Tropical Smoothie Cafe is deploying Flybuy’s location-based technology to improve its curbside pickup business. According to Michael Lapid, chief information officer for the smoothie chain, the technology is active in 200 locations and it hopes to deploy the system across all 1,000-plus stores by the end of 2022.

Flybuy’s software integrates with a restaurant’s ordering platform and tracks customer locations to help staff prioritize orders. It can alert the kitchen when a customer is five minutes away, and even identify when the kitchen needs to start making certain just-in-time items, such as French fries, so they’re hot when the customer arrives. The software also helps identify when customers arrive and where they are in the parking lot, eliminating a major point of awkwardness and confusion.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe CIO Michael Lapid

“It’s about reducing friction in the [curbside] channel,” said Lapid. The brand first rolled out curbside pickup as a reaction to COVID-19 restrictions, which led to a minor uptick in digital sales, but its system was plagued with minor inefficiencies. Smoothies are best made fresh, which is difficult to pull off when the customer could arrive at any time, and there wasn’t an obvious way for customers to indicate when they’ve arrived. Lapid said Flybuy has eliminated many of those issues.

The average wait time for a curbside order is now just under three minutes, said Lapid, down 40 percent from before the brand implemented Flybuy’s curbside software. The added convenience has contributed to a 20 percent increase in off-premise sales since implementation, driven by a substantial increase in repeat orders.

Cognizant of the privacy concerns that come with location tracking, Marc Wallace, CEO and co-founder of Radius Networks, said that they “only leverage a customer’s data during an active order,” and that the company deletes the data after use. Flybuy has a roughly 90 percent opt-in rate, according to Wallace.

Flybuy is the brand name for Radius Network’s location-based software products. The company first debuted its curbside software in 2019.

According to Lapid, roughly 80 percent of TSC’s curbside customers opt in to location tracking. Customers who don’t have other options, such as manually indicating when they arrive and where they’re parked, he added.

TSC handles technology deployment at the corporate level, said Lapid, which means their tech team and Flybuy are responsible for onboarding new locations. He said franchisees have welcomed the addition of Flybuy because “they see it in their bottom line.” The pickup process is easy and their smoothies are made fresh, just as they would be for an in-store order, which encourages repeat orders.

Brands including Five Guys, Chipotle, Albertsons and Joann Fabrics use software from Radius Networks. In addition to making software for curbside pickup, Flybuy also offers location-based solutions for delivery, loyalty, payments and table service, and it has 38 patents across its products, said Wallace.