Innovative Quick Service Restaurants (QSR) have invested significantly in bringing technology closer to the customer to improve the overall experience. The speed of change is remarkable, with genuine innovation and creativity raising standards across the sector.
Change is happening everywhere – the likes of McDonalds, Burger King and KFC (among others) have been rolling out self-service kiosks for some time. In fact, research indicates that by October 2020, 58% of hospitality operators in the sector will have adopted self-service technology. For employers, this trend is also delivering a productivity dividend, with research showing that 65% of QSR operators saw this as the number one benefit of investing in self-service kiosks.
These changes to the way QSRs operate is making a real difference to consumer behaviour. Looking at the way QSR customers use technology to place orders, for example, research revealed that 39% had ordered their food via smartphone in the previous 30 days, while 28% had used a kiosk.
Starbucks is another interesting example. It’s taken the idea of the connected customer to a whole new level with the ‘Starbucks Pickup’ store concept. Devoted entirely to mobile orders, customers order using the Starbucks app before arriving at the store to collect.
From digital signage that adds huge versatility to QSR owners and their ability to communicate with customers, to beacons that ‘recognise’ when a customer had entered the store before engaging with them, the variety of tech innovation is huge. The technology we’ve accepted into our everyday lives is also changing our habits as consumers, and across the entire retail economy, those changes are here to stay.
Connecting the Shops
One of the main drivers of change are the dramatic improvements in the performance of mobile networks. The arrival of 5G in cities across the UK illustrates the point, and by delivering wireless connectivity up to 100 times faster than anything that has come before, it will enable the whole High Street retail sector to unleash technologies to claw back market share from their online rivals.
The bottom line is that customers and restaurant owners are looking at a win-win, with the QSR industry undergoing its biggest period of innovation in living memory. But, the pressure is now on QSR operators to raise their game and deliver the kinds of technology-enabled experiences pioneered by the market leaders. One of the biggest challenges is building and managing the data connectivity every one of these applications, tools and services need to operate.
While traditional approaches to getting QSR technology connected meant having wired landline connectivity into each outlet, the growth in wireless phone and data networks has changed the landscape for consumers and quick service retailers alike. As a result, wireless connectivity is helping the industry to address a number of important connectivity challenges that many business owners will find familiar:
Opening a new location is a competitive and deadline-driven experience, but waiting for an ISP to provide connectivity has the potential to hold up opening a new location (and revenue generation) by weeks, while the parent company continues incurring overhead. In enterprises with tight profit margins, these delays have the potential to cripple a new location even before it officially launches.
Wireless connectivity offers a reliable and affordable way to guarantee connectivity from ‘day one’. For many businesses, this initial investment in wireless also becomes their long-term primary connectivity strategy. In the process, they also address other potential issues common to traditional wired connections, such as network downtime.
In any kind of fast-moving food business, downtime is money. QSRs compete to make the buying experience smoother than ever, making even momentary downtime unacceptable.
In particular, POS connectivity failures can cost thousands in lost revenue and brand damage. In the case of a long-lasting outage, such as a wired-line breakage of the primary connection, wireless LTE-enabled failover networks deliver a connectivity option that’s not only affordable but isn’t typically subject to the same outages as wired lines.
QSR businesses can process enormous amounts of payment card data, and as a result, are viewed by attackers as highly lucrative targets. While security threats continue to evolve and employee errors continue to threaten information security, IT departments cannot directly supervise the network at all times. Hackers are well aware of this, and in-store staff members can become the target of malware or phishing schemes.
In response to these risks, many organisations are adopting cloud-managed 4G LTE routers and gateways that have built-in modems with multiple SIM slots as a way to accelerate and secure their data. In addition, choosing a centralised, cloud-managed network solution that features Unified Threat Management, web content filtering, and device visibility and control makes it easier to secure the network with limited or centralised resources.
The QSR sector is moving towards an exciting future, where technology-led innovation will help businesses improve efficiency, customer service and help maintain their competitive edge. Prioritising wireless when building a connected strategy will be a vital factor in achieving long-term success.
Paul brings 15 years’ experience working with Telecommunications focused IT Software Organisations, covering a range of applications including Fraud Management and Revenue Assurance, Mobile Device and Expense Management, and Wide Area Network Solutions. Much of this time has been spent working with Retail IT teams to enable Business change and meet the needs of their organisations.