QSRs Explore License Plate Recognition Software

Fast food restaurants could use the technology to personalize the drive-thru experience.

July 15, 2019

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Fast food chains are looking to deploy cameras that recognize license plates to identify customers, personalize digital menus and speed up sales, reports the Los Angeles Times. While the tech behind license plate recognition has been around for 40 years, it has typically been used for law enforcement and repossession agencies. Now, fast food restaurants are trying to get into the game.

“Drive-thrus could use license plate recognition to help identify repeat customers, enabling a restaurant chain to link an individual car with a customer’s credit card and order history—meaning the customers could pay without pulling out their wallets or phones,” reports the LA Times. A customer could add their plate to their loyalty program profile and earn points. In fact, Starbucks began trying such a system in South Korea last year with customers who preregistered their cars.

There’s still a question as to how the companies would ask people to opt it and if they would still store the license plate information for those who don’t opt in. But the chief executive of 5Thru, a license plate recognition start-up, says that the technology helped restaurants process an extra 30 cars a day due to reduced order time. CEO Daniel McCann said the system, driven by artificial intelligence, also improves upselling by recommending items based on a customer’s past orders, the weather and how busy a store’s kitchen is.

No QSRs in the United States have introduced license plate recognition systems for their drive-thrus, but McCann told the LA Times that “there are a lot of conversations going on.”

In an age of data-driven marketing and customization, this practice may catch on as companies become more efficient, tech-savvy and competitive.

As reported in NACS Daily, McDonald’s acquired Dynamic Yield, a decision logic company in March, and recently installed menu boards from Dynamic Yield at 700 locations. The chain is using Dynamic Yield’s artificial intelligence technology to automate the upselling of menu items based on time of day, trending items and weather.