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6 QSR Trends That Are Changing the Restaurant Industry

The restaurant industry is constantly changing, and those involved in it need to understand these changes so that they can accommodate what customers need and want. The pandemic led to tremendous changes as restaurants had to adapt to stay-at-home orders, inventing new delivery-friendly menu items and offering additional options to allow customers to get their items to go. This change led to an increased demand for quick-service restaurants, or QSRs.

Today, QSR establishments continue to see ongoing changes in response to social and technological developments. Below, we’ve compiled six of the most important QSR trends for restaurant operators to be on the lookout for in 2022.

1) Contactless Ordering Is on the Rise

The COVID-19 pandemic created a world where people want to limit contact with others in order to protect their health. While circumstances have improved, most customers still enjoy contactless food service — many even prefer it.

Customers want contactless ordering for a number of reasons. Some prefer this method for health reasons, but others prefer the level of control they get when they have the opportunity to place their orders themselves. Some appreciate that ordering through a kiosk tends to be faster than ordering at the counter: There’s no opportunity to punch incorrect ingredients into the POS, no back and forth repeating your order multiple times to clarify that it’s correct.

Self-ordering kiosk systems like INFI’s are a great way to keep up with this consumer trend. Kiosks allow fast food and fast casual restaurant owners to set up a convenient ordering system that improves the ordering process and the overall customer experience. Check out INFI’s kiosk system and schedule a demo today.

2) Healthy Food & Drink Options Are Increasingly Vital

Another trend in the QSR industry is the desire for healthier food and drink options. Consumers still want to be able to grab food quickly, but they don’t want to sacrifice their health to do so. Restaurants like Chipotle and Subway are capitalizing on this with healthier menu items.

Salads, low-carb options, and diet drinks remain popular. Plant-based meat patties are also growing in popularity, and restaurants are seeing an increase in traffic when they introduce these options. For example, Burger King saw an 18.5% increase in foot traffic after launching the Impossible Burger.

3) QSRs Are Rewarding Customers for Using Their Mobile Apps

Restaurant chains are jumping on the mobile app bandwagon, and they are offering rewards to their customers for utilizing these apps. Apps provide another ordering option and also give restaurants a way to track orders and improve their ability to gather reliable consumer behavior data.

To encourage restaurant guests to use these apps, restaurants are adding customer loyalty perks and privileges only available to app users. These might include exclusive curbside pickup lanes, special discounts, meals only available through the app, or even freebies for new customers when they make their first mobile order. When customers use apps, restaurants have multiple opportunities to improve customer engagement.

4) QSRs Are Teaming Up With Influencers on a Regular Basis

Influencers who utilize blogs, TikTok, Instagram, and other social media sites can provide extremely profitable partnerships for QSRs if they are leveraged appropriately. McDonald’s recently illustrated this when they partnered with rapper Travis Scott. The promotional meal, dubbed The Travis Scott Meal, went viral on TikTok and boosted McDonald’s sales — just because they used the rapper’s name.

This is similar to celebrity endorsements in commercials and print advertisements, but in a way that has changed to fit the times. The pandemic increased the demand for social media marketing, and influencers have proven to be an easy way to get people to take another look at menu items from quick-service restaurants.

5) QSRs Are Integrating With Search Engines, Maps, and Online Payments

Online ordering is becoming the norm in today’s restaurant scene, and QSRs are integrating with online payment platforms to make it easier for customers to order online. Apple Pay and PayPal are preferred payment methods for many consumers due to their convenience and security, but it was only recently that these payment options became widespread for QSRs.

QSRs are also integrating with online maps to put their restaurants front and center when people search for a place to eat. Some businesses even take the integration a step further. For example, when you do a Google search for Panera Bread, you now see an “order” button directly within the search engine.

Since many people start the search for a place to eat online, this integration has the potential to improve profitability for many restaurants. It puts the power of ordering in the customer’s hand — without the need to open an app or log into a website.

6) Restaurant Digitization and AI Are Transforming the QSR Industry

Today’s consumers are starting to rely heavily on online ordering, and this trend is expected to increase. Digitization in the form of apps, websites, and in-restaurant kiosks is the new normal. A 2022 DoorDash survey finds that 37% of customers are happy to order food through a third-party digital platform, and 38% prefer to order directly from the restaurant website. Digitization is here to stay, and the numbers back it up.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is also contributing major developments to the QSR industry. Many in-restaurant ordering kiosks are adding AI to their systems, and this change is helping restaurants upsell and increase their profits. Systems that add recommendations for sides and drinks, or that can make recommendations based on past orders are on the horizon, and this layer of personalization stands to help improve the QSR customer experience even more.

Why QSRs Are Increasing in Popularity

Not only are these trends transforming the quick-service restaurant industry, but QSRs are increasing in popularity in general for a number of reasons. Here are just a few of the leading reasons why more people are opting for the QSR experience over the sit-down experience.

QSRs Are Extremely Convenient

People are busier than ever in today's society, and they often don’t have time to cook. Similarly, they also lack time for a full sit-down dining experience. Fast-food restaurants offer convenience, speed, and familiar handheld menu items (burgers, fries, wraps, etc.).

You can order food at a kiosk and have a quick dine-in meal, or you can use delivery services like Uber Eats or DoorDash and have your meal delivered to your home or office. You even have the option to pull through the drive-thru for an added layer of convenience — you never even have to leave your car!

Contactless Ordering Offers Peace of Mind

Today’s restaurant customers want a safe dining experience, and that’s one way that quick-service establishments stand out. In light of the pandemic, the QSR model has made contactless ordering a new expectation in customers’ eyes: Contactless ordering puts customers’ minds at ease in a more health-conscious world.

Today’s POS systems allow restaurants to provide customers with the chance to order their food without a cashier. In fact, many chains, including well-known franchises like Taco Bell, are shifting to a kiosk-only ordering system, without the option to order from a cashier at all.

The Restaurant Industry Is Constantly Evolving

The restaurant industry, like most industries, is constantly evolving and must adapt to customers’ changing lifestyles and needs. To accommodate these changes, the QSR industry is often at the forefront of innovation: It was QSR restaurants that brought self-ordering and restaurant delivery services into the limelight. It was also the QSR industry that made restaurant apps commonplace. Today, these restaurants continue to innovate and lead the pack when it comes to helping the restaurant industry embrace the changes that customers demand.

Keep Up With the Latest QSR Trends With INFI

QSR restaurant owners need to be aware of the trends that affect their industry. One way to stay on top of the latest trends is with an ordering kiosk system from a company that stays on top of these trends, too — and INFI’s self-service kiosks help today's restaurant owners do just that. If you want to increase your profits, minimize your costs, and optimize staff workload, schedule a demo of our self-service kiosk options today.

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