Whether you work at a fast-food restaurant where you have a touchscreen soda fountain or you take your break in a cafeteria or restaurant that has a Coca Cola Freestyle, these machines can be new and exciting for both customers and employees. While these machines may let you have a Cherry Coke that isn’t typically offered at fast-food restaurants or Peach Sprite that’s rare, there’s a lot more behind these machines than just more choices. Learn more about how these machines work, why they were invented and what they can do for your business.
How do touchscreen soda machines work?
Coca Cola’s Freestyle machines, which have been around since about 2009, are likely the best-known touchscreen soda machines, but others are in the works, including Pepsi’s Tower, which is expected to be smaller and sit atop the counter, the Atlanta Business Journal reported. But no matter the brand, these drink fountains are designed to allow users to select their drink order from a touchscreen display, similar to tablets and smartphones.
Although everyone seems to have a touchscreen device nowadays, there’s still something fun and intuitive about using a screen preloaded with images to select your drink. But the big draw of touchscreen soda machines isn’t the interface between the user and the machines as much as it is the many, many flavors.
Coca Cola advertises over 100 flavors – many more than a traditional machine. Whereas older machines would need 100+ buttons or levers to dispense that many flavors, the touchscreen allows users to select a soda type then more specific flavors from the base type. For example, the Freestyle homescreen features well-known brands such as Diet Coke and Sprite. From there, users can select one then see flavors such as Raspberry Sprite or Orange Sprite. The machine then dispenses specific quantities of syrup with sodawater to create that exact flavor. The machine functions more like an old-fashioned soda fountain than a modern vending machine, mixing syrup with soda water. It’s not too different than the way that Coca Cola has produced its other products over the years, shipping syrups to its bottlers who then mix the substances at specified quantities with filtered carbonated water.
Why were these machines invented?
As USA Today explained earlier this year, Coca Cola Freestyle was first invented to deliver more variety to the consumer. It’s also a way for the soda giant to stand out among growing competition and health trends that lead consumers away from soft drinks. So, Coke set out to create a drink machine that not only offered new and interesting flavors that could facilitate a kind of soda tasting, but was also sleek, new and attractive to millennials. Coca Cola said it enlisted Ferrari designer Pininfarina Extra, an Italian firm, to help create the inviting exterior of the machines.
Many have speculated that these machines, which have been more expensive to design, create and roll out than traditional Coke dispensers, are specifically geared toward attracting young soda drinkers. Jennifer Mann, vice president and general manager of Coca-Cola Freestyle, called it “one of the largest investments in innovation in the history of the company,” according to USA Today. It plays off the interactivity, excitement, graphics and touchscreen that millennials have come to expect in many gadgets. There’s even an app for mobile users that lets people find nearby Freestyle machines, make specialty drink mixtures, win prizes and save their drink favorites.
These machines have also allowed Coca Cola to create flavors for resale that have proven popular in Freestyle machines.
What can touchscreen soda machines do for your business?
Because Freestyle is the largest and most well-known touchscreen soda machine currently, most data on touchscreen soda success is tied to Coca Cola. Freestyle machines have been used at a number of facilities, perhaps best known at Burger King. The company said that Burger King customers “love” the machine at the restaurant. Coca Cola also pointed to Moe’s Southwest Grill as an example of success.
“Mike Walsh, who owns seven Moe’s Southwest Grill restaurants in New York, has Coca-Cola Freestyle machines in his two newest locations. ‘Our customers love it,’ Walsh says. ‘When we opened our two new stores everybody was mesmerized by it. It’s definitely a good business driver.’ The Moe’s franchisee is now busy converting his other five stores into Coca-Cola Freestyle locations,” Coca Cola explained.
Mann said that when restaurants use Coca Cola’s machine, their brand perception may improve.
Whether you’re considering using a Coca Cola Freestyle in your franchise restaurant, you’re interested in drinking from one or you’re just curious why these machines started popping up, touchscreen soda machines are a new, unique take on how soda can be served and interacted with in a restaurant.
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