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Jack in the Box is undergoing a tech transformation.

How Jack in the Box plans to get to 20% digital sales with a new hybrid tech stack

Jack in the Box CTO Doug Cook on why first-party tech capabilities combined with a new third-party POS is right for the restaurant brand’s growing digital business

When Jack in the Box chief technology officer Doug Cook joined the company in summer 2021, the San Diego-based chain’s technology investments were largely third-party “plug and play” partnerships. These days, Jack in the Box’s tech capabilities have become much more customized and sophisticated, with first- and third-party digital sales now comprising 12% of the company’s business. The hope, Cook said, is to get to 20% digital sales by 2026.

To get there, Cook and his team are deploying a hybrid tech stack solution to both the flagship brand and Del Taco, comprising of an internally built digital platform and a new POS partnership with cloud-based POS system, Qu. From there, the plan will be to modernize Jack in the Box’s tech stack, enable ease of omnichannel ordering, and unveil a new mobile app, which the in-house tech team is currently working on, alongside the digital technology platform.  

“In so many ways, our technology plan is to own our tech capabilities moving forward,” Cook told Nation’s Restaurant News. “Prior to me joining the company, we were leveraging third parties and outsourced platforms, and now with our own internal capabilities and some trusted third-party engineering firms, we control our destiny. The plan to push into 20% digital sales is a really aggressive, but I think, achievable plan.”

The debate between choosing a stack of the “best of” third-party tech vendors, aiming for a one-size-fits all approach with one or two primary tech partnerships, or building an in-house tech stack has intensified recently. While several years ago, the vast majority of restaurant companies did not have the resources or wherewithal to build their own custom tech platforms, now, that is changing. Wingstop, as one of the most prominent examples, discontinued its partnership with Olo this year to invest in a $50 million in-house proprietary technology platform. Other companies like Sweetgreen and Restaurant Brands International are choosing to go in-house with at least some aspects of their tech stack as well.

For Jack in the Box, a “Goldilocks” approach that marries in-house technology with select third-party partnerships like Qu, is the best approach.

“It's the right thing for other companies to build POS systems from scratch and own their own capability, but for us, that's not a differentiator and it's not a competitive advantage,” Cook said. “That’s where I draw the line—it’s about, ‘how can I partner with vendors and own the minimum, but where there’s a competitive advantage, I can step it up on my own.’ We don't need to be beholden to third parties, we want to control the experience, we want to personalize that experience….If I own this technology I can pave the future.”

As Jack in the Box approaches it “Digital Transformation 2.0” era, the tasks and capabilities will be pretty evenly divided between the company’s new POS system and an internal tech platform. Qu will be responsible for the “invisible” nuts and bolts of the digital tech stack, including “taking, making, paying for and delivering” food orders and providing self-ordering kiosks, as well as product optimization technology and tech integration. Jack in the Box’s proprietary technology platform, meanwhile, will work on guest-facing technology, including a new mobile app and new website that’s seamlessly integrated across all platforms.

“Like so many other quick-service restaurants, we're a technology company now, and it's hard for us to say that out loud at times, because we know we make burgers and tacos,” Cook said. “But we’re realizing that to gain market share and to gain the attention of the guest, you have to have these convenient, personalized experiences. And the only way to do that is to build [a team with] software talent. We’re well on our way.”

Contact Joanna at [email protected]m

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