More self-ordering kiosks are headed to BurgerFi, and Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza & Wings is testing AI-enabled phone ordering as the two brands look to become more efficient amid the challenges of inflation, labor pressures and COVID.
Fast-casual BurgerFi completed its $156.6 million acquisition of casual-dining chain Anthony’s late last year.
Joining forces helped the combined company see about $2 million in savings during the fourth quarter, thanks to operational efficiencies, CEO Ian Baines told analysts Thursday.
But supply chain and labor challenges led to a slowdown in new restaurant openings for the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based operator.
“We did see some slippage in the number of new unit openings last year due to the challenges related to securing equipment, permitting and construction delays and scarcity of labor,” CFO Michael Rabinovitch said, according to a transcript from financial services site Sentieo. “That said, we are seeing a more robust store opening schedule here in the first half of 2022, resulting from those delays.”
BurgerFi added 16 new restaurants in 2021, to end the year with 118 BurgerFi locations and 61 Anthony’s restaurants. BurgerFi said it expects to open 15 to 20 BurgerFi units this year.
Total revenue for the quarter ended Dec. 31 jumped 261% to $35.1 million, thanks in large part to the Anthony’s acquisition. Systemwide sales during the period increased 23% to $40.7 million.
The company is still working to return to pre-pandemic sales. Same-store sales for the fourth quarter were flat at corporate restaurants and negative 4% for franchised locations. Operating margins were 6% below 2019 levels during the quarter.
A successful test of self-ordering kiosks at four Burgerfi stores led to higher check averages and other benefits. The kiosks are now being rolled out at all corporate stores over the next couple of months, and are being added at some franchised locations. Cashiers are also available, but the chain is finding increased order accuracy and customer satisfaction from the kiosks.
Anthony’s is using artificial intelligence technology to answer phones during busy times.
“Part of Anthony’s demographic still likes to order via telephone,” Baines said. “The longer it runs, the better it becomes as the algorithms learn to respond to what the customer is ordering and then upsell. So, early indications are that it is quite a seamless experience.”
Baines said Anthony’s experimented with AI about 18 months ago. At that time, though, the service was “clunky,” he said.
“It has continued to improve,” he said. “(It) helps our team members and could possibly give us an opportunity to have some labor savings.”
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