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CO-WRITTEN / PARTNER | Staff Reporter, Australia
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What does the future hold for technology in the QSR industry?

Find out how QSRs can thrive even as the shift to takeout, delivery, and drive-thru persists.

The QSR industry today looks nothing like it did 10 years ago.

Technological innovation has allowed the industry to evolve in ways that were never thought possible. QSRs are now realising that digital is, in fact, the way to go as the pandemic forced many players to accelerate the pace of innovation to keep up with the radical changes in the industry. Today, enhancing the speed and convenience of dining offsite is becoming QSRs’ top priority.

According to Deloitte’s The Restaurant of the Future report, the massive shift to takeout, delivery, and drive-thru that we saw in 2020 is likely to persist in the longer term. The QSRs are changing their store layouts to reflect exactly that – real estate footprints are shrinking and more space is now being allocated for services that cater to digital orders.

“Two national fast-food brands told us they’re experimenting with stores 40 or 50 percent smaller than before, with less space for dining and more capacity for curbside, drive-thru, and pickup business. QSRs are also exploring updated location designs that allow employees to bring food from the kitchen straight to customers or delivery drivers,” adds Deloitte.

With customers ordering via different channels, QSRs would do well to take a second look at the entire experience from the point of view of the customer. Accenture notes that successful companies will start every strategic discussion with the customer journey and work backwards to design the required changes.

“They will create differentiated experiences by tirelessly removing customer pain in both physical and digital environments with a combination of services and new in-store experiences.”

Luke Irving, founder and CEO of global tech company Fingermark™, agrees and says nailing personalisation whilst integrating the customer’s end-to-end experience will be pivotal for QSRs.

A personalised service could mean understanding how technology can enhance customer loyalty by recognising the customer, or remembering their preferences and providing relevant, timely suggestions.

“QSR ordering will be different from before the pandemic. Customers will want more control over how they order and how that order is delivered,” he adds.

Drive-thru
In the wake of COVID-19, more QSRs are now investing in improving their drive-thru business.

“QSR executives we spoke with say their brands are discussing future moves to expand or improve their drive-thru operations. Anecdotally, even places that had only 20 percent drive-thru business before the pandemic are finding it has shot up as high as 90 percent,” reveals Deloitte.

Having worked with several major international QSR brands, Irving says speed underpins everything in the industry, but much more so in drive-thru.

“Fingermark™ was ahead of the game with the development of Eyecue™ using machine vision technology. This tool helps QSRs understand human-vehicle interactions to enhance the customer’s experience in the drive-thru. By providing real-time data and insights, operational blind spots are uncovered, decision-making is better-informed, and efficiency is increased,” he adds.

Eyecue™ gathers data and provides actionable insights and, in some cases, even predictive analytics. For instance, when Eyecue™ alerts the QSR that there is a 10-car line up before the order point, the QSR would know that another cashier or presenter may be needed to efficiently handle the big influx of orders coming up. Or, when live data from Eyecue™ reveals that presenter window time is increasing every 10 minutes, the staff might be struggling to manage order payments, hence the QSR can swap out the cashier with someone more experienced.

Now more than ever, technology is proving to be a crucial enabler for QSRs. According to Irving, speed of service is becoming even more important today so directing customers to the quickest way to get their food should be a priority. This can be made possible by implementing the right technology.

“With or without a pandemic, investing in smart technology provides a way not only to measure operational efficiency and increase customer satisfaction, but also allows QSRs to make data-driven decisions that matter,” concludes Irving.
 

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