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The value of technology is rarely about a single product, but instead bringing multiple technologies into the whole seamlessly integrated customer experience

AI is fast becoming an integral part of our lives. Within the hospitality sector the use of AI is still in its infancy, but we are beginning to see practical applications of this technology that will have real impact and benefits for hospitality providers and customers. 

As with any new technology, there are several key considerations that restrict the commercial application of AI. These include: cost, customer acceptance, security and Return on Investment (ROI). It would be fair to say that until now, a cashierless, vision-based AI checkout was limited by these restrictions. However, through steadfast integration with the full Lolly digital commerce offering, we have developed a solution that makes AI a reality for hospitality. 

In this article, we will review how end-to-end integration provides the answer when it comes to issues regarding the commercial application of an automated checkout. We will also highlight the benefits of integration for customers and hospitality providers – that go far beyond the point of sale.

How does integration make AI and automated checkout a reality?

Previously the commercial application of automated checkouts was limited by the fact that no provider was offering payment, management and receipting within one single service. This therefore meant transactions could not be completed securely or quickly, in a way that would have measurable benefits for either the hospitality provider or customer. 

We have created a closed loop payment environment within the Lolly digital product suite, which makes the automated checkout completely seamless for all parties. 

The Lolly system is all connected, from back-office, to payment, receipting and loyalty.  Customers can therefore checkout seamlessly at the Snapserve kiosk using the Lolly app, and catering managers can feel safe in the knowledge that accurate, secure payment will be taken. The whole process is managed ‘in-app’, including image uploads of menu items and customer loyalty points, making the entire system incredibly simple and efficient.

How does AI come into it?

Having completed a simple sign up to the Lolly app, hospitality customers can top-up credit or connect their card to their account. In the canteen, cafeteria or restaurant, they can select their packaged or fresh items and bring their tray to the Snapserve kiosk. Items placed on the kiosk will be scanned by vision-based technology powered by AI, and payment then authorised by the customer scanning their in-app QR code, or their RFID enabled security badge. In order to deliver an almost instantaneous checkout, Snapserve uses delayed product recognition and payment, thereby significantly speeding up queue throughput time.

Delayed recognition works to ensure 100% accuracy, without complicated setup, ongoing operational burden, or the requirement for pre-training. The image captured by the kiosk at checkout is reviewed by AI to identify the products purchased and take payment accordingly. Human annotation processes the first few transactions and is used at the beginning of the loop to identify products when recognition is low, but as the AI is fed more data (in the form of image samples of menu items placed on the kiosk), it will develop confidence, so supervision is gradually removed. 

Customers can move on quickly to enjoy their meal once their transaction has been authorised, which can take just three seconds. Their receipt is then sent in-app (including visuals of their menu items), following the delayed recognition process and allows the customer to review the payment taken when convenient for them. 

What benefits does integration have for hospitality providers and customers?

Affordable 

As the whole process is brought into one loop, under one provider, costs are brought down. ROI is high, due to reduced queuing and faster checkout times (fueled by delayed payment and receipting), enabling greater numbers of customers to be served, whilst cashier costs and wastage can be reduced.

Ease of management

The system is immediately operational with 100% accuracy.  As everything is easily managed via the integrated app system, minimal training is required for staff.  Engaging with only one provider brings streamlined service and ensures efficiency. 

Integration with the back-office keeps things simple for stock management.

Secure

The whole AI and app network utilises a secure, cloud-based server to store data.

Reducing costs/wastage

No shrinkage, as items placed on the kiosk will be billed correctly. Back-office integration with the kiosk Point of Sale (POS) means stock management will be accurate and easy. Removing cashiers from the transaction process reduces costs or frees up staff time to focus on adding more value to the customer experience. 

Hygienic 

By removing the touchscreen and human contact elements at the checkout, Lolly Snapserve helps improve hygiene and social distancing.

Speed

Queuing can be eliminated, so corporate caterers and hospitality can provide faster, better customer service, particularly important for busy staff in a large facility. 

Accessible and engaging 

Customers are increasingly demanding of a seamless experience. Whether online, mobile ordering, or in-store, customer expectations are of a fast, simple, error-free transaction. Automated checkout meets and exceeds these high expectations. The process is very simple and requires little education or time investment on the customers’ part to set up. 

Beyond the transaction, the integration which comes as a part of automated checkout, improves the customer experience. Loyalty programmes are linked with the customer account so their points, discounts and offers are automatically applied. With top-up and receipts provided in-app, customers can also manage their money and keep track of their orders.

Future technology ceases to become futuristic when it is delivered with relevance. When brought to market at the right time, with issues relating to accessibility, security, and affordability addressed, technology becomes beneficial and relevant. The value of technology is no longer in a single product, but in the whole seamlessly integrated customer experience. 

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