How To Find The Right QSR Technology

Founder/CEO of Sparkfly. Our offer management platform helps QSRs maximize acquisition & loyalty by connecting customer behavior with sales.

It’s no secret that the Covid-19 pandemic has hit many organizations in the wallet — hard. With much of the world still locked away and conducting life online, it’s no longer “business as usual.” Having the right technology to reach consumers has become a make-or-break corporate consideration like never before.

Pre-Covid-19, relevancy was part of a consumer wish list that included convenience, speed, efficiency, accuracy and price. With so many options across so many different channels, consumers could compare and pick and choose freely. In the face of health concerns and restrictions on where we go and what we do, that wish list has become more of a requirements document.

QSRs are one industry sector that can provide a sense of normalcy — or, even better than that, relief — to the grind of our ongoing isolation. But how do you reconcile investing in technology during economic uncertainty? And with online ordering, apps, kiosks and an ever-expanding range of digital payments, how do QSRs (quick-service restaurants) ensure they’re engaging with their customers in the right way at the right time in order to provide what they need?

In order to truly drive throughput — getting more customers and getting them serviced more quickly — QSRs need to take a long look at the technology they’re already using and understand that the customer experience doesn’t start and end at the point of sale. QSRs should be exploring how to reduce any points of customer friction, as well as increasing their overall efficiency.

On the one hand, Covid-19 has accelerated a lot of business transformation efforts that were already underway. It’s also expanded growth opportunities for those businesses that were slow to change before but are ready now. On the other hand, Covid-19 is shining a harsh, discerning light between those QSRs that have approached their technological evolutions strategically and those that have chased the next shiny object with a “strategy of the day” to suit.

While technology is a key driver to meet both overarching corporate goals and that long list of customer expectations, it’s only as good as the base on which it rests. That’s where some QSRs stall; they’re either paralyzed by all the possibilities and end up taking no action, or they’re trying to chase too many options with too few resources.

Like most endeavors, finding the solution that moves your business forward requires a sound strategy — one that is reflective, not reactive. It takes into consideration who your customers are, what they need and how equipped you are to deliver for them. It explores the ability for your operating systems to talk to each other and to share data across departments for better transparency, and it anticipates the need to respond to market and consumer trends with plug-ins that can be turned on or off based on lessons learned.

The crux of the most sustainable strategies is the data you have available to you and how you make use of it. Data detailing customer habits and behaviors helps with everything from online or in-house POS (point of sale) options to traffic flow, scheduling and loyalty program benefits. Data on volume patterns or from predictive models can help ensure your back-of-house capability is robust enough to smoothly handle increased demands for order fulfillment.

So again, start with the technology you currently have and see what it tells you. Obviously, there’s the data from your POS systems, but QSRs can also glean significant insights from data around loyalty program trends, promotional surges and ebbs and social media channel engagement. This is also the time for purposeful cross-departmental collaboration so that the vision for where you want to go can be mapped against your organization’s current technology capabilities and the gaps can be identified and prioritized.

QSRs without the resources for an outside assessment of their technology, operations or infrastructure have other options. Speak with your current POS provider about what an online ordering strategy looks like and what partnerships they can bring to the table to further diversify your digital ecosystem.

The silver lining is that the changes we’re seeing now will benefit the QSR industry enormously moving forward. Pioneers like Chipotle, Chick-fil-A and Starbucks have already taken the initial risks, and their digital strategies have translated into increased throughput and sales revenue. This means there are now turnkey products available on the market that have been proven at scale and can help drive innovation and accelerate digital strategy within other QSRs. 

Although it may feel uncomfortable to make changes in times of economic uncertainty, this is the perfect opportunity to reflect on the state of your business and address the transformation tasks — large or small — that have been sidelined till now. Creating a plan, analyzing your data and determining if the technology you’re using needs minor tweaks or major upgrades are the kind of investments in sustainability that keep customers coming back and keep you ready for the next potential disruption to “business as usual.”

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