The Quick Service Restaurant industry has always demanded forward-thinking leadership with the flexibility to pivot and adapt quickly in order to meet the ever-changing expectations and demands of modern society. Consumer behaviour today bears little resemblance to consumer behaviour of previous decades. The internet and social media have accelerated the speed at which industry-wide changes occur. Quick-service restaurant operators must be alert to shifting sentiments and developing concerns on social media channels to stay competitive and relevant.
Keep reading to learn more about the most significant challenges the Quick Service Restaurant industry is likely to face in the coming year and the steps you should be taking now to make sure your restaurant can weather the coming challenges.
Challenge 1: Enhance Menu Selection
While quick-service restaurants are trying to stream-line their menus to optimise take-out and delivery service, consumer demand for menu diversity is higher than ever. With the curtailment of extra-curricular activities, families are more apt to eat meals as a family. A quick-service restaurant with a wide array of menu options that can accommodate a family’s diet restrictions, food allergies, and finicky eaters with a bare minimum of hassle is a must.
The consumer analysts at McKinsey suggest restaurant owners pay close attention to emerging food trends (Paleo diets, low-carb, artisan, etc.) and find innovative ways to work as many of these options as possible into your menu. Suppose you can offer a comprehensive selection of menu items at competitive prices. In that case, your quick service restaurant should have little trouble finding an eager customer base among a population that has grown weary of pandemic limitations.
Challenge 2: Adopt Sustainable Best Practices
Consumers today are informed and involved in shaping the future by choosing to patronise and promote businesses who have shown a demonstrated commitment to sustainable business practices and ethical business policies.
The UK is the world’s 5th largest economy but ranks 24th in food sustainability according to research from the Sustainable Restaurant Association. This lacklustre ranking means there is plenty of opportunity for improvement
Restaurants can best meet customer’s desires for sustainability by investing in sustainable packaging or serving options, environmentally-friendly delivery options, and locally grown ingredients. The extra cost of these items may seem prohibitive at first blush, but today’s consumers are more than happy to spend more now to save the planet for future generations. Restaurants that don’t strive for sustainability stand to lose profits as customers opt for more responsible alternatives.
Challenge 3: Provide Dine-In Alternatives
The COVID pandemic has been a massive disrupter in the restaurant industry. While fine dining restaurants across the board have seen their customer base disappear overnight, quick service restaurants have experienced a much more comprehensive array of results. Quick service restaurants that were able to pivot from dine-in service to an alternative model have managed to survive. A select few have seen their profits increase.
It is clear that the effects of the COVID pandemic will linger much longer than most anticipated at the outset. It seems increasingly likely that some aspects of the restaurant industry may never return to a pre-pandemic normal. Quick service restaurants have discovered innovative ways to continue generating profits by changing up the way their food gets to the customer. Common alternatives like delivery and take-out can be optimised by adding in concierge-level personal touches. Family style dine-in restaurants create a take-out or delivery menu offering mix-and-match family sizes of popular menu items that customers can order and serve in individual portions at home. Quick service restaurants focusing on fresh, healthy, organic foods have found success by packaging the high-quality ingredients in meal-kits with easy instructions the customers can follow to prepare a restaurant-quality meal at home.
Challenge 4: Build A Social Media Presence
Increased social media use has shifted how consumers decide which businesses they will patronise (or which companies they will boycott). Peer-to-peer interactions on community forums or review sites are the biggest drivers of new business today. With just a few clicks consumers can generate a list of the “best restaurants near me” and compare the menu selections, delivery or take-out options, customer reviews and star ratings for each restaurant on the list. With the entire decision process now taking place online, brand reputation and an online presence are more important than ever before. Research has shown that a restaurant rating increase of one star results in a 5% to 9% increase in annual earnings.
So, how do you leverage social media to help attract new customers? First and foremost, you will want to check the most popular review sites (Google, Yelp, Urban Spoon, etc.) to ensure no malicious or damning customer reviews disparaging your restaurant. If you discover harmful content, you can negate a lot of the damage by graciously addressing the complaint, and explaining what you have done (or will do) to mitigate any future problems. A sincere apology and a generous store credit have an uncanny ability to turn a negative review into a glowing recommendation.
Challenge 5: Embrace Technology And Mobile Order Management
Most of the sweeping changes brought on by the global pandemic will fade away when business eventually returns to normal. Still, changes like the shift to AI and technology-based delivery and take-out options and mobile ordering are likely to remain. Customers want to browse a wide marketplace of options and place their personalised order from their smart device. They expect to minimise their time in-store through the use of information kiosks or menu boards that display the remaining wait time for their order and alert them when it is ready for pick-up.
Several technological advancements and applications like the suite of solutions from Winpos will allow restaurant owners to fine-tune their menus to offer a high degree of customised ordering options. The Internet of Things connectivity allows in-store kiosks to provide customers with real-time updates on their order status. Other technology providers offer data analysis tools to provide insight into customer preferences and help strengthen the customer bond.