The restaurant industry is making big moves to transform the customer experience and to meet the demands of what according to Deloitte Consulting, is the “next-generation customer.” Quick Serve Restaurants (QSRs) are moving toward providing consumers with a frictionless experience, a concept in which buyers and sellers get connected in ways that provide consumers with the facility to find products and/or services they want to purchase instantly while removing those steps in between that either don’t add value to the experience or which negatively impact the shopper.
Today’s hyperconnected consumers want to get in and out of restaurants fast. According to Deloitte’s recent survey titled, “The Restaurant of the Future”, guests have the most appreciation for the restaurants that make that possible. The study also found that when a restaurant enables guests to use technology to place an order, they’ll come back six percent more often, and they’ll spend 20 percent more each time they visit.
QSRs across the country are increasingly offering digital ordering options, and customers are welcoming these newfound choices with enthusiasm. A recent PYMNTS Restaurant Readiness Index reported that 62 percent of consumers say the availability of digital innovations would make them more likely to visit in the future.
Companies like McDonald’s and Starbucks are paving the way by offering customers innovative ways to seamlessly place orders through options like mobile order-and-pay and self-serve kiosks. In fact, Starbucks is taking frictionless one step further by offering a voice ordering option in South Korea that enables customers to place orders through voice commands while driving. The coffee giant is also offering more cashless payment options which leveraging the growing popularity of mobile payment systems such as digital wallets. PayPal, Apple and Google’s digital wallets use smartphone apps to enable payments both online and physical stores through Bluetooth and near-field communication (NFC) technologies.
McDonalds plans on increasing the number of self-serve kiosks in 1,000 stores per quarter in the United States. The kiosk push which will result in 8,000 to 9,000 stores offering customers the ability to customize and place their orders—even request table service, via a touchscreen computer.
Recently, Wow Bao, a Chicago-based fast-casual chain that serves Asian steamed buns, pot stickers, and noodles, became fully automated and completely cashless. The tech-enabled stores now only require one or two staff members per shift to run the operation behind the scenes, while customers place their orders through a touch-screen kiosk and receive their meals in one of the 12 animated, light-emitting diode (LED) cubbies. This helps provide a higher level of service for the consumer and saves labor costs for the business.
Panera launched online order and pick-up at the Rapid Pick-Up shelf and in-store kiosks as part of its Panera 2.0 platform. The company is reaping real results, with digital sales now accounting for approximately 33 percent of company sales.
Personalization is Key
Demanding guests don’t want to wait, but they also expect a more customized experience. According to the Deloitte survey, 70 percent of respondents look for apps that deliver personalized offers and convey a sense that a restaurant “knows them.”
Today, new technologies are helping QSRs identify their guests as well as their locations—to serve them better and to ensure that the product they pick up maintains its integrity and quality.
Locationing solutions are critical for QSRs executing next-generation marketing programs based on the guest’s location. These solutions can send relevant messages to their customers at the exact right moment when they might have the greatest impact - whether they are driving by, in the parking lot or even when they are inside the restaurant. Restaurant operators can also use them to get immediate feedback on their customers’ most recent dining experience.
According to a recent Techonomic Consumer Brand Metrics report, the most important factor for fast-food patrons is “high-quality, fresh food.” Locationing technology can help restaurants enable effective kitchen timing to ensure the delivery of fresh, quality fare.
Through the use of location and mobile geofencing technology, many QSR operations are now able to better control the timing of order creation so that delivery can be optimized to match the guest’s location. For example, when a guest who is five miles away places an order, the kitchen can start the order as the customer nears the restaurant. This prevents orders from sitting for long periods of time and getting cold or stale.
Indoor locationing solutions make it possible for restaurant staff to greet customers by name and deliver relevant offers. The technology also gives staff inside the restaurant the ability to see which guest is at which table, so that orders can be delivered the moment they are complete—to make sure that service is fast and that the food served is always fresh.
Companies like Starbucks believe that while efficiency and speed are important to guests, there is also great value in providing a human element to each transaction. Take the drive-thru, which can account for anywhere from 50 to 70 percent of all sales. As digital technology continues to evolve, so will the QSR landscape. Businesses will continue to adapt technologies like video screens, self-serve kiosks, and cashless payment options to help increase customer service, lower business costs and drive sales. They will also incorporate human interactions rather than eliminate them because of the irreplaceable value they bring.