OCR of License Plates in Drive Through


The app is the Taco Bell mobile app; customers can earn rewards, get coupons, and order food for pickup.  After conducting customer interviews and a small survey (n=2), the biggest consumer problem is the need to get fast food into the customer’s mouth faster.  The existing pickup experience has too much friction; it requires the customer to tell us when he is on his way and to read a number to the cashier.


Feature Overview

The new feature would rely on license plate optical character recognition (OCR) scanners to notify the food preparation team to make the food when the customer pulls into the parking lot and to notify the cashier which car to hand the food to in the drive through.  Taco Bell and Dominos are the market leaders in using technology to improve their fast food deliver experience, but the same feature would improve any app to physical pickup experience.



Our target customer is “David Drive Through”.  He has a smart phone with a data plan that he uses continually.  David eats Taco Bell more than once per week.  He orders the same thing 60% of the time, but he is attracted to new items and specials.  David uses the drive through when he is on the way to work and he will not eat here if he thinks it will take too long.  If Dave comes with friends, they will come into the store so they can each pay separately (future feature idea).


User Stories

  1. As David placing my first online order, I want to enter my license plate number, so that I can get my food faster.


  1. As David placing my second order online, I just want to pick my food and hit the order button, so that the experience can be as transparent as possible.

-Verify that the customer can hit one button to repeat last order.


  1. As David after I receive my food, I want to receive an in app notification, so that I can know my credit card was charged.

-Verify that there is a feedback mechanism in the alert to block fraudulent purchases.


  1. As the food preparation team, I want David’s food added to my order que when he pulls into the parking lot, so we can have it hot and ready for him.


  1. As the cashier, I want to know when I should hold David’s food out the window, so he does not even have to stop.


  1. As the restaurant manager, I want to report against in app purchase in my location, so that I can manage my business.



The expectation is that this feature will save time for the cashier, make the food preparation more effective, drive new customers into stores, and increase the frequency that existing customers visit the store.  We will measure or estimate each of these variables to justify the cost of two OCR scanners in each location and the development expense.  I propose we pilot this feature in the Sioux Falls market, where we can iteratively improve the feature before a nationwide launch.


Bad Mother’s Day Product

So I’m on 1800flowers.com perusing for a Mother’s Day gift.  When I click on the ‘Recipient’ drop down box, there’s a whole list of names there (pre-saved with addresses and all) from the last 10 years.

So…why – why would such a site save this information? I’m not interested in stroll down “my unstable past” memory lane.  Maybe 1800flowers is try to keep me accountable and show me, “Do you see.. do you like this.  Do you want this list to be longer?  We’re certainly not proud of the business you’ve give us.  We feel sorry for you”

– Andrew S.

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Walmart Bollards and Mobile Application Pacing

Bollard is a fancy word for cement posts that stop cars from going where only people should go.  Now that you know the word, you will start to see them everwhere.  Walmart’s objective is to get your to browse for the longest period of time possible, so you can see more things to buy.  One way they do that is to prepare you to start shopping early.  The floors in the entry way are rough and the bollards are bigger than they need to be (just lift up the plastic cap and look at the tiny cement core), all to slow you down and get you in the shopping mindset.

This is analogous to certain mobile design problems.  Get the user to slow down to weigh the pros and cons of a certain choice.   Get the user to slow down so the learn about the product and will be more likely to complete the activation process.  Get the user to slow down so they can understand why your product might now be right for them.

Turbotax has a highly refined sense of pacing, the speed increases and slows down through the process of completing your tax return.  The flow drives emotional weight at the points they are adding value (we are analyzing your return for risk) or where they are trying to sell and an add on service: