RFID technology is entering the fast food business in a big way. Last week Burger King announced that is installing Coca-Cola’s RFID-powered Freestyle soda dispensers at all 850 of its U.S. owned restaurants.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the high-tech soda machines will be rolled out by April. The machines rely on Indy chips produced by Seattle-based Impinj.
The move will boost the install base for the soda machines by nearly 50 percent. The machines are currently operating in 1,772 locations, including movie theaters and restaurants. In what could be a huge endorsement for the Freestyle machine, Burger King has also reccomended that its 7,000 US franchisees also install the machines.
Freestyle is a touch-screen operated soda dispenser that allows users to mix and match their own personal drinks, dispensing more than 120 sparkling and still beverage brands from one machine. Users will be able to test flavors never before available in the U.S., such as caffeine-free Diet Coke with Lime, Fanta Peach and Minute Maid Light Orange Lemonade.
The Freestyle system is an example of the vast market opening up for applications that add RFID to devices that are not primarily RFID readers. The Freestyle system uses RFID to track the flavor cartridges inside the machines. Each drink dispenser has four Impinj Indy chips inside that provide the ability to read the tags in syrup cartridges so that the machine can trigger supply chain replenishment.
The solution also allows Coca-Cola to guarantee that flavor cartridges are authentic, and to recall or shut off a tap for a certain flavor when necessary. The Freestyle machine is a great example of UHF RFID’s value – the technology is embedded and used in such a way that it provides real business value and improves consumer experience.
“The ability to customize your own beverages combined with the quality that Coca-Cola Freestyle delivers to our guests is a perfect addition to our most recent new menu offerings,” said Steve Wiborg, president North America, Burger King Corp. “Adding Coca-Cola Freestyle further enhances our guest experience. We’re excited to be the largest franchise system in the U.S. to roll out the fountains in all company owned restaurants.”
Burger King hopes that the The Freestyle machiens will jump start beverage sales, which have been falling for several years. The NPD Group reports that there has been a six percent drop in total beverage servings (excluding tap water) at restaurants over the last five years, representing a decline of 2.7 billion servings.