Efficiency has always been a hot topic in the QSR industry and brands exert their utmost effort in driving efficiency both at the front- and back-of-house. Over the past year, COVID-19 not only redefined efficiency but also forced QSRs to reorganise their priorities given the pressing need to provide customers with safe and effective means of placing and receiving their orders.
“QSRs will likely need to revisit their old ways of viewing efficiency in our new normal. That may mean refining the operational process in the new sales channels, adapting to labour shortages, or adapting to the new and ever-changing health and safety requirements,” says Paul Tregoning, general manager of Fourth.
As the world grows accustomed to the new normal, Tregoning says that QSRs are expected to do more with even less. And if there is one thing that could be the industry’s lifeline amidst all the uncertainty, it’s automation. This does not only mean digitalising customer-facing channels but also ensuring that back-of-house systems are also enhanced to achieve end-to-end efficiency that benefits both the business and the customers.
COVID-19 as catalyst for digitalisation
More than a year into the new normal, the industry has moved past seeing the pandemic as an obstacle. QSRs now view the COVID-19 situation as an accelerator for the inevitable digitalisation of their processes to catch up with the demand of the market.
“Given the continued challenges with labour and the likelihood that the new sales channels introduced during the pandemic will become the new normal, QSRs will need to let technology assist now more than ever with decision making, planning, and operations,” Tregoning says.
A 2020 study of TD Bank found two-thirds of QSR operators believe increased automation (34%) and mobile loyalty apps (31%) will strongly impact the industry. The study, conducted just before the pandemic hit, has already shown that delivery and technological advancements are amoung the key focus areas for QSRs for 2020. Then came the pandemic, which validated these findings and highlighted the urgency of the need for QSRs to adopt more technologies to meet the customers’ expectations.
“Whilst we don’t see automation invading every local restaurant in the immediate future, we are seeing significant growth in automating technologies in the industry,” says Tregoning.
Automation in QSRs is no foreign concept since it started happening well before the pandemic, as shown by the sushi-making robots in Japan and the burger-flipping robots in the US that were introduced years back. Whilst more technology-advanced countries have reached this level of innovation, automation in the QSR sector does not necessarily mean creating robots to keep up with the digitalisation trend.
To start, QSRs must ensure to cover the basics, primarily streamlining back-office processes that would subsequently improve the customer experience. This shift entails replacing once manual and labour-intensive processes with automated ones, leveraging IoT (internet of things) devices to eliminate multiple layers in the back-office process. This will save restaurants a significant amount of time better spent ensuring that front-of-house is also running at peak efficiency, providing convenience and an enjoyable experience to the guests.
This is where Fourth, which has been providing end-to-end technology for the hospitality, leisure, and retail industries for 20 years now, can help QSRs.
“Driving efficiency is one of our central tenets. Our solutions are designed to improve and optimise back-of-house operations by simplifying and streamlining tasks required to run a profitable restaurant,” Tregoning says.
With automated back-office solutions that cover workforce management, monitoring of the business’ performance in every area of its operations, and other administrative tasks, QSRs can better focus on innovating ways to improve the guest experience. It’s all about doing more with less time by streamlining systems for more efficient operations.
“As we look to the future, our products will continue to automate manual processes. But we also envision becoming the hub of the restaurant back-of-house – consuming, transforming and combining data from disparate IoT enabled systems and translating that data into results-driven tools,” Tregoning says.