“Regulars” v. Multi-Location Customers: The Tech Divide

Tal VinnikDigital Transformation, Restaurants

You might expect that with so many dining options, customers are unlikely to frequent a specific location, but according to our latest Restaurant Readiness Index, the regulars who stop by at appointed times on a daily or weekly basis are still the majority. While it’s not surprising that people visit a convenient, nearby location, notable differences between these two groups emerged when we analyzed their technology preferences.

The Q4 edition of the Restaurant Readiness Index surveyed over 5,000 consumers who frequented QSRs across the US. Every chain we analyzed had over 50 percent of those surveyed frequent a single location, though there was a lot of variation when you compared chain to chain. This variation hued closely to size of the chain: with more locations around you, it’s more possible to visit a second (or third or fourth) location.

Subway, which has more locations in the US than any other QSR, for example, had the most multi-location visitors. Chick-Fil-A has the fewest locations of QSRs in the list below and had the most frequent “regulars” at 82 percent.

More Locations, More Tech Love

For both regulars and multi-location visitors, tech had a typically positive effect, with more than 3/4s of either group saying they had a positive experience with all the QSR technology that they were asked about, including digital wallet, loyalty, and curbside pickup.

When we broke down those technologies, we found that multi-location visitors had more positive experiences with a few innovations: online/app ordering, menus that update automatically and self-service kiosks. This could be an illustration of how mobility and tech-savviness go together, or that multi-location visitors are in the habit of pursuing multiple dining options and are more attuned to features that distinguish their experiences at different locations.

What tech motivates repeat visits? Both groups cited technologies that increase speed as an important factor to increasing QSR visits, though 59 percent of multi-location visitors cited “in-store fast pickup” versus only 50 percent for regulars. Regulars identified loyalty programs as a reason to increase their visits—unsurprising given their existing loyalty to a single location


When tech usage predicts more visits


Honing in on the multi-location visitors, we find that using tech innovations to be a strong determinant for whether they would make more purchases thanks to that same tech. For example, compared to the 24 percent who said that self-service kiosks would increase their visits and did not use kiosks already, 63 percent of kiosk users said that kiosks would increase their visits. Again, regulars don’t have the same effect from using tech, possibly because they’ll visit their regular location regardless.

We find this same dynamic with other tech increasing visit frequency when multi-location visitors are exposed to it compared to when not, including pick-up tech (54 percent vs 28 percent), online/app ordering (67 percent vs 26 percent), and loyalty (50 percent vs 31 percent). This tells us that while tech may not necessarily sway someone with limited options, technology does seem to be a reliable way to bring more fickle visitors back—as long as they get a chance to use it.

At the same time, merely deploying a technology doesn’t me it’ll hit with customers. There’s such a variation in what “self-service kiosk” can mean that 48 percent of McDonald’s customers, for example, said that self-service kiosks would lead to more purchases in the future compared to 80 percent of those when asked about Burger King kiosks.

Finally, it’s possible that some technologies ultimately improve all customers’ experience, regardless of whether they’re directly exposed to a technology. Arby’s, ahead of the game in deploying many of the technologies in our Readiness Index, saw its customers more likely to increase their visits from tech such as kiosks, special pick-up locations and loyalty—even if they’ve never used them. After all, tech like this means less time taking orders, saving time for everyone.

What does this mean for multi-location franchises and chains? Regulars may not be as wowed by tech innovations, but regulars still represent just a portion of your audience. Consumers who have many options are influenced by tech, particularly when they get a chance to use it. You can expect they’ll use it soon enough, but will they use it at your location or a competitor’s?

Download the full report on QSR consumers, including payment preferences and demographic analysis here. Want to see how you stack up to the competition in deploying fast casual and QSR tech? Download the 2018 Restaurant Readiness Index today.