Quick-Service is getting personal! The casual dining industry is exploring new ways to use technology to create a highly intimate customer experience, turning fast food into a valued service and not just a destination. Through the use of innovative technology systems, quick-service restaurants are engaging customers in new and effective ways, taking advantage of data like never before, and driving sales in a momentous direction.

Consumer-facing technology is often what garners the most attention in the restaurant industry. More and more brands are taking advantage of apps, mobile ordering systems, and loyalty programs to attract customers and keep them coming back for more. Fast food restaurants like McDonald’s and Wendy’s are installing kiosks to speed up the order process and giving customers the ability to customize their meal – a move that can increase average order price. On average, quick-service diners spend nine minutes ordering and waiting for their food. Kiosks have the ability to reduce that wait time. These tech advancements aren’t just for dine-in customers either. Those who prefer to drive through can still reap the technological benefits – namely through the use of digital menu boards.

Digital menu boards are transforming the fast food restaurant space. With high-definition graphics and cloud-based operating systems, digital menus give brands a better opportunity to communicate with the customer without them even stepping foot in the store. These menus can be placed in the drive-through, allowing for constant customization – from highlighting specific promotions to rotating through different menu offerings. Digital menu boards make it possible for restaurants to merchandise different items throughout the day – even according to the weather! In the morning, menus highlight breakfast items, while salads and sandwiches make their debut at lunch. Is it a hot summer day? What better time to promote a refreshing ice tea! But digital menus do more than just showcase specific meals – they can prove measurable results. Many quick-service restaurants that have integrated digital menu boards into operations have experienced decreased order times and seen an increase in sales of promoted items.

Mobile-ordering apps are also becoming increasingly popular. In fact, according to Business Insider Intelligence, orders placed via smartphones are expected to make up more than 10% of all quick-service restaurant sales by 2020. These apps offer consumers added convenience and give retailers the opportunity drive higher revenues. Subway is just one of many brands whose app gives customers the ability to place food and drink orders for pickup at their local Subway store.

Consumer-facing technology isn’t the only technology gaining favor amongst the fast food industry. Back-of-house tech solutions are changing the industry as we know it, too. Whether it’s for human resources, scheduling, procurement, inventory control, or labor costs, technology systems are helping control costs while maximizing efficiency. From ordering buns to scheduling shifts, more and more operational tasks are being orchestrated through technology tools. Perhaps most notably, these tools are assisting restaurants in managing the vast amounts of data they collect on a daily basis. Utilizing this information helps them track trends and project future moves, enabling them to make better, more informed business decisions.

The success of these technologies is two-fold; consumers like the convenience that comes with these systems and the restaurant benefits from the data collected. These systems are most effective when they are integrated seamlessly together. By staying on top of emerging technology, the fast food industry can engage consumers like never before, while gaining more and more data that allows them to paint a picture of who their customer is and what they want. With this understanding, quick-service restaurants have the opportunity to gain an edge against their competition and stand apart from the rest.

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