Building Lasting Loyalty in the Changing Quick Serve Setting

By Team Session AI on March 6, 2020

How Restaurants Can Adapt to the New Norm to Build Consumer Confidence

The novel Coronavirus pandemic has caused dramatic changes to the food service industry. With health and safety concerns top of the mind, consumer behavior changed overnight from eating as a shared experience to eating to survive. From complete shutdown, some temporary and some for good, to quickly pivoting to open for takeout and delivery only, and now tentatively reopening in accordance with the physical-distancing guidelines — it’s been a challenging ride for many restaurants.   The National Restaurant Association has projected a $225 billion economic impact and 5 to 7 million jobs lost between March and June of this year. Spending in the Restaurant and Quick Service Restaurant sectors showed some improvement in the week of April 19, with overall spending declining 49% year over year.  However, it’s better than the 60% decline from the prior week.  Facteus, the firm that produced this data believes that the uptick is likely all due to better performance in the fast-food segment, which declined 14% year over year, vs. 31% in the prior week. Consumer spend on restaurants during COVID-19 crisis Restaurants have been working to mitigate its effects by focusing on digital channels. In the recent past, restaurants had started leveraging technology to offer convenience and better experience as a good-to-have add on to the traditional face-to-face hospitality. Now, digital has become a necessity. In these stressful times, consumers look to their favorite eating joints for help with ordering online, assurance about food safety, and information on pick up or delivery options. What steps can restaurants take to meet their customers’ needs right now, win their trust, and just stay connected with them in this era of masks and gloves? 

How Quick Service Restaurants are Responding

We have reached the stage during the pandemic where consumers’ expectations from banks are more than getting an email with information on how a bank is protecting its employees and customers. To win their trust and catch their attention at this point, restaurants need to:

  • Demonstrate their values through added benefits
  • Show that you understand what your customers are going through by making changes that demonstrate respect and understanding
  • Unblock that which causes your customers stress
  • Improve customer experience by expanding your partner ecosystem

Below are some examples of the many restaurants that are demonstrating that they are truly in this together with their customers. Examples of COVID-19 strategies that restaurants are adopting

Effective Digital Strategies for Restaurants During COVID-19 and Beyond

These days the traditional line between restaurants and QSR or Fast Food franchises has blurred. Both now have the same challenges and opportunities based on delivery mechanisms. We’re seeing many formulating a more robust curbside and drive-thru pickup strategy including providing more info via website and mobile as well as, partner with established delivery outlets such as Grubhub, Instacart, or Uber. Overall, restaurants need to better invest in mobile apps and mobile web platforms to provide enhanced and more personalized experiences. Many still need to let consumers know about delivery and pick up times so customers can plan accordingly. One way to do this is with ‘geo-fence based triggers’ that send push notifications on where to park, where to pick-up, and how to add to their order. This also helps the restaurant to know when a customer is nearby so they can bring out the order right away. You can also monitor queues at stores and send alerts to those that order ahead. Perhaps you could suggest an item that takes less time or suggest they visit a store with shorter wait times. You can further help customers choose their meals by providing ‘proof on social’ messaging about the most popular meals that other people in the same area are ordering. You may even increase incremental revenue and influence customers to try new items that they see on your social media or websites. The items displayed can also be personalized for each visitor based on highly accurate predictive models. For a more detailed discussion of other successful strategies, access our webinar: 7 Strategies to Win Customers in Times of Crisis – What You Need to Succeed in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond.

Fast-Tracking the Digital Engagement Strategy is the Only Course of Action

Customers are hard-won and easily lost in the quick service restaurant industry, even more so in today’s reality. If the pandemic has taken some customers away from eating or ordering out, it has also created a new customer base. In an April Forrester Analytics Consumer Technographics® survey, 17% of U.S. online adults said they have ordered restaurant delivery online for the first time during the pandemic. In a follow-up survey in May, 38% of U.S. online adults said they are likely to continue ordering online restaurant delivery after stay-at-home restrictions are lifted. In order to build trust and inculcate lasting loyalty in the new and old customer base, quick service restaurants need to convey that every interaction is safe, convenient, and without friction. It’s clear that doubling down on a digital-first strategy is critical. Moving forward, the ability to create personalized, end-to-end customer experiences will differentiate one restaurant chain from the next.    

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