,Australia

The store of the future and the challenges that come with it, according to McDonald’s, Zambrero and Krispy Kreme

Top executives highlight the continued value of personalisation and offer thoughts on balancing various channels.

The reimagination of restaurants has been one of the most innovative spaces the QSR and fast casual industry has seen in the past two years - an area clearly exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

More than ever, brand leaders say, offering a consistent customer experience across various channels—-in-store, delivery, and drive-thru—will be a core component of what stores will look like in the next five to ten years.

“It’ll just be an evolution of what you're seeing today,” McDonald’s Australia senior director for growth platform Joshua Bannister.

Some challenges for all brands, he says, is how they properly manage the orders themselves and translate the in-store experience to other channels such as delivery.

“You used to know who was in your restaurant because you could see your front counter or see how many cars in the drive-thru. But now, you've got orders coming in through kiosk, mobile application, delivery; you could have 50 orders hit your kitchen at once so I think that's actually a challenge for business moving forward,” he said, recommending adding to capacity as a response to this concern.

For Zambrero Australia chief executive officer Matt Kenny, which also expects more multi-channel stores, it’s also ensuring staff are equipped to deliver to every customer “no matter what channel they're coming through.”

“Customers have so much variety in the way they can order now through the various channels but what that does do is put a lot of pressure on our restaurants and particularly our young staff,” he said. “One of the biggest priorities for us is to make sure that whatever we sell, whether it be through a delivery channel, or in-store or another digital channel, that the same product and service is provided to the customer. In order to do that, we need to set those restaurants up for success.”

Krispy Kreme ANZ chief executive Andrew McGuigan echoed their sentiments, also highlighting customers’ flexibility in choosing what channel as a factor in how future assets will shape up. 

“This omnichannel model is a beautiful model when it works well. When it doesn't, and when your touchpoints begin to erode, that becomes a real issue,” he said. “The more you can forecast the demand as best you can, whether it's historic trends [and bringing] AI alive in the right ways in stores and restaurants all helps.”

“People [will] continue to figure out what's the right balance of seats in-store versus back of house,” he said. “The stores will continue to kind of optimize how we use space, because it's such a big cost.”

Personalisation still a core element
Considering the amount of customer data as a result of using these channels, the executives also agreed on personalisation as a key element in delivering a post-pandemic experience whilst stressing the importance of properly synthesizing it.

“A personalized approach, moving forward, to the customer, is about really taking all the data that you can get, and really putting it in an understandable and translatable form,” Kenny explained. “I think everyone talks about how much data you can get and everything...but unless you can actually synthesize it into something useful, it's not really of any use.”

“There's almost too much data and it's working out how you use it most effectively,” Bannister added. “We've actually just changed our back-end from a data perspective so the investment that we make in our consumer and business insights team has never been greater, and it will only continue to grow.

“We can play in that space quite well...but I think the big challenge and technology for a lot of smaller players is just your entry cost, the complexity of getting it up and going,” McGuigan said.

The executives’ insights were part of the QSR Media Sandhurst Conference’s first ever Towards the Store of the Future panel, held virtually on October 18.

(Were you a registrant at the QSR Media Sandhurst Conference & Awards? Watch the panel on-demand by clicking here.)

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