Quick and casual dining has swung hard toward mobile ordering, delivery and a contactless experience, yet most fast food restaurants look about the same as they did years ago. Now what?
Fast food brands have launched a breathtaking onslaught of new location designs that are built from the ground up to embrace habits that have been permanently changed by technology and a pandemic. Dedicated pick-up areas for app orders, automatic anticipation of those orders, payment by license plate recognition, a fully contactless restaurant, and even delivery to your car via conveyor belt are among the ideas that almost make burger-flipping robots look prosaic.
McDonald's, Burger King, Chipotle, Taco Bell and KFC are just some of the big chains that have pivoted to these ideas over the last couple of months. "I've never seen more than two or three of these a year," says Danny Klein, director of digital content at QSR Magazine, a leading industry journal for the quick serve and fast food restaurant industries. "It's an acceleration of a model everyone is rushing to, which is a focus on off-premise business instead of dine in." Off-premise dining has expanded thanks to mobile app ordering, COVID-19 separation and a huge spike in food delivery.
The ultimate visible change in fast food restaurants may be ones with no dining room at all. "The first time we heard this, it sounded crazy," recalls Klein. "Now, there's almost no major fast food chain that hasn't released one. Can they shrink the square footage inside the dining room and divert resources to where the consumer is headed? Dining out no longer means dining in."
Fast food restaurants will still have to deal with one old headache: labor. 150% annual employee turnover rates vex an industry that no longer counts on a steady stream of teenagers, happy to work for pocket money. Compounding that frustration is the availability of recently vacated, low cost commercial real estate which could power location expansion. "But the question is can you retain enough employees to actually open those restaurants?" asks Klein. "That's going to be the road block for a lot of fast food chains."
QSR Magazine's Danny Klein shared many more insights into the changes coming to fast food. Hear them all in the video above.
Now What is a video interview series with industry leaders, celebrities and influencers that covers trends impacting businesses and consumers amid the "new normal." There will always be change in our world, and we'll be here to discuss how to navigate it all.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.