KFC trials world first drive through hi-tech outlet in Newcastle

KFC is opening a unique fast food outlet in Australia as new technology rushes to meet customer expectations of quicker delivery times and more streamlined service.

The KFC outlet in Newcastle, NSW, is the company’s first store in the world to be drive through only. If successful, the idea may be rolled out nationally and internationally.

Using hi technology sculptured to meet KFC’s needs, the Newcastle store allows customers to place their orders using an app then drive through and collect their meal.

The sweeping changes also offer customers the chance to place their orders from their car using a computer at one of the five stations at the outlet. When the meal is ready, customers drive to the main window and collect their food.

The dramatic transformation of its ordering and delivery services is seen as KFC accepting the challenge from other major players in the fast food industry like Menulog to get food to customers as quickly as possible.

A KFC spokesperson said the newly devised strategy was because of increasing consumer preference for greater use of digital technology when selecting fast food.

“About five per cent of ordering currently takes place on digital platforms. That is expected to grow to about 30 per cent in just three years,” the spokeswoman told news.com.au.

“Click and collect is just becoming such a natural part of everyday life, and people are much more comfortable purchasing on a mobile phone now than ever before.

“Our own data shows customers are ordering through online channels more and more.”

She said digital ordering at KFC has doubled year-on-year for the past five years.

“That shows people are looking for faster, easier, and more convenient options. The drive-through only format is an opportunity to provide a faster and more seamless ordering and collect experience,” she added.

The KFC strategy duplicates a growing focus by the food delivery and retail world towards increased use of digital technology without any need for a cash register manned by staff.

Coles, Woolworths, Target and Big W have already embraced digital shopping.

Amazon is nominally the world leader in the field and is quickly being joined by operators in Australia

Supermarket chain 7-Eleven has opened a click and go store in Melbourne’s Richmond which is complete cash, cheque and card free.

Shoppers simply pick the goods they want and use their smart phone to pay the account. There is no traditional checkout counter with an employee totalling the cost of a consumer’s spending. 

As digital shopping increasingly takes a leading role in consumer spending there is little doubt there will be casualties as fewer staff will be needed to man checkout counters and pay booths.

“It’s hard to say where it’ll end but definitely food is catching up to the likes of airlines and banks in terms of how customers are starting to access their meals,” the KFC spokeswoman told news.com.au

“We’re excited about how this sits alongside our strategy of supporting delivery as a need our customers have.

“Drivers play a pretty important role to making sure our customers’ wait times are shorter and that they’re getting their food as fresh as possible.

“If we can make it easier for drivers to collect the food and get it to our customers then our customers will get a better experience.”

Queensland University of Technology retail expert Gary Mortimer said businesses were continually blending digital and physical elements into their service model.

He told news.com.au that the KFC technology KFC was innovative and would reduce wait times.

“While customers can still verbally place an order, this second option allows customers to pre-order and pay on their smartphones, drive up and collect.”

“While convenient, (KFC) consumers still need to park, key in a four-digit code and wait while their order is being freshly prepared,” Dr Mortimer said.