Thai Chili 2 Go is a fast-casual restaurant in the southwestern US state of Arizona that specializes in quality ingredients for an approachable menu targeting diners unfamiliar with Thai food. All seven Thai Chili 2 Go locations make ordering and dining quick and convenient thanks to service offerings like an advanced mobile app, a Web-based online ordering option, a “skip the line” order pick-up benefit, and a host of door-to-door delivery partners.
With the success of mobile and Web ordering, Thai Chili 2 Go wanted to bring the convenience of online ordering into the store. Touchscreen kiosks would be paired with a payment device and receipt printer, making the ordering process entirely self-service, fast, and efficient. Frequent diners would be able to avoid the lines, ordering their favorites quickly and easily, then picking up their order when called.
To deliver this kiosk experience, Thai Chili 2 Go enlisted the services of ZIVELO (now a part of VERIFONE), a leading self-service technology brand specialized in the bespoke creation and delivery of self-service kiosks and digital signage solutions. Founded in 2008 with a mission to revolutionize the way brands use technology to interact with their consumers, ZIVELO had deep restaurant experience, counting McDonald's among their customers.
Each self-service kiosk needed to facilitate self-ordering, payment, receipt printing, and the production of an order number that would be announced when the requested food was ready. To achieve this, the kiosk experience would have to be integrated with multiple hardware and self-service software solutions, an atypical task for ZIVELO.
Thai Chili 2 Go also needed the ability to freely and quickly modify menu items and promotional information, balanced with the possibility that network connectivity could be unreliable. The underlying solution thus had to thrive in both online and offline environments, accommodating data connectivity in either scenario.
Frank Yoder, vice president of software integration at ZIVELO, was named the project lead, tasked with creating a compelling user experience natively integrated with peripherals and back-office systems. ZIVELO saw this project as an opportunity to explore the delivery of such an integrated solution because of the smaller chain size. Lessons learned could be applied to future projects with potentially much larger networks of stores and devices.
In fact, Yoder’s team didn’t want to build a one-off solution for Thai Chili 2 Go. They wanted to create a solution that could act as a templated backbone upon which extensive customization could be applied to reflect each subsequent client’s menu, look, and store. To realize this goal, full-scale custom development had to be avoided to reduce the cost and time to delivery for each client. Rather, a fit-for-purpose software framework was required to simplify both the delivery of custom designs and to enable device and service integration.
A final complication was a very short timeline of three months. (Yes, three months. That is not a typo!) It was a short amount of time for the team given the complexity of the project, small team size, and lack of experience in the development of software-to-hardware/service integrations.
Anticipating the challenges ahead, Yoder researched kiosk application creation platforms and stumbled upon Intuiface’s introductory webinar. Watching the webinar convinced him that Intuiface was equipped to address every project requirement. Thanks to Intuiface’s free evaluation and Yoder’s passion for technology, the ZIVELO team quickly dove into the technology and discovered a host of capabilities perfectly suited for the Thai Chili 2 Go project.
Intuiface’s no-coding approach - including drag-and-drop design creation, trigger and action events, and extensive media format support - enabled ZIVELO to create a visually simple UI that, under the covers, supported a complex set of user scenarios. Further, the ease of integration between Intuiface and third-party devices vastly simplified the effort necessary to establish live connections with any number of hardware and software solutions such as a POS (point of sales) system, a payment system, a bar code recognition system, and a speech output and audio navigation system.
On the hardware side, Yoder and team began by considering the optimal solution for addressing both the performance and peripheral-integration requirements. The i5-based Baby Canyon NUC from Intel, Model NUC7i5BNK, was selected. This high-performance, small footprint device proved to be a cost-effective investment for what could become a large scale deployment.
Multiple POS systems were available on the market but the Thai Chili 2 Go project required a platform equipped with an API (Application Programming Interface) or SDK (Software Development Kit), prerequisites for integration between those systems and software like Intuiface.
Zivelo selected Oracle’s MICROS POS because of its Omnivore middleware, a universal POS software bridge created to enable restaurant app development. This selection simplified present and future hardware integration efforts as the ZIVELO team only needed to write to Omnivore which, in turn, could communicate with any other API-supporting POS system on the market.
For the touchscreen display, Elo's Open Frame Touchscreens with support for flexible installation configuration and operating systems were selected. The screens were vertically mounted for optimal use of space and user height variables. Both Zivelo (now Verifone) and Intuiface are Elo partners.
CAYAN credit card processor and merchant services were used for the payment system because of its robust data security and privacy features. Also added to the kiosk was a speech output and audio-enabled navigation system, an ADA (American Disabilities Act) compliant device made for users with impaired vision, reading difficulties, or poor fine motor skills. Additionally, Epson printers were added for receipt printing and Honeywell scanners for reading coupon bar codes.
Intuiface’s extensive data management support enabled both local data storage and cloud-hosted content management, directly addressing the need to facilitate real-time content modification in an environment with potentially poor Internet connectivity. Airtable was selected to act as the cloud-hosted content management system. Looking like Excel and acting like a database, Airtable facilitated on-demand data management and was mirrored by a locally stored Microsoft Excel worksheet to ensure stable performance upon the loss of network connectivity. This software architecture ensured restaurant managers would simply need to access an Excel-like Web-hosted interface to make content modifications.
Frank Yoder and ZIVELO progressed from concept to delivery in two months, beating Thai Chili 2 Go’s narrow timeline. In fact, at the conclusion of those two months, the team was even able to produce a reusable framework that could be adopted for future customers. Today, ZIVELO Sales asks Yoder’s team for quick, custom kiosk demos for prospective customers as well as for rapid prototyping to show prospects what is possible. Personalization simply required Excel worksheet updates and logo replacements.
Thai Chili 2 Go food ordering kiosks welcome customers with a splash screen and an optional request for the customer’s name. Then a list of six category menu items is displayed, followed by a set of sub-categories after a request for selection. Once the customer selects an item, a modifier screen appears with options such as item replacement and the ability to add new items.
Selecting the shopping cart leads to a coupon request and then instructions about payment. ZIVELO’s design added a lot of decision-making options to the user interface all along the customers self-ordering journey, and Intuiface’s trigger and actions feature played a key role in simplifying the delivery of complex if/then scenarios.
Intuiface Composer itself proved easy to use, contributing to the speed and ease of development. For example, the Scene Structure panel provided a comprehensive inventory of every item in a given scene and how they were organized along the X, Y, and Z-axes. As a result, not only was the delivery time reduced by 30%, Yoder and his team were able to develop the entire solution using just two monitors and limited headcount.
To date, Yoder has found that out-of-the-box Intuiface capabilities satisfy 90% of ZIVELO’s clients’ needs for in-store kiosk development; the remaining 10% could be addressed through peripheral and service integration using Intuiface's interface asset approach. He is confident that Intuiface will be a long-term resource and partner for ZIVELO’s business.