The quick service restaurant world was forever changed by the pandemic. Although the majority of brands have found their footing in an environment dictated by entirely new norms of customer experience expectations, it will take for them time to fully adapt and find the best path forward.
As consumer preferences have solidified, it’s become clear that network technology standardization is a prerequisite for success. For companies with multiple restaurants, it can be a challenge to nimbly and consistently roll out new experiences and operational efficiencies without a shared, secure network foundation.
Across the QSR industry, there are a number of factors pushing brands toward network technology standardization. Let’s dive into the main drivers for change:
More customers have adopted digital channels for ordering and tracking their food. While 2020 accelerated the deployment and adoption of mobile apps and online ordering, these channels are now becoming the preferred way consumers are engaging with their favorite restaurant brands, often avoiding or limiting manual interactions in the restaurant.
Drive-thru usage has soared in the last two years, a trend that doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. Franchisees have adjusted by adding additional drive-thru lanes and equipping employees with digital and mobile tools for line busting, to move guests through drive-thru lines faster, serving more customers per day and minimizing abandonment rates.
Gamification features and loyalty programs increase guest wallet share, and promotions to drive immediate ordering through time-bound specials are allowing brands to more personally engage customers. Customer data, meanwhile, is being used to feed personalization, from specialized offers served through mobile apps to dynamic menu boards that change based on order history.
There is an ongoing push to automate as many tasks as possible inside a restaurant to increase efficiency and mitigate labor challenges. Automated monitoring of inventory levels, safety protocols, and food temperatures are also helping streamline operations. This extends into customer service as well. Some chains have begun experimentation with AI and AI assistants in the drive-thru—picture your phone’s virtual assistant taking your order so employees can focus on food prep and other activities.
Network technology standardization is critical to having the foundation needed to innovate and support new technologies and initiatives. A standardized network foundation across locations allows operators to push out new technologies and updates uniformly faster and with less disruption.
As more orders are driven through mobile and online technologies, a fast and reliable network is key to help ensure transactions are received and processed seamlessly and that new ordering and engagement applications and technology can be deployed consistently.
Standardization also can help with security: Operators can manage and control security policies and patches across the entire restaurant chain through software-defined networking and cloud-based security. Network standardization enables restaurants and their operators to focus on running their business and serving guests, rather than spending time on managing the technology.
Lastly, a unified network foundation is the underpinning for robust reporting and analytics. Data not only feeds personalization, it can also inform strategic and operational decision making. Leveraging WiFi analytics to gather foot traffic and car patterns, for example, enables staffing and marketing decisions that drive more traffic to stores and drive-thrus. Automated inventory management and reporting, meanwhile, may shed light on untapped efficiencies and economies of scale.
Network standardization is important, but so is selecting a partner with the expertise and service to provide support in a quickly evolving ecosystem. Picking a technology partner who can scale quickly, serve the entire restaurant footprint, and provide advanced solutions that are fully managed so restaurant operators focus on serving customers, is critical.
The restaurant industry has been marked by a single constant over the last few years: change. And it’s safe to say that change will continue to be the norm for some time to come. To ensure success, restaurants need to be agile. That means having a brand-wide technology foundation that supports scale and speed, as well as a strategic partner capable of innovating alongside the industry. Learn more about how Comcast Business can help.