The quick-service industry weathered the pandemic better than most segments, and that was due in large part to structural advantages. Prior to the pandemic, major QSR chains had already embraced technology as an ordering tool and a way to drive incremental sales, understood how to cater to off-premises dining, and were built for convenience. In the past two years, emerging chains have also stepped up their embrace of technology solutions to enhance the customer experience, streamlined deliveries and worked to set themselves up for a stable future. Online ordering and other technology was available before the pandemic but were truly tested in the last two years. As a result, these systems have become more efficient, integrated and seamless. Here, we take a look at handful of QSRs embracing and investing in these technologies.
Starbird Chicken has long focused on tech-enabled convenience to enhance customer service. This focus led to the chain implementing kiosks for guests who prefer to order independently and to allow for more detailed order customization. This technology helps reallocate labor and speed up lines in store. With Starbird’s kiosks, the brand can capture demographical data via facial recognition, which guests consent to before placing their order. With this information in hand, Starbird’s team can compile analytics to be used for marketing tactics and menu curation. When facial recognition is enabled, guests can quickly and easily re-order menu items based on earlier visits, reducing time needed to take the order but also the guest’s need to touch any surfaces. Kiosks are fully integrated with Starbird’s mobile app, which also enables guests to view the in-store menu and place orders for direct pickup, delivery and/or catering while earning rewards points. Through the use of integrated order-ready screens, the guest’s name and their order appears on kitchen display screens in the back of the house and then a text message is sent to the guest when their order is ready. The kitchen display screens are also used to display recipes and even memos to employees.
Images courtesy of Starbird Chicken
This 65-year-old company continues to invest in technology, chiefly through its e-commerce platform, which is based on a proprietary, systemwide POS that supports more than 2,000 locations across the country. The integrated technology system also accommodates increased online orders as well as orders for third-party and curbside delivery. In February 2020, Jersey Mike’s introduced White Label Delivery so customers can secure delivery for orders directly through the company’s app. Jersey Mike’s has also released the third iteration of its app and launched a new loyalty program. According to chain execs, online ordering more than doubled last year due to improving ease of use, ordering speed and contact-free options. Jersey Mike’s app was also used to identify local charity partners for its Month of Giving in March 2021 by pushing out notifications about an upcoming fundraiser. As a result of this, the chain was able to raise $15 million for more than 200 local charities.
Images courtesy of Jersey Mike's
Throughout the past year, McAlister’s Deli has seen strong interest and engagement with customers using their mobile app. At the beginning of the pandemic, lines for pickup and takeout were growing rapidly at all locations, increasing the amount of time customers had to wait for their orders. At locations cleared for indoor dining, McAlister’s employed its app for tableside dining, which was first tested in August 2020 with two corporate locations and further expanded to 10 franchise locations soon after. To experience tableside dining, guests enter the restaurant and grab a seat at any available table. Then, guests open the app and place their order using the tableside feature. Unlike curbside options, where a customer might enter their parking space number when they arrive, guests input their table number and the food is then run out to the table. A newly designed app includes images of all of the menu items, all of which are entirely customizable. The chain now has more than 280 locations offering tableside dining and overall wait time has been reduced.
Images courtesy of McAlister’s Deli
This Atlanta-based quick-serve chain unveiled its new restaurant prototype in June that does not offer the option of on-premises dining. It does offer a designated area for pickup and takeout orders, a walk-up window, and an expanded, double-lane drive thru — key for a chain that brings in 70% of its business via its drive-thru windows. The chain has also partnered with a technology provider that creates customizable apps and digital ordering platforms for restaurants. Krystal chain execs say digital orders with their new service provider have led to 10% higher conversion rates than their previous white-label solution and an increase of 8% to 20% in average dollars per order. In the back of the house, upgraded monitors help employees keep track of all incoming orders.
Images courtesy of Krystal
On the heels of its 50th anniversary, Happy Joe’s Pizza & Ice Cream Parlor plans to unveil a new app, loyalty program and website redesign. The Iowa-based fast-casual chain’s new loyalty program will feature a point-based system for fans to earn and use toward a variety of rewards. Guests enrolled in Happy Joe’s loyalty program will also receive offers intended to surprise and delight and be entered into contest opportunities as part of the brand’s effort to modernize and innovate. The new app provides seamless integration capabilities with Happy Joe’s newly enhanced online ordering platform and restaurant POS systems. Happy Joe’s is integrating an app feature that will allow the brand to gather data insights on performance and execution across every location to provide their locations with specific feedback on key performance metrics such as order accuracy, cleanliness and hospitality. As part of a recent redesign, digital menu boards are now fully enabled. The state-of-the-art digital menu boards update in real time and dynamically adjust based on menu item availability, daily specials, bestsellers and more.
Images courtesy of Happy Joe’s Pizza & Ice Cream Parlor