Whataburger Introduces First Digital Kitchen: A Look into the Future of Fast Food
Whataburger, the renowned burger chain based in San Antonio, has recently launched its first-ever digital kitchen in Bee Cave, Texas. This new restaurant model breaks away from traditional fast-food establishments by offering a fully digital experience and going cashless. With innovative features such as digital ordering and a “digital pickup lane” instead of the conventional drive-thru, Whataburger is embracing technology to enhance customer convenience and streamline operations.
The Whataburger Digital Kitchen is designed to be exclusively digital, with customers placing their orders through self-service kiosks or the Whataburger smartphone app. Spanning approximately 2,300 square feet, this modern eatery does not provide a traditional seating area or offer curbside pickup or drive-through services. Instead, customers can conveniently collect their orders from specially designed lockers or food cubbies.
One of the most notable innovations introduced by this new model is the “digital pickup lane.” By ordering through the Whataburger Rewards app or online, customers can significantly reduce wait times typically associated with drive-thrus. This forward-thinking approach aligns with Whataburger’s commitment to enhancing the digital restaurant experience without losing sight of its core identity.
According to Whataburger CEO Ed Nelson, Austin was chosen as the location for the first-ever digital kitchen due to its tech-savvy customer base that readily embraces digital innovations. The launch of this concept marks another milestone for Whataburger, which was established in 1950 and currently operates over 950 locations across 14 states. In 2019, the family-owned business sold a majority stake to BDT Capital Partners—a Chicago-based commercial bank.
The Digital Kitchen offers an “exclusively to go experience,” encouraging customers to place their orders in advance either online or through the app. For those who forget to order ahead of time, on-site kiosks are available. Orders can be conveniently picked up at the “Digital Pickup Lane” or from outdoor weatherproof lockers.
With its focus on reducing customer wait times at the drive-thru, the new restaurant model operates 24 hours a day and only accepts digital payments. This shift toward digital-only restaurants is reflective of a broader industry trend as brands adapt to cater to the increasing number of digital consumers. Digital orders tend to be larger and more cost-effective compared to in-person orders since they eliminate the need for an employee to take the order.
Furthermore, digital orders provide valuable data that can potentially be linked to loyalty programs and personalized marketing strategies. Whataburger’s competitor, Chick-fil-A, is also exploring digital innovations by expanding mobile order lines across approximately 300 restaurants by year-end.
According to Technomic data, Whataburger currently ranks as the fifth-largest burger chain in terms of sales in the United States. With annual system sales exceeding $3 billion from its extensive network of locations, Whataburger remains committed to improving customer experiences and streamlining operations.
The introduction of Whataburger’s first digital kitchen signifies a significant step forward in revolutionizing fast food dining. By embracing technology and offering a fully digitized experience, Whataburger is setting itself apart from traditional fast-food chains while catering to the needs of modern consumers. As technology continues to reshape various industries, it will be interesting to see how other players within the fast-food sector respond and adapt.
Source: (Restaurant Technology News)(https://restauranttechnologynews.com/2023/09/whataburger-unveils-first-of-its-kind-digital-restaurant-model/)