Like almost all aspects of the industry, QSR restaurant technology has faced significant challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sales have fallen dramatically, as customers have been subjected to stay at home orders and outlets severely restricted in their indoor capacities.
That said, the pandemic has also produced some profitable opportunities for those businesses that have been flexible and open to new ways of doing things.
For obvious reasons of safety, the pandemic has led to a surge in the demand for online ordering, curbside pickup, drive-thru, and delivery options.
And there’s evidence that the increasing availability of these options has led to a greater use of quick-service restaurants by the over 60s, and higher income and better educated sectors of the population.
Another direct impact of COVID-19 has been the move towards contactless ordering and, in particular, the increasing use of QR codes to provide customers with digital menus.
It’s worth noting, though, that QR codes can offer far more than just menus. This is a relatively new and rapidly developing element in QSR restaurant technology and well worth keeping an eye on in 2021 and beyond.
Economic recovery as the pandemic comes under control may slow some of these trends. But it’s unlikely. Customers who have got used to the new ways of doing things are unlikely to want to revert to the 2019 norm.
And contactless ordering and payment methods, in particular, are only likely to increase in popularity.
Mobile and in-car apps are already surging in popularity with QSR customers, allowing for order ahead and rapid curbside pickups, as well as contact-less and cashier-less payment facilities.
Safety, of course, has been one of the main recent drivers of this trend. But even as the pandemic subsides it is likely to continue because of the fast and frictionless experience it offers. Remember the industry statistic that some 90% of customers expect to wait no more than 10 minutes for food they have ordered ahead using a mobile app.
Making sure your website, mobile app, and restaurant POS systems are fully integrated to allow for digital ordering and contactless payments is an essential first step.
And the creative use of QR codes can greatly enhance the effectiveness of digital menus, promote special offers, discounts, and even integrate with your loyalty program.
But it’s important to remember that your staff are also likely to be outside taking orders on their handheld tablets. A fast, reliable, and payment card industry (PCI) secure Wi-Fi service is therefore essential to the provision of a frictionless customer experience.
Finally, be aware that the financial implications of the pandemic are likely to be long-lasting and far-reaching.
All projections are that household budgets are going to remain stretched thin for some time. And that restaurants of all sectors will increasingly be seen as a luxury rather than an everyday purchase.
So, many household name brand QSRs are now promoting special offers such as family meals, free delivery, happy hours (easily done with QR codes), and “build your own” bundles.
And in these circumstances, the businesses that will survive and prosper will be those that offer exceptional value – something which is not defined by price alone.