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27 Mar, 2023
10 min time to read

"Durov's Code" recently talked about the opening of the first smart coffee shop in the UAE, Drinkit, in which the entire system of receiving, creating and dispensing coffee is based on modern IT technologies.

// Fedor Ovchinnikov at the first Drinkit coffee shop in Dubai
The thing is, IT is not just a business automation issue for us.  IT is a full-fledged part of our product.

It is a franchise with a data system, that allows making our pizzerias more effective, more easily managed and more transparent, and these qualities contribute to the whole restaurant chain. This system permits us to collect data in online mode, to see, what is happening, and to control each process.

In fact, IT is a significant part of our USP, not an automation tool. We could have bought a turnkey solution, if we wanted to create just a bunch of restaurants. However, keeping in mind our plans to create a franchise with the ability to grow worldwide, we needed an integrated, perfectly designed IT infrastructure for this particular brand, and that is a huge competitive advantage. That is why our franchise is so attractive for partners from different countries, and we feel rather competitive on this uneasy global market.

Fedor Ovchinnikov // Founder of Dodo Brands

Today we will talk about all these technological tools’ inside job with Arseniy Vasiliev, head of the IT department of Drinkit and Doner 42, as well as with Murad Gammadov, product manager of the IoT stream.

— I would like to talk about the technologies you use for Drinkit and, as I understand it, for Dodo Brands in general. Tell us where you started, what you came to and what interesting plans you have.

Mr. Vasiliev: One of the key elements of our concept is the Drinkit mobile application. Its main function is the ability to order a drink in a coffee shop in advance. It is already in high demand among the guests, we receive more than 50% of orders this way. At the same time, not only do we have an application for ordering, but it is a core element of Drinkit, people trust the opportunity to order there.

But we don't create an app for the sake of an app. It should bring value to the guest. There are functional moments. It is convenient to order in advance on your way and to save time. It's convenient when you can add your favorite drink to “favorites” for subsequent orders. By the way, wide customization is also one of the core elements of our concept.

// Arseniy Vasiliev head of the IT department of Drinkit and Doner 42

Now we are mostly focused on working on the engagement and emotional part. We are creating an every-day coffee shop, the application should correspond to this aim.

Generally, foodtech applications are similar to each other: a menu, a catalog with categories. And it seems to be outdated. We want the user to order through a functional home screen, with smart and appropriate recommendations for the situation. The catalog will be out of the way.

Another important factor is diversity. You go into a coffee shop and open the app every day, like an Instagram feed. If there is always the same thing there, it will get you bored. Therefore, the home screen should be interesting, engaging the user with new offers, or some kind of entertainment. Another important part of this strategy is the loyalty program, which we don't have yet. So, we have big plans for the application for this year.

Additionally, we have a large IT system Dodo IS, which was originally created for processes in a pizzeria. We are adapting it for coffee shops. There is a cash register, tablets in the kitchen, which mark the passage of the cooking stages, and a backoffice. We want to digitize all processes in order to be as efficient as possible.

— So, that was your starting point. The DNA of Drinkit begins with IT. As I get it, there was no initial option with an ordinary, in my understanding, coffee shop, and you immediately started the thing with the technological component?

Mr. Vasiliev: In fact, yes. There was an idea of not only making pizza, but also of doner and coffee shops. There had already been plenty of coffee shops, and we had to do something better. The company had competencies in franchising, marketing, logistics and of course IT. The app was originally conceived as a product that will enrich the experience of coffee consumption. From the very beginning there was an IT team that started working on it.

— Does the first contact of the client happen online or offline? Do you think he can find this application on the web without a direct visit?

Mr. Vasiliev: I think you are right. Firstly, you come to the coffee shop, and there you will learn about the app, not the other way around.

We have already implemented a self-service terminal for new guests who need to get acquainted with the product and are not ready to install something on their phone yet. We want to immediately provide them with our digital experience, to show our amazing content from the application. This comes on a specific application on the iPad. We will launch it in some of our Moscow coffee shops soon, and then, hopefully this spring, the thing will appear in Dubai.

This is our representation of the UX: the guest comes to us for the first time, orders through a terminal, then he likes our product and becomes our regular visitor. We talk to him about the advantages of our application, about its convenience and loyalty program. And he starts ordering through it.

— Arseny, you put a lot of emphasis on customization. A guest can choose what to add to his drink, what to remove (ice and etc). We were told that you are now moving towards proper customization, when not only can you add something and increase the cost, but you can remove something and reduce the cost of this cocktail. How did you come up with this idea? And do I understand correctly that no one probably has the opportunity right now?

Mr. Vasiliev: Yes, we have such an idea. Customization is our main feature. We are experts in drinks, we can cook with any milk, add a lot of sprinkles, syrups, cheese foam. And yes, now in many applications, including ours, when you add toppings, the price increases. We want it to work the other way when removing ingredients.

Another important thing for us is the history of nutrition value and calories. We want to support the trend of awareness, it is important for many people to understand how much calories you consume. For example, in Doner 42 we have integration with Apple Health. But at the same time, everyone understands that this does not work exactly in all applications right now. Especially if you have customized your food-drink.

Here we do understand the risk. For example, a person will see how many calories does the cheese foam contain and may change his mind about adding it to his latte. But there will be trust in the application, because we indicate everything honestly, and our guests make an informed choice. In the long run, we think this is the right strategy and it will help us to establish good relationships with our guests.

Such an honest composition is not a simple feature, it does not work like a normal plus or minus. Most likely, we will involve a nutritionist to develop it. This is one of our projects this year on the app.

And of course, we are primarily a coffee shop, so we want to show the consumption of caffeine. If a person comes for his third latte per day, then we warn him: "Your daily caffeine rate has already run out, would you like to try cocoa or tea?"

In foodtech, many have learned how to make high-quality applications well, wiith a design according to guidelines, fast and smooth operation. But everything began to look the same, mainly focusing on the catalog, the paper menu from restaurants which is transferred directly to the app.

Clearly, someone has to start doing things differently. I think we are not the only ones who think so. Therefore, we make less familiar and complex interfaces, we experiment and create a lot of amazing video content. This is our conscious strategy.

We are moving towards an emotional attachment to the product, following in the footsteps of Spotify, Netflix. A radical change in the user experience of foodtech applications is coming. Everything is too much the same for now.

Clearly someone has to start doing things differently. I think we are not the only ones who think so. Therefore, we make less familiar and complex interfaces, we experiment and create a lot of amazing video content. This is our conscious strategy.

— Tell the story of the idea of smart issuance.

Mr. Gammadov: Our developer, Andrey, had an idea: "Here are the order numbers that we write on the stickers. Let's try to display them on small screens." He did it for himself, just out of curiosity, with no clear understanding of what it would grow into. And when he did, he showed the rest of the team — everyone liked the idea, and Fedor too. He supports all interesting initiatives that we propose.

Why did it suddenly become useful? When you have two or three orders in your work at the same time, there are no problems with stickers: I wrote and put it, that's it. But our coffee shop was located in a business center, and we have many coffee shops opening in business centers, and there are pronounced peaks when many people take coffee at the same time. It turns out that at 9-10 in the morning the table is clogged with a large number of drinks, sandwiches and so on, and the delivery area turns into chaos.

With this, of course, you can live with. Many coffee shops are coping, and ours would have coped. But we want to optimize the work in the coffee shop, to make it easier.

// Andrey Kozlov IoT Tech Lead

In the moments of morning and evening peaks, which are repeated every day, our device helps the team a lot. They get rid at least partially of small routine operations. When you have a lot of tasks in the stream at the same time, you need to keep up with everything — this operation, although small in itself, gives a decent load.

Well, we tried. We took a minicomputer (Raspberry Pi), screens and connected them through splitters. We thought how beautiful it was to put it all on top of the table. We ordered glass, marked the area into six cells, and made a marking line. We decided that it was enough to start with.

We collected all this literally from scratch in the office. This is what the electronics looked like in the first version. We basically glued the construction with some tape so that nothing would fall off.

There is a Raspberry hanging at the bottom, which, in fact, was lying on the table. We did not bother to make holes for wires or a case for Raspberry. Time was running out, I had to make the first try. Double-sided tape made something like supporting systems so that the wires could pass, and that's it.

When new employees come in, they don't understand the concept at first – they say, "What's the big deal? Why is this necessary?" But after working for a week or two, they get used to it, and then almost everyone agrees: "Yes, I understand the reason for this. It's really convenient."

From the first day we dreamed of doing one more thing – automatic detection of the moment when the order is picked up, because now this is a big problem. People pick up the order, and the barista needs to mark in the system the orders that have been issued. This fixation takes place through the issuance tablet. It turns out that you need to go to the tablet, check: "So, what is the order? 122nd", look at the output - "So, the 122nd is empty. Yes, they took it away," and to mark it. It is another small and unpleasant operation, which becomes especially unpleasant at the peak. And if we can automate this, then there will be space. We are already working on it.

— Have you tested how many orders are stolen or not stolen? For example, I analyze how orders are issued at McDonald's, and there you are correlated: they ask for a check or try to indicate you somehow. And here you just put this order and wait.

Mr. Gammadov: For all the time we have been working, we have not yet heard of a case where someone came and deliberately took the wrong order. It seems to me that the problem of theft, at least in Russia, in the places where we opened, is not an issue.

There is a nuance that at first we opened coffee shops in business centers. But now we have several coffee shops on the streets, and there are no problems there either. Even if one-time cases occur, it will not go beyond the general customer service. We have a rule: if you didn't like something or had other expectations from the drink, we are ready to redo it for free or cook any other. The same will happen if someone accidentally picks up a drink not from their cell. We trust the guests, this is our approach.

// Murad Gammadov in the DODO development lab

— From the point of view of repair, is it all quite simple or difficult? If you understand that something is broken, is it easy to fix it all up or not?

Mr. Gammadov: Actually, we followed the strategy of modularity and substitutability. That is, now, for example, if a cell has burned out, then we can just send a new one, and that's it.

— It's very convenient.

Mr. Gammadov: Yes, this is a great advantage of modularity.

The main problems we have with the stability of the old versions, but we will gradually replace them in all coffee shops. Our devices have been working for a year and a half, and there have been no critical breakdowns. Well, we reinsure ourselves wherever we can.

But if something does happen, as I said, we can send any of the modules for replacement. It is easy to replace cells or a block, any employee of a coffee shop can handle it.

— I see. Very cool!