In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, two Toronto restaurants are using artificial intelligence and machine learning to create a unique, contactless ordering service for their downtown customers.
Box’d and Cubby Smart Kitchen allow customers to order from their phones and arrange a pick-up time best-suited for them and are met with food snuggly packed into a cubby upon arrival.
Located in the financial district, Box’d, an extension of Paramount Fine Foods, leans on a Canadian restaurants technology company, Givex, to give their middle eastern cuisine a technological twist.
A digital contactless cubby restaurant might seem like the “dream” place to eat during a pandemic, but Ahmad Daify, franchisee owner at Box’d Paramount, said that planning for Box’d began way before the COVID-19 pandemic was even on the horizon.
“A lot of people spend a lot of time ordering the food, walking into the food court… and then by the time they get there, their break is gone,” Daify said in an interview.
Box’d opened its doors to customers in June 2020.
Here’s how it works
Click on the green buttons to get details about the board’s various capabilities. Source: Box’d
Most of the technology in the restaurant is powered by Givex.
Customers place an order on the Givex app through their phones around 20 minutes before they need their food, and the staff behind the scenes will start cooking the meal.
Once the customer arrives, their name will appear on one of the cubbies using a kitchen display system, and they can grab their food and go.
If a customer is running late, they can adjust the timing on their phone in the app.
For customers who are not comfortable using the app or need assistance, Box’d offers kiosks in the restaurant powered by Givex.
Meanwhile, a 12-minute walk away on Queen Street East stands Cubby Smart Kitchen, which uses UEAT’s online ordering technology to power its cubby ordering system. Cubby Smart Kitchen offers a versatile menu from Burgers to Poké Bowls.
At Cubby Smart Kitchen, customers can experience cuisine from different parts of the world and enjoy the unique tech experience of digital cubbies.
The restaurant had a later opening day launching in September 2020. But like Box’d, an idea like this takes more than a few months of planning.
Jay Yordi, CEO of Cubby Kitchen, thought of the idea in November 2019. However, when the pandemic struck in March of last year, the team had to halt its opening.
Yordi had a step-by-step process when it came to creating the unique cubby idea.
“We did a lot of research and started putting the pieces together on how it works. We spoke with a lot of third-party companies. We needed a POS and be able to integrate with Uber Eats, SkipTheDishes and DoorDash,” he explained.
Order, grab, and go
In addition to using UEAT, Cubby Kitchen relies on Lightspeed, a Point Of Sale integration company that partners with UEAT.
Customers place their orders on kiosks, and the food order is sent to the kitchen.
The chefs prepare the order and send it back through the cubby. The customers are notified through TV screens and directed to the right cubby.
However, if customers are not comfortable using kiosks, a worker will take their order at the counter.
What Canadians want
According to a Restaurants Canada study partnered with Angus Reid, 59 per cent of Canadians think contactless payment is important to them, and 23 per cent believe it is most important when dining out post-pandemic.
Around a quarter of Canadians under 55 are more likely to eat at restaurants that offer menus on smartphones or through QR codes.
And 51 per cent of Canadians would prefer to choose a restaurant that offers the option to place orders online on an app or website.
Box’d and Cubby Kitchen are two restaurants that fall into what Canadian customers want and are slowly paving the way for more technologically advanced restaurants to develop.
Customers also have the option to order food from both restaurants on third-party apps like Uber Eats and SkipTheDishes, but both Daify and Yordi see more customers getting food in the store or using the restaurant’s own app.
Daify says customers at Box’d enjoy the whole experience. “It’s fun for people.”
At Cubby Kitchen, Yordi says there are usually more customers walking into the restaurant.
“We thought we were gonna get more deliveries. But right now, it’s probably about 60 walking, and 40 through delivery and pickup. The experience is a bit more interesting,” he says.
Expanding the technology
But technology for these restaurants does not just stop where it is, as there is always room to grow.
Cubby Kitchen plans to advance by developing its own app. Box’d says it wants to further its technology by developing a system through the app where the digital cubby automatically opens for people with just a press button on their phone.