Pimp My Food Truck: RFID-Enabling the 21st Century Chuckwagon

Posted by Ken Lynch on Fri, Jun 28, 2013 @ 02:51 PM

Tags: RFID, Supply Chain, Food & Beverage, Inventory Management, Vehicle Tracking, Point of Sale

foodtruckIf you work or live in an urban area, you’ve most likely seen the trendy food trucks parked at busy intersections, parks and plazas, serving up cupcakes, lobster rolls and everything in between. (For those who’ve never partaken, here’s a sneak peek video into how they operate)

Mobile munching, though almost unrecognizable from the days of “chuckwagons,” has come back in full force for foodies all across America who enjoy the convenience of curb-side cuisine.   In fact, 91% of those familiar with mobile food trucks say that the trend is here to stay (see Infographic).  We see this every day outside our office in Kendall Square, with several food trucks setting up shop.  And just a couple of weeks ago Kendall Square hosted the Food Truck Festival of New England.   The trend has gotten so hot that Kickstarter – the social funding service – has gotten behind it.   Mei Mei, a Boston-based food truck business recently raised $35,000 on the e-fundraising site to finance turning their business into a brick and mortar restaurant.

Annual revenue from food trucks was $1.2 billion dollars in 2009 and there has been significant growth since, most of which could be attributed to customer loyalty. Locals are often lured in to trying food trucks for a few simple reasons 1) convenience 2) community 3) cuisine and 4) competition. Could food truck operators increase customer loyalty by implementing RFID?

1) Convenience: Part of the appeal in mobile dining is the convenience that it offers. Whether it’s across from the office or parked near a popular tourist attraction, a food truck provides a quick and easy meal on the go. In addition to geographic convenience, food trucks also offer a financial convenience with mobile payment options. While it may not be main stream yet, types of RFID technologies can allow for easy, on-the-go payment for patrons who may not have cash handy. Mobile-payment is not only convenient for the consumer, but also allows the business owner to track spending trends and implement a rewards program for their most loyal customers. As “the internet of things” continues to grow and expand, especially into the retail environment, the food truck industry is no exception. The Point-of-sale iPads that have been installed in trucks are streamlining payment, consolidating physical equipment and supporting franchises that also operate out of brick and mortar shops.

2) Community:  One unique aspect about food trucks is the sense of community they create. Aside from the physical communities that support these small business owners, the virtual communities online provide valuable promotion as well. Food truck owners rely heavily on word of mouth to grow their business. Similar to Cadbury and dwinQ’s social media deployment at the Olympics, RFID technology could also allow patrons to check-in to the specific food truck and notify friends and social media followers of their location, ultimately acting as a virtual word of mouth.   

3) Cuisine: It wouldn’t be a food truck without the food! The culinary treats that come from these mobile kitchens are just as delicious as their brick and mortar counterparts.  But one difference is they require a different kind of logistical planning. Fresh ingredients, prepared daily are a key part in the operational aspect of a food truck. Much of their product has to be prepared in advance in a physical location and then loaded into the truck every day.  With space at such a premium, ensuring that the truck is equipped with just the right inventory to last the day is crucial in ensuring profits in a business with notoriously arbitrary and often razor thin margins.  Managing inventory closely is another opportunity where RFID technology can make a big impact in food quality and customer satisfaction.   

4) Competition: The restaurant business is tough and highly competitive, and it’s no different with food trucks.   The cooking reality TV competitions and many cook-off competitions that happen around the country draw in hundreds of thousands of viewers and patrons respectively.  It’s the same in the food truck business. Every spring, Boston’s annual Food Truck Throwdown brings various vendors together to compete for coveted crowning as the best. Not a Beantown local? According to The Daily Meal, these trucks beat out thousands of others to be crowned the Top Ten Food Trucks in America

Ultimately, food trucks have changed the l landscape of dining options all over the country and continue to draw crowds. While the technology that drives the businesses may be “behind the scenes,” it surely plays a role in what makes them a success. From social media to location services, there are opportunities for food trucks to tap into RFID as a resource to grow and sustain their business.

The question is, who is going to be the first to pimp their food truck with these high-tech solutions?

 

Photo credit: David Stewart/Boston.com

RFID Scoring Big in the Sports World

Posted by Ken Lynch on Mon, Jun 10, 2013 @ 12:03 PM

Tags: RFID, Event Management, Access Control, Attendance Management, Race Timing

SportsIt’s that time of year again, when stadiums are filled with baseball fans, greens are manicured for golfers and trails are rampant with runners training for the next race. All of these activities bring with them a wide range of opportunities to leverage the power of RFID. From enhancing the fan experience to precisely measuring race times, RFID is making a case for itself as an essential element to sports activities, teams and events.

One area in which RFID has been making a big impact is in event ticketing. Dating back several years to the 2005 Tennis Master’s World Cup in Shanghai, China, RFID inlays were embedded into all 100,000 tickets for the event and were scanned using stationary readers at the gates to grant spectators entrance to the venue. Prior to this system, spectators were required to purchase a pre-event ticket, and exchange it on game day for the physical ticket at the box office. This new system ensured that those granted access were genuine ticket holders, and streamlines the entry process. The following year, the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany became the largest use of RFID in sports ticketing to date with twelve venues, sixty-four games and 3.5 million tickets. One of the main reasons that FIFA, and several other organizations choose to employ RFID technology in ticketing, was to enhance security and prevent counterfeiting.  This use of RFID continues today with many event organizers investing in automated RFID-enabled systems to replace legacy manual and error prone processes.

RFID technology has also shown its ability to enhance other aspects of a fan’s experience, aside from security. Across the pond in the UK, the Scotcomms Technology Group is working with several leading football clubs and their season ticket holders. Scotcomms’ contactless ticketing solution, TeamCard, benefits both the ticket holders and teams themselves by deriving incremental revenue from unused tickets. When a season ticket holder notifies the box office that they will not be attending a game, £10 are loaded onto the fan’s TeamCard to be redeemed for team merchandise or refreshments at the next game they attend. In turn, the team can then sell the unused ticket for an average profit of £15. Additionally, fans can participate in sports betting at the stadiums by using their TeamCard to place wagers against friends or other fans.

RFID technology is also found in many state-side sports. As many golfers have experienced, one can spend hours combing through thorns and thistles to try and locate a lost ball. However thanks to RFID technology, the hunt may be over. Radar Golf has developed an RFID equipped golf ball that can be located with an RFID reader using the company’s Ball Positioning System (BPS). Similar to a metal detector, the handheld BPS will beep at an increasing rate as the user gets closer and closer to the ball being read.

While the technology may be newer to the golf game, road racers, cyclists, triathletes and skiers are already very familiar with RFID applications. RFID has had a presence in the racing world for many years and has undeniably enhanced the visibility aspect of the sport. ChampionChip pioneered the use of this technology in the 1994 Berlin Marathon and athletes have been running with it ever since. With marathon season in full swing, many race participants find this technology to be a crucial part of the sport and an efficient tool for recording real-time data Tracking devices are attached to race participants while passive-RFID technology records racer’s real net times as they pass antennas throughout the course, as well as at the start and finish lines. This technology also allows for friends, family, and fans who are watching the races to locate their participants and position themselves along the course to cheer them on at different locations and present personalized messages of encouragement. Many runners find this technology to be a very efficient tool for recording real-time data and measuring their performance.

Whether it is streamlined security, increased profits or saved time on the golf course, RFID technology has found place in the sports community, and as the technology advances, we expect RFID will continue to enhance the overall experience of sports fans world-wide.

Subscribe by Email

Most Popular Posts

Browse by Tag

Ask the Experts 

Do you have a question about one of our products that you'd like us to answer on our Forum?

Post Your Question