As digital restaurant ordering and on-location pickup comprise an increasing segment of QSR sales, speed is of the essence. But how fast is fast enough to keep customers happy — and what are the drawbacks to certain types of pickup options?
Ecommerce technology provider Rakuten Ready sent hundreds of “test shoppers” to 10 of the nation’s top QSRs — from Burger King to Taco Bell — in July and August of this year in California, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Ohio, Texas and West Virginia. The shoppers placed online orders via mobile or web and tallied 16 data points to assess their experiences with attended in-store pickup (requiring employee interaction); the little-used, unattended pickup option in a dedicated, in-store area; and exterior, curbside pickup.
For attended, in-store pickup of digitally placed orders, the average wait time was clocked at 2:29, according to the Rakuten Ready 2019 Time Study. More than half (58%) of all orders were ready in fewer than two minutes, while 78% were ready in fewer than four minutes. Taco Bell’s average wait time of 1:36 led the QSRs, with 80% of orders ready in fewer than two minutes and 92% in fewer than four.
Of the three QSR chains that offered unattended pickup during the shopper test, the study identifies only the winner, Chipotle, with 88% of orders ready in fewer than two minutes.
The report notes that while the unattended model can be “very effective at lowering wait times, shoppers noted that the food was sometimes cold and quality had suffered.” It goes to conclude that unattended “can also be a black box for brands since this type of pickup does not allow them to fully gauge the freshness of the orders and quality of the customer experience.”
Curbside pickup adds “operational complexity for store operations teams” because staffers must be alerted to customer arrivals to find and greet them and determine where they are waiting. Chick-Fil-A had the lowest average curbside pickup wait time of 3:50, followed by McDonald’s at 5:29. The average curbside pickup wait time at QSRs was 4:39, with 9% of orders ready in fewer than two minutes and 74% in fewer than six.
According to the report, even among the highest-performing QSRs, wait times and experiences varied at different locations and even in the same location at different times of the day. “Those brands who employ trained, customer-facing staff in the last mile, those who truly understand how to manage and process online orders, will make all the difference,” concluded the report.