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Part I - Digitizing Quick Service Restaurants To Create Seamless Customer Experiences

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Will technology-first approach help in re-imagining customer journey in Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs), provide unmatched experiences and match the instant gratification standards of modern consumerism? Read on.

survey by Modern Restaurant Management shows that about 75 percent of respondents eat out at least once a week and almost half (47 percent) eat out at least three times a week, ever wondered why? Convenience - diners are increasingly expecting on-the-go service, uninterested in lining up for a cashier to take an order.


Riddled with choice, consumers are experimenting with services underpinned by speed, ease-of-use and affordability. Whether it is online home delivery, digital drive-thrus, contactless payments, or self-service kiosks, digital innovation and disruption are reshaping the way we interact with technology and is also influencing the way we eat and what we eat. By adopting emerging technologies and presenting the customer with choices such as to dine in, take food to-go or home delivery, restaurants could enjoy new business opportunities and incremental revenues. 


According to a recent Zion Market Research, the global QSR market will soar to nearly $691 billion in the next five years, an anticipated CAGR of more than 4.2 percent between 2017 and 2022.


The road ahead might look opportunistic and with many challenges, but the path is insight-driven, digital solutions that will help restaurants anticipate changes in customer behavior and tackle their demands. 


The Rise of Digital Drive-Thrus, Curbside Pickups and Other Delivery Options


A recent QSR magazine research indicates that 50 - 70% of a QSR’s revenue comes from the drive-thru. The most important metrics at play being drive-thru order speed and accuracy. Independently, technology such as beacons, Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR), voice-based ordering, mobile powered curbside pick-up, etc., could improve speed and accuracy. But this alone will not yield results unless viewed holistically through a customer experience lens. The future is to build digital ecosystems that tie these independent technologies to offer a quick, seamless customer experience. 


For example, a customer drives into the drive-thru lane, is recognized as a repeat customer through ANPR and relevant information is displayed on the outdoor digital signage. The customer places a voice-based order for the “regular,” which is a large cheeseburger with a side of fries, is offered promotions to make it a combo by adding a bottled drink. As the customer reaches the pick-up counter, the order is either ready for pick up, and payment is processed through mobile contactless payment or is guided towards the pick-up bay #15 where a staff member will deliver the order.


Building order-ahead capabilities, rewards programs, and having a committed approach to customer experience will not just enhance order speed and accuracy, but will also result in upsell opportunities and most likely repeat business. In conjunction with drive-thrus, curbside pickup and delivery options are picking pace. Incorporating technology-centric perks and identifying ways to influence higher levels of convenience for customers will propel your restaurant to the next level.


Digital Powered Deliveries are Re-Defining “Quick” in Quick Service Restaurants


Disruptive digital technologies combined with changing demographics (tech-empowered millennials) are altering the landscape of the established QSR industry. Fast food and fast-casual used to mean delicious and affordable food, delivered to the customer waiting in line. However, the millennial customer, representing over 20% of the US population wants a different QSR experience that involves delicious and affordable food delivered home.


Many large companies have already started offering home delivery through online platforms – Yum brand’s investment of $200M in Grubhub, Wendy’s partnership with Doordash and McDonalds with Uber Eats. Results are quite visible and food delivery service is projected to grow in the double digits—12% per year over the next five years.


The experience, however, is still not seamless with the QSR’s mobile platform. To place home delivery orders, customers need to download the delivery partner’s mobile app and place the order through that. You might either lose your customer to app fatigue or open up alternative food options that could influence their order. To be competitive in the off-premises landscape, it is imperative that QSR’s adopt an online delivery technology with delivery mechanism integrated into the QSR’s mobile platform and reduce the number of clicks/taps to order – resulting in quick and accurate customer service. 


To know how we at HARMAN (a SAMSUNG company) are helping QSRs create seamless customer experiences, stay tuned for our next blog, Part II: Quick Service Restaurant Must-Haves to Attract Next-Gen Customers.


We would love to hear your thoughts, please drop me a line here or on LinkedIn/Twitter.