TECHNOLOGY

Fast Food, reinvented: Crafting Signature QSR Moments

By SGK

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Step into the future of Quick Service Restaurant experiences. Accelerated by the pandemic, the world of fast food has undergone a profound transformation, with 52% of quick-service sales expected to be driven by digital in 2025.

As consumers seek convenient, personalised, and safe methods to order and receive their favourite meals, it’s time brands maximised the opportunity for omni-channel interactions.

But going omni-channel takes more than just being on multiple channels. It’s about allowing your consumer to order anytime, anywhere, and in the way they want. It’s also knowing and pre-empting their preferences, all whilst communicating on a one-to-one basis across their entire journey.

These omni-channel interactions are driven by:

  • The rise of mobile ordering, now offering the convenience of ordering anytime, anywhere.
  • Personalisation at scale has become paramount, with QSR brands harnessing the power of machine learning and AI to provide tailored menu recommendations and promotions that uniquely appeal to individual preferences.
  • With social media being today’s “town square”, QSRs are also adopting a social-first strategy to be part of these conversations, expanding their reach to a broader audience, collecting valuable user data, and engaging with customers in real-time.
  • Finally, in today’s data-driven world, transparent data usage has become crucial for consumers. As consumers become more aware of the value of their personal information, QSRs must prioritise data safety and establish a tangible value exchange.

While brands still need to navigate the intricacies of connecting various platforms to make omni-channel experiences tick, a shortcut for brands is keeping the peak-end rule in sight. Consumers usually only remember only the best and worst moments of an experience, meaning that brands can move the needle by harnessing only a few key, signature moments.

Here’s how brands are creating “peak experiences” throughout the omni-channel journey:

 

Ignite your marketing: Metaverse, interactivity and influencers
To truly amplify marketing in an omnichannel environment, brands need to rethink their current strategies and consider how to be more intentional in hitting their objectives across “key moments that matter.”

Rather than trying to conquer every channel, the key to viral marketing is focussing on crafting compelling, story-driven experiences for one platform that’s amplified by users across others. In Brazil, Burger King's "Burn That Ad" campaign set competing ads ablaze using augmented reality. Users pointed their smartphones at rival ads through the Burger King app, watching them “go up in flames” and earning themselves a free Whopper. In the metaverse, Wendy's guerilla marketing campaign hijacked a Fortnite character to destroy frozen patties, aligning with the brand's commitment to using fresh ingredients. Common to both? Going viral with user-generated shares and likes, allowing a campaign executed on one channel to be visible in all.

Similarly, brands would do well to remember that brand power has shifted from uni-directional mass media, to power wielded in the hands of creators and influencers. In response to music artist Doja Cat's tweet demanding the return of Taco Bell's Mexican pizza, the brand joined forces with the artist to create an impactful campaign around the return of the pizza. From a SuperBowl ad, to Twitter and TikTok, the campaign achieved cultural relevance, establishing genuine connections and authentic engagement with its fans.

 

Packaging reinvented: Interactive and sustainable
In the world of smart branding, seizing every touchpoint is crucial. Packaging is every brand’s primary medium, but often brands lose out on opportunities to make it interactive. How do you make what’s normally a one-time-use packaging memorable? One way is to smash through the barriers of medium, blending IRL with digital. Pizza Hut's "Newstalgia" campaign for example, saw limited edition pizza boxes feature QR codes that unlock an augmented reality Pac-Man game. Customers can play, compete, and even share high scores on Twitter for a chance to win a personalised Pac-Man game cabinet.

While environmental sustainability remains essential, brands should also remember that consumers are becoming more belief-driven in general, regardless of cause. Consumers—expecially younger ones—are actively looking for brands that match their values. Brands who wear their belief and purpose on their sleeves, take a stance, and make the world better stand not only to gain competitive advantage, but win true fans, not just purchases.

Zambrero's Plate 4 Plate initiative is a prime example, adding purpose to purchases. Through the program, consumers who purchase a regular or big burrito, bowl, or retail items results in a meal donation to someone in need. This impactful message resonates through in-store screens, websites, packaging, signboards, and social media platforms.

Tech revolution: Merging online & offline behaviours
Whether it’s immersing consumers into new worlds, enhancing ordering efficiency, or creating relational brands-in-you-pocket, technology is at the forefront of most of the industry’s revolution.

Take the store experience for example. While bricks-and-mortar retail and restaurants have become more theatrical than ever to cater to our hyper-visual culture, the efficiency limitations of QSR means they can’t do the same. But not so in the virtual realm, where the metaverse offers a realm of boundless possibilities. For instance, during GITEX Global in Dubai, UAE startup Pickl teamed up with the Commercial Bank International to create a unique metaverse experience. Users could create a personalised avatar, shop merch and order burgers using tokens. The real-life burgers were freshly prepared at Pickl's food truck and delivered in real-time, so gamers can satisfy their craving without ever leaving the digital world.

But technology is there to help the bottom line as well. Leading QSR brands like Checkers, Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, Del Taco, White Castle, Dunkin’, and McDonald’s have all implemented AI drive-thru chatbots, revolutionising operational efficiency by enable consistent, impactful cross-selling, upselling, and faster drive-thru service. While elsewhere, tailored greetings, discounts, and messaging on all digital screens make every journey as personalised as possible.

And the key that makes this possible? Loyalty and first-party app data. While loyalty programs used to mean traditional punch cards, today’s programs are sophisticated digital platforms that offer personalised rewards and experiences. As brands move forward, leveraging emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning will be crucial, along with integration with payment technologies, social media platforms and third party apps. All this will come together to allow brands to foster a sense of community among their loyal customers.

Take Subway's Subsquad feature, where users can create squads and notify friends when visiting a Subway store. This innovative feature rewards both the visitor and the original squad member with bonus points, strengthening relationships and fuelling repeat visits.

But how does this all translate into your brand?
In a dynamic QSR landscape, the future of fast food restaurant experiences is driven by omnichannel connectivity, punctuated by memorable, signature moments. As customers crave convenience, personalisation, but also fun, it's crucial for QSR brands to reflect on these key questions:

  1. How can you make your customer experience seamless and frictionless…but not forgetting to engage, entertain, and excite?
  2. Rethink oft-overlooked mediums like packaging. How can it be made interactive through technology or design?
  3. How can you leverage the latest tech innovation to create seamless consumer experiences? Embrace opportunities to entertain while utilising data and technology for the most personalised experience.

As the QSR industry rapidly evolves, your brand has the power to embrace innovation, harness data-driven insights, and create immersive experiences. Seize these opportunities and you can redefine the way customers interact with your QSR.