Burgerville, FlyBuy Pickup app partnership offers curbside pickup in Washington, Oregon

Imagine ordering groceries to be picked up on the side of the road and then having it ready and waiting for you to arrive exactly. The Vancouver-based fast food chain Burgerville is building its new partnership with the FlyBuy Pickup mobile app. The service was launched in Burgerville restaurants last week.

Burgerville operates around 40 restaurants in Oregon and southwest Washington. Like many companies, the company had to significantly expand its young digital presence during the COVID-19 pandemic. The FlyBuy integration is the latest in a series of technology investments designed to offset the closure of the fast food chain’s dining rooms.

Digital shift

Just a year ago, almost all traffic in Burgerville was coming from the drive-through lanes and counters. According to Kati Reardon, chief operating officer, digital ordering options were available, but as of February 2020 they were only 2 or 3 percent of the company’s total orders.

Dining rooms accounted for up to 30 percent of the business pandemic. Therefore, in March 2020, the company quickly advertised its roadside pick-up and delivery options (via DoorDash). It was also about easing the pressure, Reardon said. Drive-thrus are handy, but trying to get each customer through a single lane is a recipe for late orders and traffic safety.

“We knew our drive-thru would be nearly impossible to use if we didn’t have a digital component,” she said.

Depending on the location, up to 17 percent of orders in Burgerville today are digital, Reardon said. She described the FlyBuy integration as the latest in a year-long effort to expand and perfect the service model.

When customers place an order via the Burgerville app, they receive a text asking them to download FlyBuy and to tap the “I’m on my way” button when exiting. A display in the restaurant gives the kitchen crew a real-time arrival estimate and notifies staff when the customer parks so that the food can be served immediately.

The arrival dashboard also helps restaurant staff know exactly when to start preparing individual orders to avoid situations where customers take longer than expected to pick up their digital orders and arrive to find out that their Food has been ready a few minutes.

The company also launched an improved version of its loyalty program in December, with new reward options and greater integration with the Burgerville app. Reardon said expansion sped up over the past year because the company needed a new way to encourage community engagement without its dining rooms. The program has reached about 50,000 members so far, she said.

2021 plans

The shift from dining rooms to digital ordering was fraught with losses. The company laid off around 600 employees at all locations in April – more than a third of its employees before the pandemic.

About 100 of those jobs have been hired again, Reardon said, and the company expects to hire more people over the traditionally busy summer months. However, a full return will not take place until the dining rooms are reopened.

There is still a long way to go. Reardon said customers can expect the Burgerville locations to open their terraces or open the windows in the summer, but a full reopening of all dining rooms is unlikely to happen until late 2021.

The challenge in reopening the dining rooms will be adjusting the services and workflow for a “three-legged stool” model (dine-in, drive-thru and curb or delivery) for the first time and maintaining the same level of service quality across all three Channels.

For now, Burgerville will be focused on digital growth and preparing for spring and summer. This month marks the 60th anniversary of the company, Reardon said, and company executives are glad they got through the pandemic to celebrate.

“A year ago when I was looking at operationalizing a pandemic, we weren’t sure we would be here,” she said. “Just period, we weren’t sure we’d survive.”

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