Delivery Reimagined

Rethinking delivery will be an important focus area for brands as delivery orders remain at a higher percentage of total transaction volume. Third-party delivery threatens the brand’s relationship with its customers due to the loss of first-party data and control of the customer experience end-to-end, most critically food quality and customer service.

Managing down third-party fees will improve margins as labor costs continue to rise. Determining how the brand can support white-labeled delivery will provide better service to customers and improve the bottom line.

Contactless and Convenience

For customers who come to the restaurant, contactless experiences and convenience are converging to provide both safety and speed. Though safety is still important, convenience is re-emerging as a top priority as customers have settled into new habits.

Drive-thru was effectively pre-built for COVID, but brands will need to continue to focus on improving the speed of service, particularly as Loyalty program adoption increases. Continuing to optimize curbside pick-up, providing walk-up service, and minimizing physical touchpoints for customers on-premise more permanently – via self-order kiosks, touchless payments, and cubbies or pickup areas – will also be an important ingredient for meeting rising customer expectations for convenience.

Digital enablement, particularly tied to the brand’s mobile experience, will make these interactions more operationally sound and seamless for customers.

Convergence of Physical and Digital

Finally, as many of the new restaurant prototypes released this year made clear, the convergence of physical and digital is here. Technology will play a larger role in the on-premise customer experience, with digital menu boards and kiosks providing valuable opportunities to drive incrementality, speed of service, and improved accuracy.

The evolution of back-of-house technology will continue to optimize kitchen operations as QSRs adjust to a much higher proportion of orders being consumed off-premise. Taco Bell, for example, incorporated smart kitchen technology to detect customer arrival and suggest in-app the fastest pick-up option. The integration of customer-facing digital experiences with real-time kitchen operations – whether through a mobile app or menu board – will become the key to end-to-end customer satisfaction: from ordering, to speed of service, to food quality. 

As we have crossed the one-year threshold of the pandemic, we can better reflect on the rapid responses to the crisis and turn our attention collectively to a reimagined future. The quality and durability of customer relationships will depend on the ability to adjust to the shifting landscape: where loyalty programs and personalization are expected, delivery is a more integrated service model, and physical restaurants must deliver on the promise of convenience. Digital customer touchpoints and technology that is powered by data will be critical components of the customer experience for QSRs moving forward. The reality is that digital transformation is a necessity for survival for QSRs in a post-COVID world.