Scraffic, a retail customer traffic-counting Software as a Service (SaaS) company, created a new drive-thru traffic tracking service after seeing for themselves the pandemic-induced shift in consumer traffic. During the retail closures of 2020, there was a 26% percent increase in drive-thru traffic in the quick-service restaurant or QSR space.
“As the pandemic unfolded, we watched how the traffic in our customers’ stores decreased dramatically, with those numbers falling to and staying at zero in the early days of the pandemic,” Scraffic CEO John West said. “We knew some of these stores would never open again. It’s been tough to watch, but we’ve had locations close.”
West and chief operating officer Ryan Ward launched their in-store customer tracking startup from Geekdom in 2016. Scraffic provides its customers their proprietary SaaS platform and internet-connected video cameras mounted on the ceiling to count the number of visitors who walk into the establishment. Business owners can track real-time foot traffic in stores using Scraffic’s dashboard to leverage data-driven insights in their operations.
In the early days of the pandemic, Scraffic added a new technology capability called Drive Thru-Put. Instead of a video camera, Scraffic uses a small sonar device in the overhang above the pick-up window to track how long each car is waiting at the window. The data is transmitted wirelessly to a dashboard displayed on a tablet near the window to alert employees and management when a client has been waiting too long.
The startup ran a pilot with a local company to monitor their drive-thru times. They discovered that the store’s drive-thru traffic alone was comparable to the volume at essential businesses such as pet stores.
The pivot to drive-thru was enough to keep that store in business. That early discovery led to Scraffic launching its new capability to help business owners stay in operation.
“The drive-thru pilot became immediately viable as a product offering, so we decided to keep doing both in-store and drive-thru customer tracking,” West said.
The numbers show that drive-thru is here is stay. Drive-thru customer traffic continues to generate the most business at restaurants even as dining rooms reopen, as more consumers shift to convenience and faster service. The quick-service segment captures 60% to 70% of its business through this channel.
“The drive-thru trend is here to stay. For some organizations, they’re looking at never reopening their indoor dining, relying only on drive-thru customers,” West said. “Our platform gives our business owners immediate feedback on how their drive-thru flows are going and the need for quick-response changes.”
Price often prevents some small businesses from investing in services that count and track customers throughout the day, Ward explained. Their in-store customer traffic service is much more affordable than the typical customer-counting services charging a few thousand dollars for installation. With no up-front fees, Scraffic charges only $35 per counter per month for in-store tracking.
Scraffic initially targeted small businesses, but the startup is convinced they can attract larger chain buyers, too. Its new drive-thru tracking is priced at $250 monthly or $2,400 annually per store location and is currently in use at two undisclosed regional quick-service restaurant chains. There are more locations planned for the new tracking service.
“We’re targeting 35 new local drive-thrus for this quarter alone,” Ward said.
Scraffic has accounts with over 50 retail brands at over 100 stores spread across four countries and sustains itself from its sales. Their plan includes incorporating machine learning into their tracking for predictive analytics as big data sets are generated.
“Over time, our models will be able to predict when businesses will begin to have service issues,” Ward said.
While the company still has some employees using its space at Geekdom, they’ve opened a manufacturing facility off Isom Road near the airport. With five employees, the company is looking to double its workforce by year’s end. Scraffic also plans to hire an executive in a leadership role with experience in foodservice operations and customer service or someone who has worked before in a hardware tech startup.
The startup leveraged its friends-and-family early financing round to get started. When Scraffic only measured foot traffic inside retail stores, the startup was on track to be profitable by the end of 2020 when the pandemic hit. Scraffic expects to close on a seed-stage fundraising round in the coming months to fuel their growth, according to West.
“No one else is doing what we’re doing at this magnitude,” West said. “We’ve got a solid outlook with expected profitability this year in the analytics and QSR space.”
The featured image is of the Scraffic team, from left: Stephen Chang, John West, Ryan Ward. Courtesy photo.