Going contactless at quick-service restaurants (QSRs) in the past decade typically referred to adopting mobile payment options. While COVID-19 has increased demand for delivery and pick-up, restaurants were already looking to optimize the order-to-fulfillment process. Now, the crisis has forced restaurants to expand their view of “contactless” and how it relates to every aspect of the customer experience.
The three stages of the order-fulfillment process – ordering, food prep and food pick-up or delivery – are already undergoing change and will need to adapt to meet customer expectations for food quality and safety in the new normal of social distancing, waves of viral outbreaks and intermittent dining-room closures. The Wall Street Journal reported that McDonald’s, the world’s largest fast-food chain by sales, announced a 59-page dine-in reopening guide for U.S. franchisees that includes commitments to clean bathrooms every half hour and digital kiosks after each order, and enforce social distancing.
The National Restaurant Association estimates that three percent of all restaurants in the United States, which includes QSRs, have closed due to COVID-19 and more than 10 percent could close in the coming weeks and months. The association also estimates the restaurant industry lost $25 billion in sales for the first 22 days of March.
In a March Rakuten consumer survey, some 80 percent of respondents said they’ve avoided restaurants since the pandemic began and 66 percent said if a restaurant would proactively communicate the health and safety precautions they’re taking it would increase the likelihood of them ordering from that restaurant. To that end, conveying how a restaurant is implementing contactless solutions would also go a long way.
“If we’re pushing more people to mobile to order ahead, timing becomes more of a concern and a differentiator,” said Nadira Kalliecharan, vice president, travel and hospitality at Publicis Sapient. “You have to be able to see when the order was placed and when the customer is going to arrive for pickup so that prep time or delivery time can be scheduled to ensure quality standards, and reduce wait times and congestion for social distancing.”
Mobile ordering is projected to drive more than 10 percent of sales for the sector in 2020, and this trend will persist as more consumers view mobile as a safer and more efficient way to order. Here are three considerations for how the ordering process is being disrupted:
1. Touchpoints will be reimagined
QSRs had already implemented kiosks that added another level of personalization to the customer experience and helped capture valuable data to optimize in-store traffic. However, kiosks have been rolled out as hands-on customer experiences, with customers tapping on screens to select menu options and place their orders. These experiences may need to be re-imagined, leveraging voice and gesture controls, to regain customer use.
2. Digital menu boards will drive consumer contactless adoption
As drive-thru becomes even more critical to QSRs’ business, digital menu boards must provide better brand experiences and more relevant and meaningful information to customers. This is especially key if food supply chain problems continue, and real-time menu item availability and personalization is relied upon to boost sales and loyalty. Publicis Sapient’s Premise accelerator easily integrates with upstream systems for personalization, customer order history and loyalty, and in-restaurant systems such as point-of-sale, providing the foundation for seamless customer interactions.
3. Will COVID-19 bring new life to QR Codes at QSRs?
In a world where the consumer psyche wants to avoid touching surfaces, QR codes present an interesting solution for QSRs. QR codes didn’t gain traction in some parts of the world as their value wasn’t clear. However, we’re seeing a re-emergence of QR codes as a touchless alternative at KFC restaurants in China, for instance, and other restaurants that recognize this more sanitary option that’s likely cheaper than printing menus. QR codes can easily turn mobile phones into mobile menu boards and can integrate with ordering systems, eliminating the need for order or wait staff with relatively little effort.