To enhance diners’ experiences in quick-service restaurants (QSRs), managers are utilizing digital innovations, enabling everything from faster orders to more efficient kitchens. Overall, restaurant leaders have one goal: to make quick service even quicker.
More than 70 percent of QSR managers see these as the main benefits of implementing technology, according to the PYMNTS Restaurant Readiness Index. Most believe features that enable convenient order pickup and ensure accuracy are important to their restaurants’ success. (However, they’re less enthusiastic about high-profile innovations such as mobile apps and kiosks.)
Even so, QSRs from Jack in the Box to Chipotle Mexican Grill are bringing digital systems into their establishments. Listed below are just some of the ways establishments are tapping into innovations like drive-thru pickup and mobile apps:
Seventy-one percent of QSR managers say fast in-store pickup is important for future success. In-store pickup is even extending to venues beyond restaurants, such as cinemas. AMC Theatres, for instance, is rolling out food and beverage ordering via mobile app. Moviegoers can either pick up their food near the concessions stand at the Express Pick-Up kiosks or have their food sent directly to their seats in some locations. Mobile ordering is available at the chain’s Denver, Boston and Houston locations, with more markets said to be in the works for this year.
More than six in 10 – or 65.3 percent – QSR managers believe drive-thru pickup is an important feature for future success. Technology platforms are also enabling diners to place their orders through conversational artificial intelligence (AI) at the drive-thru. For instance, when a customer arrives in the drive-thru lane, Valyant AI grabs a signal and fires off a greeting to welcome the diner. The system doesn’t have a structured flow; it is designed to let the customer order food however they like.
Nearly 65 percent of QSR managers see online/app ordering as important for future success. Hamburger chain Jack in the Box is rolling out a mobile app that lets customers view promotions, deals and menus, in addition to finding the closest location. The app also has one-tap functionality for diners to place orders and pay using their phones. In addition, the company tapped Cognizant to understand corporate workflows and customer requirements. Jack in the Box VP of Marketing Communications Adrienne Ingoldt said in an announcement that “the app addresses the evolving needs of our guests while increasing in-store efficiencies.”
Almost half – or 47.5 percent – of QSR managers believe loyalty programs are important for future success. Some QSRs are teaming up with payment services to grow their rewards offerings. Chipotle Mexican Grill, for instance, is working with Venmo to expand its loyalty program amid huge growth of its digital platform. During launch week, Venmo surprised customers by depositing between $1 and $500 in their accounts. Chipotle Mexican Grill CEO Brian Niccol said, according to CNBC, “We think it’s great for Chipotle to show up in unexpected places – but in really relevant places for people and how they want to communicate with each other.”
And 46.8 percent of QSR managers say kitchen automation is an important tool for a QSR’s future success. Last year, Little Caesars received a patent for what it called an “apparatus provided for assembling pizza.” The machine reportedly comes with “a pizza sauce-spreading station, a cheese-spreading station and a pepperoni-applying station.” The pizza robot has an arm that can hold the pizzas, along with a dial system to ensure the robot puts the right amount of pepperoni and cheese on the pie. Staff at Little Caesars will then be able to complete other tasks aside from preparing pizza.
Innovation has long played a vital role in the space, with technology and efficiency enabling a QSR like McDonald’s to swell from just one outlet to a worldwide phenomenon. By utilizing kitchen automation and mobile apps, managers of QSRs can access a host of digital tools to grow their businesses and entice hungry diners.