Edge computing and the digitisation of Taco Bell

Taco Bell is actively using edge computing to support multiple digital ways for customers to place orders, according to the fast-food chain's head of technology.

Taco Bell, part of Yum Brands Inc., is leveraging central cloud services and connected devices and software at its local restaurants to process customer requests and account data. While this kind of edge computing setup isn't easy to implement, the ability to offer consumers a choice of Technology is also a business advantage, Vadim Parizher, the company's vice president of technology, said at the Wall Street Journal's Pro Enterprise Technology virtual event.

In Taco Bell, each site's computer servers from the scene and digital orders, account of the customer loyalty, and the operation of the kitchen to get the data, and using a custom algorithm is to make decisions, such as when told the fryer workers need to be a Joe fries potatoes into the pot, so that the delivery driver to pick up when the goods will be hot, Parizher said.

"We do the most critical work in order processing and menu data," Parizher says. "For a Fortune 500 company, if it's running more efficiently than before, even a little bit, the results are significant."

The so-called advantage is not a place, but a computational model, said Lynda Stadtmueller, senior vice president of research, information and communication technology practice at market research firm Frost & Sullivan.

The key is sensing devices, connectivity, analytics and responsiveness, Stadtmueller said at the same event.

Our goal is to improve the performance of the application by processing the data where it is generated (for example, at a local Taco Bell) and applying it at lightning speed. Energy companies, retailers and industrial manufacturers are also using edge computing to take advantage of high-speed Internet, including 5G networks, and a growing number of connected devices. Ge and Siemens, for example, are using edge computing to optimize factory machines in real time.

"A John Deere tractor can be an advantage if it is equipped with sensors to monitor components. It can also be an advantage when your phone becomes an edge device in collecting data, or when an information kiosk is able to detect data." Stadtmueller said.

Taco Bell spent about five years developing edge computing capabilities, Stadtmueller said. Each location will have duplicate devices to serve as backups in case of power outages.

In addition to walking into a store or using a drive-through service, Taco Bell customers can order Mexican pizza and tortillas through the company's website, mobile app, food delivery service and, in some areas, by text message. The chain also launched a subscription service nationwide in January. For $10, customers can purchase a burrito Valentine and receive a burrito every day for 30 days. The menu is tailored to the location.

When a repeat customer places an order, the local restaurant's system retrieves that information from the cloud. Knowing frequent purchases, typical order sizes, and preferences for trying specialty items can all help decide whether to offer customized deals, Parizher said.

In addition to processing and analyzing orders from multiple platforms, restaurants must also deal with menu adjustments, food assembly and staff changes, as well as data coming in from multiple sources at once, Parizher said. "You need to deal with those events and try to optimize. In a sense, we are no different from manufacturing." He said.

The team must consider how to protect personal data about customers in Taco Bell's loyalty program. "We don't want this information in stores for security reasons." So they're stored in the cloud, he says. "You don't leave data in the edge network for too long unless you have to."

Taco Bell contracted with a third party for a platform that monitored the entire edge computing activity, while Parizher's own team developed software to send order data to various connected devices in the kitchen.

With its edge computing foundation, he says, Taco Bell will be able to experiment with networked robotic devices that fry food, heat tortillas or pour drinks. "Now it gets more exciting." He said.

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Edge computing and the digitisation of Taco Bell