Digitalisation has long been a buzz word amongst businesses across all industries, but those in the quick service restaurant (QSR) sector have been relatively slow to embrace it. Over the past year, QSR brands were amongst the hardest hit during the pandemic, and this forced businesses to accelerate their digitalisation efforts not only to stay afloat but also to meet the continuously evolving needs and demands of their customers.
In an exclusive interview with QSR Media, Gary Morley, Sales Director for APAC at Fourth, says digitalisation is QSR brands’ top priority this year, coming off from the experiences and learnings from last year.
“The number one priority we see in the marketplace in 2021 is essentially digitisation of operations and standardisation of both systems and processes within the business. What we see as the challenge is, essentially, having the flexibility to meet demand and setting up for the inevitable growth that’s coming,” he says.
For QSRs, Morley explains that this means focusing 80-90% of their time on the consumers. This challenge to pivot has become even more crucial with COVID-19 proving that satisfactory customer experience is a deal-breaker in keeping patrons, especially at a time when they can easily switch to any other brand that can give them what they want — with just a few taps on their mobile phones.
“As we know, there has been an increase in the delivery model during the COVID time. In fact, some businesses within the QSR space have moved to that model almost 100% of their business,” Morley adds.
Digital adaptation in QSRs
Andreas Mettler, Director of Strategy at Fourth, sees two major trends in digital transformation that aim to level up the customer experience in QSRs.
“I look at them as bookends. On one end, there’s an explosion of devices producing data. On the other hand, we see brands making pretty significant technology investments,” Mettler says.
The first digitalisation trend in QSRs, Mettler says, is best illustrated by the different devices that customers use when placing orders. These technologies capture customers’ data and give businesses information about the different ways people interact with the brand, such as their preference on how they place their order — whether through in-store kiosks, QSR mobile apps, or aggregators.
On the other end, QSRs have started investing in technologies that turn collected data into actionable insights. These data-backed insights, combined with operational tools, can help businesses improve overall efficiency, and subsequently deliver a better customer experience.
“This is where Fourth comes in to help QSRs in this mission. The other bookend — the back-office systems — is about becoming the source of the truth about consumers that businesses need to understand,” Mettler adds.
Forecasting demand with data
Mettler explains that one area where QSRs are challenged is in their ability to generate a forecast that allows them to anticipate and adjust to customer demand, especially amidst a changing sales landscape.
As they continue to adopt technologies to ensure ease and convenience for customers, QSRs are also collating a huge amount of data that they can leverage to improve efficiency in the back-end processes and, more importantly, the customers’ overall experience.
This is one of the big tasks that Fourth solutions aim to address. “Demand is driven by data and at Fourth, we turn a vast amount of data into something usable. We’ve taken a very different approach where we take data that results in demand and we present that to our customers in a usable way that they can operationalise,” Mettler says.
In these unprecedented times, Mettler highlights the importance of looking at data to navigate through customers’ unpredictable phases of demand. Being able to analyse data and incorporate them into systems allow QSRs to come up with a forecast for their new reality.
“It’s about taking a number of data points, transforming them into simple-to-use, simple-to-adjust forecasts and then turning that demand into a production system use such as for ordering systems use and our labour systems,” Mettler adds.
Combining this forecasting logic with the labour module, he says, will guide QSRs in making sure they are adjusting just exactly where it is necessary — getting the right people in the right positions at the right time that could define a great customer experience for their patrons.
“With that sales shift, the front counter demand essentially dried up and shifted either to the drive-thru or delivery. Last year just drove that further so being able to position team members from the front of the house into the back of the house, having the right technology solutions can help QSRs with that,” says Mettler.