Quick serve restaurants (QSRs) face a variety of challenges and workflow disruptions. The ongoing restaurant labor shortage is expected to continue at least through 2022, with 7 out of 10 operators reporting that they still do not have enough employees to support customer demand. Lean teams are faced with rising responsibilities, such as guaranteeing food safety and ensuring both the kitchen and dining areas are clean. Deloitte’s recent “Restaurant of the Future” report indicates that more than half of consumers (55%) said they’d be willing to pay 10–15% more to know about the safety and cleanliness that surround the preparation and transportation of their food. In addition to food safety responsibilities, restaurant employees must guarantee a positive customer experience, involving fast and attentive service. For example, of the 7,500 worldwide consumers surveyed in Oracle’s 2022 Restaurant Trends Report, 64% of respondents do not want to wait more than five minutes to order at the counter or drive-thru window.
Staff shortages not only impact a QSR’s bottom line, but can also negatively affect customer experience. From longer wait times, to incorrect orders, or unsafe meals – QSR customers may think twice before visiting a location again after a negative experience. Oftentimes, these errors can be avoided through digital automation processes. Evolving technologies such as drive-thru artificial intelligence and digital food safety checklists can save time, remove human error from the equation, and delight customers. Discover how these technologies can help your restaurant build customer satisfaction and repeat business through the tips outlined below.
QSR automation can help build customer satisfaction by guaranteeing accuracy. First, restaurant technology removes human error from important decisions. For example, an employee taking orders at the drive-thru may forget to write down requested modifications for a burger order, such as “light sauce” or “no lettuce.” Meanwhile, the employee responsible for cooking the order may neglect to temp the burger and ensure it reaches a safe temperature prior to serving. Enter restaurant automation.
OpenCity’s new AI-order taking drive-thru technology named Tori, captures orders and always remembers the fine details. Interested to see what it’s like ordering from a conversational AI? Watch a customer order from Tori in this video. This drive-thru AI maintains a high level of accuracy by understanding different accents and overcoming external noise disruption. In a case study, one Tori customer, David Damato, CEO of High Noon Restaurant Group and Popeyes Franchisee, was surprised at how quickly Tori learned the Louisiana accent, and they enjoyed a 20% increase in customer satisfaction once they leveraged OpenCity’s AI technology.
On the food safety side, Squadle checklists require employees to accurately capture the temperatures of food products at safe ranges before serving to customers. With digital checklists connected to a thermometer, it’s impossible for employees to rush through food safety or falsely jot down temperatures. See what digital temperature logging looks like in this video. Overall, drive thru automation and digital food safety management tools accurately align individual employee actions with overall brand standards.
Fast service is implied and expected at QSRs. Therefore, speed of service plays an integral role in shaping quick serve restaurant customer experience. One study found that the vast majority of drive through customers will become frustrated if they have not ordered within 5 minutes of arriving. For in-store quick serve customers, the same study found that 45% will become frustrated if they have not received their food after 5 minutes. Technology reduces customer wait times by optimizing workflows, and allowing additional labor to be allocated to food prep.
At the front-of-house, new POS technology such as online ordering and self service kiosks reduce the time spent waiting to order. Digital signage and menus reduce the time spent fielding customer questions. Drive-thru optimization technology, such as OpenCity’s Voice AI Tori, takes customer orders instantly with a 99.9% accuracy rate. This prevents the backup of cars in the areas surrounding the restaurant and helps the drive-thru line move more efficiently. Order accuracy reduces the time spent clarifying orders, and prevents kitchen staff from spending extra time remaking an incorrect order. What’s more, Tori has improved speed of service by 20% for customers. Say goodbye to those long drive-thru wait times!
At the back-of-house, automating time consuming processes such as task management and equipment maintenance, increases employee bandwidth for tasks directed towards expediting food prep. Squadle’s digital food safety management allows employees to reduce the time spent tracking compliance with food safety guidelines. When done manually, task management for food safety compliance requires two employees, which can be reduced to one when the process is automated. Similarly, digital solutions help restaurants monitor the health of equipment instantly with push notifications on mobile devices. You’ll know the instant your refrigerator or freezer reaches unsafe temperatures, rather than requiring employees to physically check equipment temperatures throughout the day, which is time they could be spending serving customers.
Speed, while important, has little influence on overall experience if there are quality issues with food preparation or the restaurant environment. There are many factors that contribute to improving the overall quality of a restaurant experience. Three of the most significant being streamlined services, food quality, and atmosphere. For example, a customer will prioritize visiting a QSR where the order taker capturing customer orders is on the same page as the chef, the burgers are cooked properly, and where the tables are clean. These factors must be delivered consistently in order to establish brand standards. Technology plays a critical role in building customer trust and brand loyalty through a consistent customer experience.
Quality of restaurant customer experience can suffer when the food a customer is served is inconsistent with their communicated preferences. This miscommunication can occur at any point along the restaurant workflow – between customer and register, between register and kitchen, or between kitchen and food pick-up counter. OpenCity tackles this issue in drive-thrus by streamlining POS communication. Here, their AI order taking system records orders with high accuracy. This video shows the role of order accuracy in enhancing overall experience and the positive impact to restaurant operations. Additionally, technology solutions never forget to upsell. AI recommendation engines can quickly increase check averages when upselling. Asking a customer if they’re interested in a drink or a side to accompany their meal not only demonstrates that the employee is attentive towards the customer, but also increases your restaurant’s bottom line.
In terms of food quality, QSR kitchen automation promotes safety and freshness. Squadle’s digital food safety management platform alerts employees to the storage conditions of raw ingredients, the internal temperatures of cooked ingredients, and the time that prepared foods have been outside of a temperature controlled environment. When food conditions do not meet federal or brand-implemented standards for food safety, operators are automatically alerted, reducing the risk of foodborne illness.
From an atmosphere standpoint, digital shift management checklists remind employees to sanitize customer tables, ensure condiments are stocked, and thoroughly clean bathrooms. Managers are able to track environmental factors such as restaurant cleanliness remotely, and communicate with staff when something does not meet brand quality standards.
As the challenges of the quick serve restaurant industry continue to threaten profitability, QSRs must embrace automation as a tool for cost management and customer retention. In both front and back of house operations, technology can be integrated with existing procedures for a more seamless end to end experience. This results in higher order accuracy, shorter wait time, and a higher quality customer experience. The growing success of technologies such as artificial intelligence for customer interactions, and digital checklists for compliance monitoring both support these use cases. Start delighting customers today when you switch to restaurant automation tools!