The Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, announced the launch of Coca-Cola Freestyle 8100, a new back-of-house dispenser developed specifically for the crew-serve occasion. The new dispenser’s advanced technology streamlines drink pouring for foodservice crews, helping reduce drive-thru wait times for diners while providing the beverage quality and variety they crave, according to the company. The next-generation dispenser is debuting at the 2022 National Restaurant Association Show on May 21 in Chicago.
Drive-thru traffic has increased dramatically over the past two years, initially spurred by the pandemic and concerns over public spaces, which led to fewer people dining inside of restaurants. Even as COVID restrictions eased and dining rooms across the country reopened, drive-thru traffic has remained high compared with previous years, it notes.
“When the pandemic first struck, we saw Coca-Cola Freestyle beverage volume poured on crew-serve Freestyle dispensers jump from 11% of our total volume to 86%,” said Felicia Hale, vice president of equipment strategy for Coca-Cola Freestyle, in a statement. “Even today ― more than two years later ― drive-thru volume for Q1 2022 was up 19% compared to the same period in 2019.”
Witnessing the growth of drive-thru firsthand, Coca-Cola Freestyle saw an opportunity to bring innovation to the consumer-driven occasion and turned to Coca-Cola’s restaurant customers to identify the features most desired in an updated crew-serve beverage dispenser.
“We interviewed crews, managers, directors and leaders at more than a dozen customers ― those with and without Coca-Cola Freestyle dispensers ― to understand what they needed in a crew-serve dispenser,” Hale said. “We’re proud that the new Freestyle 8100 includes features directly requested by our customers to solve common drive-thru challenges, including speed, order accuracy and ease of use and maintenance for crews.”
A key way Freestyle 8100 improves speed of service is by integrating directly with a restaurant’s POS system or kitchen technology. Coca-Cola first partnered with QSR Automations to pilot this feature for a major QSR chain in the Southern U.S.
“Kitchen integration is a trend that is here to stay,” said Jennifer Karpinsky, vice president of business development at QSR Automations. “We anticipate the use of our kitchen automation solution to increase due to the growing practice of robotics in restaurants.”
With its sleek design, user-friendly interface, cutting-edge technology and more than 200 beverage choices, Coca-Cola Freestyle 8100 creates a streamlined beverage-pouring experience for foodservice crews while providing speed, order accuracy and beverage variety for drive-thru diners. The following are the new and enhanced features:
• Cutting-Edge POS Integration: Coca-Cola Freestyle 8100 provides optional POS integration, enabling the Freestyle dispenser to automatically queue a guest’s total beverage order once it is keyed into the POS system without manual drink selection by a crew member. This technology streamlines order fulfillment and improves order accuracy by ensuring the right beverage is poured for the right customer with little crew involvement. These time-saving features are all the more important for restaurants given the current labor market. The result is shorter wait times for drive-thru diners.
• New SmartPour Technology: This technology senses how much ice is in a cup and automatically stops pouring once the cup is full, resulting in the perfect pour every time, regardless of ice amount or cup size.
• New Design: The new dispenser boasts a 24” HD touchscreen display for smoother navigation. The design, which was recognized with a 2021 Good Design Award, is both sleeker and more durable, and allows for easy ancillary equipment attachment.
• Improved Crew Operations: Using and maintaining the Freestyle 8100 is easier than ever with a new user-friendly interface, easier access to inventory alerts, quicker diagnostics, improved ergonomics and a simplified process for installing and changing out ingredients.
• Beverage Variety Diners Love: The 8100 offers 200+ beverages across nine categories, including more than 100 low- and no-calorie options and over 90 caffeine-free choices – some of which are available exclusively through Coca-Cola Freestyle.
“With Freestyle 8100, we set out to not only deliver a revolutionary beverage experience for diners, but also to make the job of foodservice crews easier,” said Ren Powell, director of platform innovation for Coca-Cola Freestyle. “The new features and technology will make pouring the right beverage ― a time-consuming task for crews who are busier than ever due to the labor shortage and increased drive-thru traffic ― infinitely simpler, which means diners get their favorite Coca-Cola beverage at the drive-thru even faster.”
Freestyle 8100 currently is in pilot with select customers including Wendy’s, Burger King, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s and Taco Mac with the full commercial launch slated for Q4 2022. This is just the latest innovation from the Coca-Cola Freestyle team, which has a track record of innovating to meet consumer needs.
This continuous innovation has paid off for Coca-Cola’s customers. According to Coca-Cola Freestyle data, the platform continues to over-index with millennials and centennials, and it continues to boost performance for foodservice customers with a median result of plus-8% for total beverage servings, it states.