates to about 1 percent increase in sales. This makes both the customer experience and business value benefit of the NEC I:Delight platform hard to overstate:

  • Increases throughput of customers with a more personalized experience.
  • Easily monitors customer purchasing behaviors to better anticipate customer needs and offer targeted promotions.
  • Brings up pre-order or previous order for faster transactions times, minimizing the time for order customizations.
  • Offers seamless, contactless payments for a faster and safer experience.

NEC is a trusted leader in facial recognition, ranked number one in biometric innovation by NIST for five consecutive years. With over 1,000 deployments in 70 countries around the world and $2.6 billion invested annually in research and development, NEC is the preferred partner for fast-casual restaurants looking for facial recognition-enabled solutions for an enhanced customer experience.

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2020 Disruptions Propel NEC’s Digital Transformations

NEC’s 2020 Innovations Increase Safety, Business Continuity and Digital Transformations

Challenging and chaotic are choice words to describe 2020. But during the healthcare crisis and weather emergencies, everyday heroes emerged.

We applaud the frontline workers, healthcare providers and first responders. We also recognize IT and telecommunications professionals, network administrators and data managers who supported critical technology infrastructures.

The immense disruptions in 2020 propelled innovations in the way we live and work. While NEC is continuously advancing in the areas of communications, security, collaboration platforms and customer experience, we redoubled our efforts last year.

Safer, secure contactless touchpoints
As we move forward, public health and safety remain top priorities. For individuals and organizations, technologies that support both frictionless access and social distancing measures are now more important than ever.

That’s the reason we prioritized development of “touchless” touchpoints to reduce the spread of infectious diseases. Our revolutionary approach to Digital Transformation (DX), NEC I:Delight, includes an advanced, secure and scalable platform to support contactless, yet robust customer experiences.

Although we began our journey toward touchless technology long before the current crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic reinforces our commitment to continue advancing our biometric and AI solutions for aviation, immigration, retail and hospitality industries, healthcare, education and more.

Screening travelers to ensure health and security
A highlight of 2020 is the Hawaii Department of Transportation selecting an NEC-led team for deployment of a thermal screening solution at all five state-run airports.

NEC NeoFace® Thermal Express leverages thermal sensing and facial recognition technologies to detect elevated body temperature (EBT) and alert screeners to anyone with a temperature of 100.4 or greater.

In addition, we introduced a partnership with SITA, a global provider of IT and communications infrastructure for 80% of the world’s airports. NEC’s Advanced Identity Matcher – Edge Source (AIM-ES) technology uses the most accurate face matching algorithms as validated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

In combination with our NeoFace algorithm, we deliver an all-in-one solution capable of creating recognition galleries and templates as well as providing identity matching and scoring. It easily integrates with the SITA Smart Path whole-journey identity management solution, which creates a specialized application for airport travelers. Because NEC’s I:Delight uses an individual’s unique ID, it is more secure than other online money transfer services.

New generation cloud communications and collaborations
The way businesses work has changed. Corporations must be flexible and ready to adapt to teleworking at a moment’s notice.

For 120 years, NEC has pioneered Information and Communications Technologies, including Smart Enterprise cloud computing and Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS). As the current global market share leader in on-premises business phone systems, we were pleased to announce a global partnership with Intermedia, a leading provider of cloud-based communications solutions.

Our collaborations with Intermedia launched a new generation of our UNIVERGE BLUE® cloud communications portfolio. The new UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT and UNIVERGE BLUE ENGAGE solutions are reliable and easy to deploy, while remaining highly scalable and extremely cost-effective.

In addition to advancing business continuity, more employees will be able to work safely from home while increasing their productivity. The new UNIVERGE BLUE is also easy for channel partners to sell, install and support.

Resellers, check out 8 Great Reasons to Become a UNVERGE BLUE Channel Partner.

Reduce telecommunications costs
With the surge in network connectivity requirements, businesses are looking for ways to control costs while maintaining reliability and security.

We launched Network Connect to help cut enterprise telecommunications costs up to 30% or more annually. The intelligent call routing solution uses AI and machine learning to establish the most optimal call path from hundreds of global carriers.

You don’t need to invest in additional infrastructure or change anything about your business operations. NEC’s Network Connect is the first call-routing solution that gives enterprise access to the wholesale telecom market.

NEC Visionary Week
Another area that we reimagined in 2020 is NEC’s iEXPO. NEC Visionary Week was a virtual event packed with powerful insights to fuel future decisions. Featuring global problem solvers and tech influencers, the agenda included ideas for conquering COVID-19 and carving out a new normal, harnessing AI, 5G and digital transformations to improve economies, business operations and our societies.

If you missed Visionary Week in December, you can still watch the enlightening content on-demand until January 30th. Click here to sign-up now.

As we look forward to 2021 and beyond, we thank you for your partnership. Our commitment to innovations, digital transformation, safety, security and business continuity remains steadfast. Working together, we can build greater agility and resilience in enterprise systems to create a healthier future. Happy New Year!

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From Vision to Fruition: Creating Biometric CX Solutions

NEC is looking at ‘reopening’ from the perspective of returning stronger!

A top priority for businesses today is to create touchless touchpoints that deliver a frictionless, personalized, secure and seamless customer experience.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many industries around the world to change their best practices. Now more than ever, it is imperative for businesses to have a clear reopening plan that isn’t just “reopen the doors” and “return to normal.” Instead, these plans need to address customer and employee concerns simultaneously.

The first step toward creating a unique customer experience is understanding the current business challenges and new innovative possibilities. NEC has partnered with Fresh Consulting to deliver a “Design Thinking” process that reduces risk and maximizes the opportunity to deliver an improved customer experience.

Throughout the discovery process, we will work with your organization to determine how to align internal stakeholders, capitalize on opportunity, mitigate risk and deploy efficiently to maximize ROI.

This proven process includes the following methodologies:

  1. Research
  2. Strategy
  3. Rapid Prototyping
  4. Evaluation
  5. Deployment
  6. Future Roadmap Development

NEC has been a leader in advanced biometric recognition solutions for more than 50 years. Our touchless technology portfolio is used across multiple industries.

Solutions such as contactless payment and face authentication, thermal screening for elevated body temperature (EBT) for customers entering a store or employees entering a warehouse, along with hygienic protocols, can all make a difference when returning to work.

NEC, along with Fresh Consulting, can help drive long-term success for your organization. To learn more and download our white paper visit www.necam.com/fresh.

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Hawaii Department of Transportation selects NEC thermal solution for screening travelers

Business and travel shutdowns and mandatory 14-day quarantines have proven to slow the spread of COVID-19, albeit at great cost to local economies. States are now challenged with reopening commerce without causing a spike in infections, which could again overwhelm hospitals and lead to further lockdowns.

Looking for a safe way to bring travelers back into the state and reduce delays and bottlenecks in the deplaning process, the Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) ultimately chose an NEC-led team for deployment of a thermal screening solution at all five state-run airports. The HDOT project award includes equipment, installation and a 10-year maintenance plan that will keep airport traffic flowing safely into the future. Approximately 90 percent of the deployment and maintenance will be completed by local Hawaiian businesses.

The NEC solution leverages thermal sensing and facial recognition technologies to detect elevated body temperature (EBT) and alert screeners to anyone with a temperature of 100.4 or greater. The system, which is being deployed in three phases before the end of 2020, can detect faces wearing masks covering the nose and mouth, allowing a thermal sensor to screen passengers for elevated body temperature so that they can be called aside for additional health screening.

Prior to deployment, members of the Hawaii National Guard were manually scanning deplaning passengers for elevated body temperature. The new thermal screening system speeds the process and reduces potential exposure of pathogens from infected passengers to human screeners.

As travel volumes ramp up in Hawaii, the facial recognition component of the system will temporarily and anonymously track passengers who screen positive for elevated body temperature until a human screener is able to meet the passenger for a secondary evaluation. Passenger image and temperature data collected by the system is deleted after 30 minutes.

NEC NeoFace® Thermal Express technology empowers both government agencies and private commercial entities to check temperatures of foot traffic, without having to create long lines or bottlenecks for individual identification and temperature checks. In a time when social distancing is needed, the flow-through system promotes safety and hygiene by isolating EBT and identifying the source on the move.

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A Post-COVID Touchless World for Federal Agencies

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began to affect the United States, the private and public sectors have started working remotely and have moved their operations almost completely online. Federal agencies began to accelerate the adoption of remote and work-from-home strategies to stay connected to employees and stakeholders while ensuring the health and safety of everyone. Even the Supreme Court hosted teleconference hearings for the first time in history to maintain social distancing.

One positive outcome that will last well beyond the pandemic is the wide-spread adoption of new technologies. Digital Transformation (DX) is occurring faster than ever and will continue to accelerate as we look for ways to reopen our country, establish a new normal, maintain a healthy society, and stimulate economic activities.

NEC’s proven touchless technology and expertise support the ongoing mission of a new, safer and hygienic experience.

DX is inevitable in the ever-evolving landscape of keeping citizens informed and safe. As the country begins to reopen and employees head back to work, federal agencies need a partner to make their DX journey easier, discovering paths forward to using the cloud, artificial intelligence (AI), and automation. Challenges lie ahead for federal agencies as they seek to ensure ongoing delivery of essential public services while minimizing potential impact to its workforce.

With over 50 years of successfully supporting a diverse range of U.S. federal missions, NEC offers proven touchless services and expertise to support a DX mission for federal agencies that will improve processes, deliver touchless experiences, and make interactions seamlessly safe.

Reduce Risk When Returning to Work

One example of how NEC can help address post-COVID challenges is our secure access management solutions. Gaining physical access to public sector facilities in a contactless and hygienic manner is challenging. Federal agencies, government buildings, military installations, and border ports of entry/exit, just to name a few, are troubled with cumbersome keypads or equipment for ID card scanning, both of which require users to touch several surfaces to gain access. These chokepoints also slow the traffic flow. All these increase the risks of infectious diseases.

Elevated Body Temperature (EBT) Screening

thermal scan exampleBuilt on NEC’s Digital Services Platform with industry-leading sensors and top-ranked NEC biometrics algorithm, the NEC NeoFace® Thermal Express delivers elevated body temperature (EBT) screening that can simultaneously verify identities with face recognition while detecting body temperature – even with face masks on.

When offered standalone and without built-in facial recognition, NEC’s NeoFace Thermal Express simply provides rapid, contactless and hygienic physical access and temperature screening across demanding, high-throughput environments. The solution can help federal agencies hygienically monitor employees and civilians for possible elevated body temperatures, mitigating the potential spread of disease.

Secure, Hygienic Access Management

thermal scan exampleAccess management helps ensure federal employees and private citizens have the appropriate access to secure buildings or other restricted environments.

Our technology can identify whether someone is not wearing a mask in a mandatory area, thereby ensuring federal employees are safeguarded. Combined with elevated body temperature screening, the system identifies not only the individual, but also determines potential health risks before the individual enters a facility.

NEC is Committed to Innovation and Transformation

NEC’s award-winning solutions are backed by rigorous research and development including more than $2.6B invested in R&D annually. NEC’s touchless services powered by our Digital Services Platform can address many issues in a variety of environments, helping government entities adopt DX faster while minimizing the health risk of its employees and private citizens they serve. Ranked #1 for our biometrics algorithms five times in a row by NIST, NEC has the top-notch solutions that make touchpoints touchless in response to the post-COVID world.

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