Sometimes, it takes something as everyday as ordering food from your favorite chain to realize how much tech shapes every moment of our lives.
Over the last six months, there have been endless stories about restaurant chains using new tech to attempt to get an upper hand on the competition. One major battleground where chains are attempting to one-up each other: ordering.
Apparently, mobile ordering is no longer enough. Here are four recent ordering methods that make using a smartphone app feel you're from the Stone Ages.
With your car.
On Monday, Pizza Hut and management consulting firm Accenture announced they were working with Visa to develop a connected car that allows drivers to purchase pizza while on the road. The smart car would integrate Visa Checkout – its PayPal-like digital payment service -- into the car's dashboard, making it possible for customers to speak to order food while keeping both hands on the wheel. Then, when the car gets close to the Pizza Hut, beacon technology notifies employees that the customer has arrived.
"By 2020 it is estimated that more than 250 million vehicles worldwide will include some form of embedded connectivity," Bill Gajda, Visa's senior vice president of innovation and strategic partnerships, said in a statement. "We initially focused on a specific use case – ordering a meal on your way home – but we envision a world where consumers can seamlessly make many of their everyday purchases from the car."
Visa is currently demonstrating the connected car at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Tests are expected to continue over a three month period starting this spring in Northern California.
On your watch.
Pizza Hut wasn't the only pizza chain showing off new tech on Monday. On the same day, Domino's introduced a smartwatch app that allows customers to place and track orders via Pebble and Android smartwatches.
"Pairing Domino's with smartwatch technology couldn't be more of a natural fit," Kevin Vasconi, Domino's chief information officer, said in a statement. "We are constantly looking for ways to use technology to enhance our customers' experience and provide them with more convenience."
Whenever you're near.
While smartwatches and cars are flashy ways to promote a company as tech-savvy, the single piece of technology that promises the greatest returns for the restaurants industry is beacons and other tech that alerts employees of a customer's location.
A whole host of restaurants are now using your smartphone to track customers' locations. Taco Bell's app alerts employees when customers arrive at a Taco Bell location ready to pick up their orders. Blue Bottle Coffee and Square allows customers to pre-order items for pick-up sometime in the next 24 hours, with baristas starting their order fresh when alerted that the customers are approaching. When it comes to marketing, everyone from McDonald's to Quiznos is experimenting with beacons to try and lure customers into stores with coupons and targeted deals. Expect "beacon" to be a major buzzword in 2015 for quick services chains trying to prove that they can use tech to keep their service up to speed.
By reading your mind.
Pizza Hut's digital menu that reads minds is a limited test in the U.K., as opposed to a potentially far-reaching ordering platform like other items mentioned here. However, the Subconscious Menu's ability to determine a customer's order in just 2.5 seconds by tracking automatic eye focus is telling of what might be yet to come in the realm of restaurant ordering.
You can now order your dinner from your phone, your watch and even your car. Payment can be automatic, going as far as to pull from your bank account the moment you enter a restaurant. Employees know where you are located and the exact moment they need to have your coffee ready, without you saying a word. With ordering and payment becoming increasingly integrated into our lives, who's to say that the next six months won't reveal tech with the ability to order food before you're even sure what you're craving?