Five Ways QSRs Are Driving Digital Innovation


New technology continues to change the way consumers order and pay for quick-service restaurant (QSR) food: Kiosks and online ordering, among other experiences, let consumers ditch the counter for faster and higher-tech alternatives. But these restaurants are not innovating all that fast — even with all sorts of new technologies hitting the market.

According to the PYMNTS Restaurant Readiness Index, the average technological implementation score is far from perfect at 38.7 out of 100. But customer adoption isn’t behind the slow adoption of QSR innovations — in fact, 62 percent of consumers said the availability of digital innovations would make them more likely to visit QSRs in the future.

Not all digital innovations are perceived by consumers the same way, however. When it comes to restaurant technology, some diners have a more positive view of certain features over others. Overall, these are some of the features that are resonating with consumers — and how QSRs are implementing them: 

Eighty-four percent of consumers had a positive experience with in-store fast pickup. To help restaurants provide this offering, technology companies like Minnow are providing pickup pods. Diners can use the pods by placing an order from a restaurant’s app or website. After that point, the eatery prepares the food and places the order in the locker. A customer then, in turn, receives a notification that her order is ready. As a result, she does not have to wait around for the order. The pods also avoid the loss or theft of orders from low-tech shelves stocked with pickup orders that are out in the open for customers who might steal or take the wrong order by mistake.

And the same share of consumers — 84 percent — had a positive experience with online or app ordering. Diners, too, are gaining access to more delivery options with online ordering as QSRs expand their offerings: In April, Domino’s Pizza  announced that it was letting customers receive orders in locations that don’t have traditional addresses, such as parks and sports fields. In the April press release, Domino’s U.S.A President Russell Weiner said, “We know that delivery is all about convenience, and Domino’s Hotspots are an innovation that is all about flexible delivery options for customers.”

Almost the same share of consumers — 83 percent — had a positive experience with digital wallets. And food delivery services like EatStreet are taking notice: To reduce friction in the payment process, the company enables its customers to pay for their meals through many different methods like Apple Pay. In fact, EatStreet added Apple Pay because customers asked for the mobile payment method. EatStreet CEO and Co-Founder Matt Howard told PYMNTS in an interview in April that he realized the importance of providing a customer’s ideal payment option. “It will definitely increase our conversion rate to have the payment method that a consumer prefers,” Howard said at the time.

Eight in ten — or 80 percent — of consumers had a positive experience with a loyalty program. To help provide those experiences, TGI Fridays teamed up with SessionM to revamp its loyalty and rewards offering. With the new offering, the company is putting aside its static rewards for real-time and dynamic experiences that don’t necessarily have to do with food. That is, consumers can get rewards without having to go into the store. Instead, they can take actions like engaging with the brand on social media. The aim, according to an executive, is to get people excited to find out what’s new. In one case, the offering could provide a customer with a limited-time offer to try a new product before the rest of the world does.

About three-quarters — or 74 percent — of consumers had a positive experience with self-service kiosks. McDonald’s, as an example, plans to introduce more kiosks as the QSR focuses on customer choice and experience. According to reports in June, the chain planned to add those kiosks at a rate of 1,000 U.S. stores per quarter for the next eight to nine quarters. The technology comes as McDonald’s is rolling out new ways to order beyond drive-through lanes or the counter. McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook said in June that customers “can order through mobile, they can come curbside and we’ll run it out, as well as the existing traditional ways.”

Many consumers share a positive view of digital innovations like online ordering, kiosks and digital wallets, among others. QSRs, then, have a receptive audience for new ordering and payment experiences. Going forward, however, it will be up to these establishments to decide how and when these implement digital technologies to serve their customers.



The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.