ATLANTA—Coca-Cola is updating its Freestyle beverage machines to allow consumers to select, customize and dispense drinks by scanning a QR code with their smartphones for a no-touch experience, the beverage giant announced yesterday.
About 50 of Coca-Cola’s 52,000 Coca-Cola Freestyle machines in the U.S. have the touchless technology, which the company developed in just weeks.
Chris Hellmann, vice president, Coca-Cola Freestyle, expects roughly 10,000 to get the software update needed to activate the feature by summer’s end, and all Freestyle machines will offer the touchless technology by the end of the year.
“It has been exciting to see our team continue to innovate—mostly from home—to meet the evolving needs of customers and consumers,” Hellmann said. “Our partners are doing everything they can to maintain a safe and hygienic dining environment, and we’re doing all we can to provide options for their guests to continue to pour the beverages they want on a platform they love.”
Coca-Cola tested the mobile experience, which works on any smart device, in-market at Firehouse Subs, Five Guys and Wendy’s locations in Atlanta. During the early onset of the pandemic in the U.S., convenience stores and restaurants shut down their self-serve dispensed beverage stations, and many of these high-contact machines remain closed or are staffed by store employees who dispense drinks for customers.
Coca-Cola also is working on touchless options for its legacy beverage dispensers, Hellmann told Business Insider. “No sector has been more damaged or hurt by the pandemic than the restaurant and entertainment business,” said Hellmann.
Research shows that 60% of restaurant guests prefer to pour their own fountain drink versus having a crew member do so, Coca-Cola said, citing a May 2020 study from Civic Science. Customization is the primary driver for self-serve fountain fans, and more than 40% strongly agree that they feel safer when in control of their drinks.
The Coca-Cola Freestyle portfolio includes more than 200 beverage brands, including waters, sports drinks, lemonades, teas, juices and sparkling beverages.