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Why Drive-Thru Restaurants Want to Track Your License Plate

Ever feel like someone is watching you? It seems that our every move could eventually be tracked. Whether you think it is convenient or creepy, this technology will now be used in even more ways.

Photo Courtesy of Food and Wine.

Recognizing regulars has been a part of the restaurant industry since restaurants began.

Some fast food brands are toying with the idea of using license plate recognition technology (the kind of thing used in speed traps) to track customers and provide them with additional features like customized ordering screens.

Beyond just customized menus, chains could offer other conveniences like linking your car to a loyalty program or even a credit card, making payment a breeze. This technology could almost certainly speed up drive-thru times — a major industry concern.

But at the same time, part of the allure of the drive-thru is that your car makes you a bit more incognito. That’s out the door when tracking technology knows you’ve eaten at the same burger joint five times in the last three days.

What about the question of whether this data could be mined beyond the people who “opt in” to its services?

It appears these changes are about to happen whether we like it or not. These systems have been used in Korea and the tech companies behind them expect to sign their first big deal in the U.S. by the end of the year.

One company said it can help a fast food drive-thru handle 30 extra cars per day, speeding up wait times for everyone.

That’s probably for the best: The longer you have to wait, the more time you have to think about how the fast food restaurants are watching you, man.

2019 Food and Wine.

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