As the coronavirus pandemic continues to reshape the world around us and shift consumer behavior, The Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, is rolling out a new pouring option to meet consumer needs with its latest Coca-Cola Freestyle technology innovation — contactless, mobile pouring from a smartphone.
“All Coca-Cola beverage dispensers are safe with recommended care and cleaning,” said Chris Hellmann, Coca-Cola Freestyle vice president and general manager, in a statement. “But in these uncertain times, Coca-Cola is providing consumers a new option — a touchless fountain experience. It has been exciting to see our team continue to innovate — mostly from home — to meet the evolving needs of customers and consumers. Our partners are doing everything they can to maintain a safe and hygienic dining environment, and we’re doing all we can to provide options for their guests to continue to pour the beverages they want on a platform they love.”
The new contactless Coca-Cola Freestyle solution allows consumers to choose and pour drinks from their phones in just a few seconds, without having to create an account or download an app. The mobile experience, which was tested in-market at Firehouse Subs, Five Guys and Wendy’s locations in Atlanta and is starting to roll out to Coca-Cola Freestyle dispensers across the United States, works on any smart device.
“Holding your camera up to the display auto-scans a QR code, which immediately connects to the cloud and brings the Coca-Cola Freestyle user interface to your phone,” explained Michael Connor, chief architect for Coca-Cola Freestyle. “You then select from the full menu of brands and flavors — and pour. The idea is to be safe, seamless and fun.”
The team knew from the start that the experience needed to be as easy as possible. “We intentionally designed this so anyone with a smart device could pour a drink,” Connor said. “When you have a tray or a sandwich in one hand, you don’t want to deal with downloading an app. We took steps to make the solution super-easy, super-fast and super-reliable.”
Coca-Cola Freestyle app users can, however, opt to scan the QR code in the app for a similar experience, with the ability to pour pre-saved mixes. The team developed the touch-free offering in a matter of weeks, building from the Coca-Cola Freestyle Operating System (FOS) introduced in 2019. The software will be pushed to more than 10,000 Coca-Cola Freestyle dispensers later this summer, and all Freestyle dispensers will be contactless-compatible before the end of year, the company says.
Research shows that 60 percent of restaurant guests prefer to pour their own fountain drink versus having a crew member do so, according to a May 2020 quantitative study from Civic Science. Customization is the primary driver for self-serve fountain fans, but more than 40 percent strongly agree that they feel safer when in control of their drinks.
In addition to the contactless pouring innovation, Coca-Cola also has given its customers access to a wide array of touch-free and safety solutions, such as hand sanitizer, disposable wipes, disposable stylus pens and more.
“One of our top priorities is being a great partner for our customers,” Hellmann said. “Restaurants have been among the hardest hit businesses during the pandemic due to dining room closures across the country. Our goal is to provide a variety of solutions so our customers can offer consumers the Coca-Cola beverages they love, while driving critical revenue to their bottom line.”