[Podcast] The Key Ingredient in QSR & Fast Casual Technology

The race to keep up with consumers’ expanding tech appetites is on. In our latest Restaurant Readiness Index, a survey of thousands of QSR and fast casual restaurant consumers, we found out just how big those appetites are. 40 percent of recent visitors to Arby’s, for example, reported using self-service kiosks to order and 62 percent of all those surveyed said tech innovations would make them more likely to visit restaurants in the future.

Bypass Chief Innovation Officer and VP of Product, Geoff Johnson, recently sat down with PYMNTS to discuss the findings, how operators should read them, and “the barrier that still needs to be broken through.”

Operations getting in the way of experience

While this edition of the Restaurant Readiness Index focused on consumers, Johnson noted that operational issues take focus away from what you’d traditionally categorize as “customer experience” for many operators. Like restaurants that use delivery platforms having to switch multiple tablets on and off when they want to get listed on a service rather than have a single feed of online orders.

Only when restaurants have really tapped into [data] and understand it are things really going to be allowed to level up and change quickly.
— Geoff Johnson, CIO & VP of Product, Bypass

Things that might seem straightforward to a consumer end up taking a large share of time and money for tech investments. For example, “actually changing around a menu is one of the hardest things to do in QSR’s. It’s something that every big brand has tried to solve, and some have spent millions of dollars in custom software going after [that].”

But, as Johnson noted in the Data Drivers podcast, the million-dollar question is how to build the right experience across channels, and keep the customer coming back through the door.

You don’t have to be Starbucks

Johnson cautioned that it’s easy to look at examples of digital transformation like Panera or Starbucks and decide that mobile ordering is the key. Or self-service kiosks. Or apps. But he says, “the starting point of [all this] stuff is data.”

It’s not basing decisions on trends, but understanding how your customers respond: “Looking at the menu, the design, what things customers are actually responding to — only when restaurants have really tapped into that and understand it are things really going to be allowed to level up and change quickly.”

The key to how consumers respond to the technology is how that technology impacts the experience. And a good experience, our Index found, came down to the basics: convenience and speed. Because of that, what restaurants and their tech providers should do, is get tech out of the way when they can. “We have a big view that all the technology should be simpler. A lot of things are heavy; they are very IT-intensive and we think these are the barrier that still need[s] to be broken through,” Johnson said.

Listen to the podcast for more on how customer experience differs across locations, “promiscuous eaters,” and the franchisee-corporate relationship on technology. Click here to download the full consumer report.