As restaurants find themselves moving closer to normality, many are placing different bets about which -- if any -- of COVID-era consumer trends are likely to be permanent.
A new study from Market Force, based on responses from some 9,500 consumers about what they expect from quick-serve restaurants going forward, has teased out four areas that it says QSR chains should invest in, even as the memory of pandemic purchasing fades.
Make apps more appetizing. Consumers spent the last 15 months happily downloading apps that made eating easier, with Uber Eats and DoorDash among the most popular. Brands should lean into this digital transformation by making their apps shine.
"An increase in branded app downloads creates an opportunity for QSR brands to replace the third-party giants, cut down on fees, and take full control of the customer journey," notes the report. High-performing apps help "brands create a consistent experience that is on-brand and resonates with customers. With this level of control, QSR brands will be able to understand what actions will improve conversion, create trust and build loyalty."
McDonald’s, for example, is promoting its collaboration with supergroup BTS with plenty of in-app content.
Listen better. Omnichannel communication makes it easier for customers to complain rather than just walk away. That allows restaurants to find and fix problems faster before losing more business. "Real-time 'voice of the customer' feedback needs to be collected through multiple channels (offline and online) to make communication convenient," Market Force says.
Sharpen digital experiences. As consumers adopt more digital steps in all shopping areas, the brands investing most in improving digital customer experience are more likely to delight customers and increase sales.
Most chains are already doing this. Yum! Brands recently announced plans to buy Dragontail Systems Limited, an AI kitchen-order management system, for $72.5 million. It already uses the system in some 1,500 of its Pizza Hut stores and says it plans to expand the technology to KFC and Taco Bell.