Monday, January 25, 2021

QSR Restaurants Have Turned to Mobile

Has anyone else noticed quick-service restaurants (QSRs) are becoming kind of mobile obsessed… but then again I guess we all are. QSRs really ramped up their mobile game in 2020,  We have seen tons of restaurant chains releasing or updating their native mobile apps, rethinking their store layout to optimize mobile usage, and start investing more in digital channels. And it’s paying off big time!

Apps, Apps, and More Apps

If you are a QSR and don’t have a mobile app yet, what are you doing? And don’t tell me that you don’t have time or it’s too expensive, there are tons of low code and now code development platforms out there, and some that are even free to use. When restaurants have an app, it opens up a world of possibilities for consumers. They can order faster, spend less time waiting in line, enroll in loyalty programs, etc. Especially since we’re still living in a world where takeout is the new norm, having an app makes a big difference.

Don’t believe me? Take Chipotle as your proof. Chipotle saw the opportunity to connect with consumers via their app early on in 2020 and capitalized on it. On Chipotle’s app, you can place a mobile order, join their loyalty program, and engage with Chipotle’s purpose-driven initiatives. For example, you can track the environmental impact of your dinner or see what charitable giving the restaurant chain is investing in.

Mobile First, Dining Second

Another trend we are seeing with QSRs is redesigning the restaurant flow around mobile orders rather than in-person dining. This works great in helping restaurants abide by social distancing guidelines, but is also practical for the future. Think about how often you eat at a fast-food restaurant? I almost never do anymore. I pick up my order and then eat it at home from the comfort of my couch. And I don’t think I’m in the minority. Mobile-focused restaurants accommodate the shifting consumer behavior or ordering ahead and picking up rather than the dwindling behavior or ordering and eating in-person.

Both Taco Bell and Burger King are already embracing this trend. Starting in Q1 of 2021 Taco Bell will be introducing their “Go Mobile” restaurants. These will essentially create a “fast lane” for mobile orders in the drive-thru. They will also install smart kitchens at these locations that connect the Taco Bell app, predict arrival times of customers, and offer a seamless experience for those picking up a mobile order.

Burger King is also launching something similar early on in 2021. Their mobile-focused restaurants will include drive-thru’s where the customer will scan a QR code on the screen to order directly from the mobile app and the food is brought to their car, there will be designated curbside pick up areas, and the inside will have coded lockers where customers can grab their mobile orders.

Upping the Use of Digital Channels 

Finally, QSRs are also adopting digital channels to engage with consumers instead of traditional marketing tactics. A great example is Wendy’s. Recently Wendy’s partnered with Uber Eats and Twitch, a popular gamer streaming service, and offered a special menu to gamers who watch Twitch live streams. This not only gave gamers an opportunity to access an exclusive menu and enjoy a burger but was a great advertising opportunity for Wendy’s on a new digital platform. When QSRs invest in more digital channels, they have more opportunities to engage with consumers and can start building relationships that will lead to further personalization for consumers and ultimately a better experience with the brand.

At this point, we can’t fight the digital transformation that is taking place, so we might as well join it. And from a consumer standpoint, I am much more likely to order something online and be able to quickly and easily pick it up when it’s ready rather than go in-store, order, and wait.