June 2017 – The Quick Service Restaurant, or QSR for short, industry is facing a complete overhaul due to the surge in connectivity across the United States. With the growing popularity of fast-casual restaurants in the U.S., companies like Starbucks, Subway, and Panera, who dominate the QSR market, are being forced to innovate their business models to satisfy changing consumer inclinations. In a country where 3 out of every 4 citizens own a smartphone, mobile connectivity options are at the forefront of innovation.
The QSR industry has seen a shift in consumer focus in two directions: speed and customer service. With the introduction and boom of mobile apps for QSRs there has been a significant deviation away from cashier-based ordering and queuing. Mobile ordering and payment systems, i.e. Chick-Fil-A’s One app, have streamlined the consumer process, as well as enabled QSRs to focus on other aspects of their experience.
In order for QSRs to meet the speed and customer service desires of their customers they have begun to redesign stores around their mobile capabilities. A greater emphasis on the pick-up service and less on cashiers has allowed restaurants to streamline their operations and focus more closely on customer experience. Starbucks has been a front-runner in this innovation with the introduction of an entirely mobile store. Starbucks’ Seattle-based, mobile-order only store is focused on, “offering views of busy baristas making food and drink orders,” through an expanded pick-up window, enhancing the customer experience as well as speeding up the entire process through remote ordering and payment. This sense of efficiency is spreading throughout the QSR industry, with restaurants also offering curbside delivery for mobile orders, similar to Sonic’s iconic roller-blading Carhops.
These shifts in QSR structure will have a distinct impact on how consumers approach the QSR experience, introducing the decision between a quick to-go meal and experiencing the enhanced customer service through a sit-down meal. With the decrease in cashiers, QSRs are focusing more of their human capital as greeters and hybrid waitstaffs in hopes to improve customers’ sit-down experience. As more QSRs begin to adopt this method its effect on the consumer base will be evident and will create the groundwork for the next stage of technological development.
Written by: Jack Bondurant