Quick Service Restaurants, or QSRs, are some of the greatest beneficiaries of the mobile era. While it would seem that having a drive-through window might be enough convenience for the average consumer, today’s tech-savvy humans are looking for something even easier than rolling down their car windows. Fortunately, those in the QSR industry are happy – and creative enough – to accommodate.
It may seem silly to create something easier than pulling up to the Starbucks to receive your latte, but let’s face it: the simpler and more convenient we can make the process of ordering and purchasing food, the more people are likely to patronize a particular QSR. And ease of use isn’t the only benefit – there’s also loyalty, seamless payment systems, and more. Here are just a few benefits of having an app if you’re a QSR:
- Customer convenience at peak times: Many QSRs are fortunate enough to be very popular – but that can mean long wait times for consumers, and they’re not always willing to sit it out. Shake Shack, for example, is so popular that lines can get downright out of control. This summer, the restaurant piloted an app at one New York location that allowed users to order online and schedule their pickup at 15 minute intervals. Tropical Smoothie Cafe, a chain with 500 locations in 40 states, launched a mobile app in June, and had well over a half a million downloads by July. A QSR without a drive-through, Tropical Smoothie Cafe’s app offers similar features to Shake Shack’s, and may expand to offer curbside pickup in the future. They’re clearly thrilled with the success of their app. “Our daily download numbers are just astronomical,” notes the chain’s field marketing manager. “This really tells us that our customers …love our brand [and are] engaged in apps.”
- Loyalty: Starbucks has certainly led the pack with respect to loyalty programs. Everybody loves free coffee, after all! Their best-in-breed app meshes ordering, payment, and loyalty fairly seamlessly: customers order their beverage on their smartphone, pay with their phone, and are automatically credited points towards their next freebie. Not far behind, surprisingly, is Taco Bell. The Mexican chain aims to build a real connection between their brand and consumers by offering prizes beyond free food, including a trip to their test kitchen. Other chains are offering loyalty programs as well, from pizzerias to sandwich shops, generally offering free food in exchange for continued patronage. It’s a smart business move: Starbucks president and CEO Kevin Johnson noted that loyalty members spend three times as much as non-members. Seems worth the effort, right?
- Faster Payments, Faster Revenue: Many QSR apps allow for mobile payment and order-ahead convenience. This has proven to drive more advance orders, more foot traffic, and – because it simplifies the purchase process so much – more loyalty. Pizza Hut, in an effort to stay competitive, pushed its mobile payment program by offering half-priced pizza in early January – but only for mobile orders. That aggression is warranted, if you look at Taco Bell, Pizza Hut’s sister company. Taco Bell sees 30 percent larger orders on its mobile app versus in-store. Mobile payments are still in their early days, but Business Insider predicts but will be a $38 billion industry by 2020, making up a full 10.7 percent of total QSR industry sales.
Mobile apps are quickly becoming the norm for most quick-service restaurants, and that’s good news for restaurants and consumers alike. With easy ordering and accessible rewards for consumers and faster revenue for franchise owners, there’s really no downside for anyone. It’s only the beginning though, and it will be exciting to see how this corner of the industry evolves with fast-moving mobile technology.
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