Could this be the future of takeout?

A lot of us have been in this fast-food pickup scenario, haven’t we? You place an order for some tasty fast food only to arrive at the counter and go through this embarrassing rigmarole:

Hungry customer: Hello, I’m here to pick up my takeout order.
Long-suffering clerk: Fantastic! What name is that under?
Customer: Sato.
Clerk: Ah, yes, Sato. Can I get your ID number?
Customer: ID code is 43…(mumble)
Clerk: 4…3…sorry, what was the last part?
Customer: 4325.
Clerk: Sorry, that code didn’t work…
Customer: Oh, right, sorry, I meant 4425.
Clerk: Right. So that’s two chicken drumsticks, a salad and a shake?
Customer: Yes! Thanks!
Clerk: Enjoy your meal!
Customer: Great! Have a nice day!
Clerk: You too!

What a tragic waste of time all of that is. Ideally, we would pay in advance and dash into the restaurant at light-speed, flash our credentials, and zoom back out the door, fried goodness in hand and piping hot. Curse you, polite but laborious face-to-face communication!

▼ And don’t even get us started on how long it takes when you need to queue.

Knowing that the ever-present Covid-19 virus is spread by aerosols makes standing around flapping our gums at the counter even less appealing. KFC’s newly-implemented pick-up lockers seek to eliminate that issue by having your food sent straight to a little locker. Punching in a code sent in your order confirmation e-mail will liberate your food without the need to stand and chat.

We’re very serious about fast food, so we immediately set out to order a meal through the new pickup box service. First, we logged into the KFC app — you can either log in with your account or order online as a guest. Since the lockers are undergoing a trial phase, they only exist at Tokyo’s Shinjuku Nishiguchi and Nakano branches, Saitama’s Minami-Urawa branch and Kawasaki’s Mizunokuchi branch. Other KFC stores will have your order ready at the counter instead.

After selecting a locker-equipped store, set a pick-up time. The earliest you can fetch your food is 30 minutes after the order is submitted. Then select your food, key in your payment information, and confirm! We went with a classic order of a chicken fillet sandwich, a small serving of fries, and a black coffee.

Then, when we rolled up to the store 30 minutes later…

▼ There! Chicken lockers!

We entered the reservation number from the confirmation e-mail…

And presto, locker five sprung open automatically to reveal a bag of fried chicken delight!

So then all that was left to do was to take the order back to the office and enjoy it.

Honestly, while we benefitted from the speedy service of picking up our food from an automatic locker instead of a real human being, it’s probably a great help to the staff as well. Using the lockers reduces the number of people they have to make face-to-face contact with, and also relieves them from decoding customers mumbling incomprehensibly into their masks.

▼ Yum.

We think it’s a great idea and hope to see it spread to the rest of the KFC franchise — and also hope that other companies will take note and follow suit. A clear downside, though, is that if there is an error with your order you’ll have to go talk to a real person. There’s also the fact that there are only six lockers installed at each of these locations. KFC has already announced that they won’t offer the pick-up service during the busy Christmas period, either, which makes sense. You’d need a lot of lockers to keep the chicken-craving Christmas crowds happy!

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