Merchant: Jack in the Box
Locations: 21 states and Guam
Size: 2,200+ restaurants
Platforms: DoorDash, Marble
Bottom Line: Large restaurant chains like Jack in the Box are most interested in partnering with technology vendors that are offering innovative ways to improve the customer experience.
People watched as the courier robot entered the restaurant, got loaded up with food, and rolled past crowds on its way to deliver an order to an office building in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood, but Jack in the Box says the new autonomous delivery program is not so much a marketing stunt as a way to raise the bar on customer service.
“We’ve seen the value of on-demand services over the years with consumers desire to have their cravings met whenever and where ever they may hit,” says Iwona Alter, chief marketing officer at Jack in the Box.
As part of an ongoing partnership with the on-demand delivery startup DoorDash, Jack in the Box has been piloting a number of unique programs. The QSR chain announced a pilot program delivering late-night orders to customers in San Francisco late last year, and then extended the partnership to include more than 830 restaurant locations in March.
The company’s latest move has DoorDash and Marble, an urban logistics company with “intelligent courier robots” taking deliveries to customers in the Bay Area. In early August, DoorDash and Marble promoted their new partnership by sending out an autonomous robot to deliver a Jack in the Box order in the North Beach neighborhood in San Francisco.
Alter says she’s not surprised her company was invited to take part in the pilot program, given that Jack in the Box has been a leader in innovation within the QSR space.
“Challenging conventions is what Jack in the Box does best and aligning with DoorDash and Marble to test new technology that would enhance food delivery service for consumers [is] in line with our brand values,” she says.
While the company is keeping a tight lid on which other technology platforms it’s testing out currently, Alter says consumers can expect that autonomous delivery robots aren’t the end of the road as far as hyperlocal technologies are concerned. Jack in the Box is continuing to explore and integrate technology into its brand.
“In an effort to meet our customer needs, Jack in the Box looks toward integrating effective solutions, such as on-demand delivery, into our processes for our fans,” she says. “It is not necessarily a marketing strategy more so than it is Jack in the Box raising the bar on customer service.”
Participating in a pilot program like this is another way for Jack in the Box to define itself within the QSR space and appeal to a younger demographic. The company has long been known for its creativity in menus and marketing. For example, earlier this year it debuted “Brunchfast,” a breakfast-like menu that’s available all-day long. Jack in the Box is also known for teasing new products with well-produced YouTube videos, in a nod to its largely millennial fan base, and the company has embraced virtual reality, using a short VR film to promote a new Brewhouse Bacon Burger in 2016.
“Jack in the Box’s primary goal is to continue to spearhead new ideas and systems within the QSR industry,” Alter says. “As technology will continue to advance, Jack in the Box will continue to be an early adopter of technology to ensure we are meeting customer needs around the clock.”
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.