The other day, a member of our team went to Trader Joe’s to pick up a couple groceries and found themself in quite the predicament. It was a boiling hot day in San Rafael and the line outside was over 30 people long, with everyone standing 6 feet apart on the makeshift painted yellow lines for proper social distancing. They noticed Trader Joe’s had three people dedicated just to managing this line, with two people at either door counting people and one person bringing out waters so customers wouldn’t overheat – they still did. Meanwhile, everyone in line was getting anxious because it was unnerving to be in such close proximity to so many people (many not wearing masks) for such a long period of time, despite all social distancing precautions.

Since the COVID-19 crisis hit, many retail stores and grocery outlets have this same issue, and all of us are suffering waiting in lines. With more people leaving their homes and summer heat fast approaching, we’re positive that the pain experienced waiting in line will only get worse.

What it does

Queue with Kyoo is a simple line management solution built on top of Square that helps solve the pain of long socially-distanced lines at retail shops, grocery stores...anywhere with a socially-distanced line, because of limiting the number of customers in a store.

Here’s how it works for customers:

  1. Customers enter the queue one of three ways: i) scan a QR code (we’ll help you generate one that is on-brand) ii) visit your custom link (e.g. iii) in-person: an employee will issue a number (like at a meat counter)*
  2. Customers will be notified via text when they are “next in line”
  3. Customers will be notified via text when they are allowed to enter
  4. Customers are offered the opportunity to place a “while you wait” order, which can be brought to them while they are waiting in line. This option is perfect for getting a bottle of water or a free coffee (if you happen to be using this at Trader Joe’s!). “While you wait” order may also be used for essential items such as a pack of toilet paper or a carton of milk so the customer never needs to enter the store and the customer can complete their order and be sent on their way, which makes the line more efficient for other customers placing larger orders.

*in-person customers who do not wish to receive text updates can simply listen for their number to be called, the old-fashioned way

Here’s how it works for businesses:

  1. The “line manager” tells customers to either scan the QR code or type in a shortlink, or for those not wishing to provide their phone number, he/she can manually enter his/her own phone number using his/her own phone and provide the customer with a paper spot-in-line number.
  2. Line manager uses Square POS to advance the line by changing order status for customers reaching the front* (*note: we intend to replace this with our own automated “line manager” per the attached designs). The following are the status equivalents: NEW = CUSTOMER IS IN LINE IN-PROGRESS = CUSTOMER SHOULD CHECK IN WITH LINE MANAGER READY = CUSTOMER CLEARED TO ENTER THE STORE COMPLETE = CUSTOMER HAS ENTERED STORE, INCREMENT COUNT
  3. Upon changing order status of each “spot in line,” customers receive a text message to either begin heading over to the store entrance or that they are now allowed to enter the store
  4. Line manager asks for the confirmation number (order #) to allow the customer to enter the store

Queue with Kyoo was specifically designed with COVID-19 in mind – minimizing the time and anxiety of standing outside near other people. With summer fast approaching, customers will also feel much happier and safer waiting in a virtual line – they can stroll around the block or wait in the comfort of their air-conditioned vehicle until it’s their turn!

How we built it

To build Queue with Kyoo, we made use of Square’s new $0 order capability to enter each customer in line as a new $0 order with a saved customer (including their phone number for contacting them). We added a new route and environment for the customer to go to our “/line/” links, where they could begin by entering their phone number and immediately enter the line. We wanted this to replicate the simple experience of tearing off a ticket at a meat counter and waiting for your number to be called. In our case, we’re using Twilio to text the customer when their number is being called so they know to enter the store.

We’re using the Orders API to create the $0 order for each customer who joins the line.

We’re using the Customers API to create a customer with a phone number so the line manager has the option to contact them and our backend is able to send them status updates about their position in line.

We then provide a confirmation screen that provides the customer with their spot in line and offers them the option to place a “while you wait” order. Clicking this redirects the customer back to the merchant’s Kyoo Pickup page, where the customer can place regular orders.

Challenges we ran into

  • The Square Orders tab in the Point of Sale app does not allow us to rename the states to become more applicable to a line, so we probably will need to build our own UI for the employee managing the store’s line. For example, we are using “Picked Up” to mean “Entered the Store” and while this is fine as a hack, it may be too confusing for something we could release as a product.
  • We wanted to use a Square item to model the number of people in the store at a given time, but this won’t work for people scheduling their spot in line in advance, because the quantity will be deducted at the time the place the order. -- We would need to control when the quantity moves in order to use the item quantity to model the number of people in the store.
  • We tried to make this very simple with just the phone number input, but we found that a merchant probably will need more sophisticated features and UI, and we did not have time to build these features into the hackathon version, so we decided to launch something basic but fully design the end product so we can finish it after the hackathon. We are including the fully featured version’s design in the submission as it took a lot of work.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

  • We’ve already contacted a few grocery stores, hardware stores and boutique businesses and are fielding inquiries even before we officially launched the feature
  • Queue with Kyoo helps customers stay safe in the comfort of their own vehicle or they can take a walk in the neighborhood and not be too close to other customers; it’s also especially helpful for people with disabilities and older persons, so they are not waiting outside in the elements
  • Businesses can shift staff from counting customers/dealing with a line, to bringing essential/while you wait orders out to customers, reducing the number of people in the store/keeping customers happy/generating additional revenue for the store
  • We built this feature in under two weeks

What we learned

Businesses are requesting to have scheduled Queue with Kyoo (see fully featured designs attached)

What's next for Queue with Kyoo

  • Roll this out at a large grocery store (like Trader Joe’s) and also offer the ability to order “while you wait” to some of our existing merchants who experience long lines
  • Test the extensibility of this feature for solving all types of line problems and offer it to overloaded locations which are experiencing especially long lines due to COVID-19. We believe this same technology would be equally effective at solving a line problem at a walk-in clinic, bank, COVID testing center, or post office/shipping center
  • Give customers the ability to schedule a time to enter the business (i.e. make a “reservation”) and add custom limits for the number of customers who can reserve each time slot
  • Create a “smart throttling” system that allows more customers to enter the store when there is still space and cuts off the line when the limit is reached. The fairly closely resembles the “clicker” that a bouncer uses to monitor how many people are in a venue at any given time

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