Learning from Fast-Food Pace Setters

May 30, 2023 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

The Quick Serve Restaurant (QSR) business is changing at the speed of technology. Be it the aftermath of COVID or simply the speed of advancement, for most consumers, today’s QSR experience flows through the drive-thru (increasingly driven by better tech), cell phones, and brand apps.

New technology can capture a massive amount of information about evolving customer behavior – the QSR brands that succeed are the ones with systems robust enough to harness that data to leverage later. Consider the following:

  • 75% of all fast-food sales now come through the drive-thru.
  • Online food ordering has grown 300% faster than dine-in since 2014 and now accounts for roughly 40% of total restaurant sales.
  • Around 59% of millennial restaurant orders are for takeout or delivery.
  • About 92% of all top-performing restaurants offer mobile order-ahead and loyalty rewards programs or a combination of both.
  • About 64% of consumers prefer to order digitally on-premises at a QSR.

The metrics that have always driven QSR – quality, speed of service, and value – are still crucial to traffic and loyalty. When good, they clearly build relationship. When bad, they drive unforgiving consumers to other options that grow in number every year.

What has changed are the expectations consumers have now regarding the brand experience and what THEY want fast-food brands to deliver. That begins and ends with technology.

People want to place their orders online. They want their favorite brands delivered. They want to interact with them when, where, and how they want them, not the other way around. They want to engage with brand apps that reward them for their loyalty. They want brands to make them feel special and appreciated – as though their patronage makes them part of an exclusive club.

It doesn’t matter that those brand experiences were informed by brand interactions completely outside the restaurant business. Today’s consumers have taken the best practices they’ve experienced from high-end retail, airlines, restaurants, financial services, luxury goods, online shopping, apps, and loyalty programs and made those experiences their default expectation for every brand interaction they have—including fast food.

Restaurant operation is not for the faint of heart. Following a year when traffic was down significantly, the industry is facing the threat of recession, further inflation, and continued staffing challenges. That said, QSR will be better positioned than dine-in restaurants to capture consumers sensitive to price and looking to order quickly through a drive-thru.

The brands that succeed will be the ones ready to serve those consumers by giving them what they want, when and how they want it.

Orders that are consistently 100% accurate. Friendly service that’s fast and efficient. Reliable online and delivery options. An ordering process that’s frictionless in every channel.

Customers reward brands that meet them on their terms. The world is moving too fast for them to slow down and let brands catch up. We live in a time of instant gratification when people hold a world of information and possibility in the palm of their hand. The QSR brands that succeed will be the ones that embrace those possibilities and leverage them for their own benefit.

Want the details behind these findings along with a list of questions and prompts for improving your plan? We’re happy to share our 40-page white paper, “QSR Success Isn’t About Recapturing What Was. It’s About Embracing What’s Next.” Send an email to [email protected] for your copy.

MIKE SULLIVAN is president and CEO at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency and a top Dallas advertising agency for digital, social, mobile and user experience. For more about challenger branding, advertising, and marketing, leadership, culture, and other inspirations that will drive your success, visit our blog BARK! The Voice of the Underdog and catch up on all of our posts.

For more about LOOMIS, or to discuss how we can help your company succeed, CLICK HERE

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Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


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