The future of fast food is a cross-Channel world

Delivery adjustments

Respondents in the Tillster study agreed that delivery time was a critical factor after all these months. Forty percent said they would wait 40 minutes. Everything above that and the feeling was falling off a cliff. Only 21% said they would wait 41 minutes or more.

The most important counter, according to the guests? Restaurants communicating accurate delivery estimates. Using Shake Shack as an example, he added dynamic prep time to a recent app update.

Similar to fees, time-related challenges push customers into multiple digital channels, not necessarily away from them and into the restaurant booth. Many consumers who have become loyal to convenience are looking for alternatives. Regardless of urban/rural split and family size, more than 70% of respondents in Tillster said they would rather pick up food than wait for a long delivery.

Today, the average quick-service customer orders delivery twice a month, Tillster found. At 2.5 orders per month forecast over the next three months, we are looking at a 32% increase from 2019, with a marked increase among the middle and older age groups.

Over the next year, 81% of respondents will order online for the same quantity or more often.

Removing Gen Z, perhaps the fastest growing cohort of restaurant customers, nearly 86% said they would “probably” or “definitely” order more often from their favorite fast food or their casual fast food more often if it offered delivery. They were also more likely than any other age group to order multiple daytime slices, including lunch and late nights. Twenty percent said they would spend $10 or more on shipping.

Where the data takes us

In Bluedot’s study, three out of four consumers (of all demographics) were willing to share their mobile location for better service. Sixty-nine percent said they would if it meant their order was ready when it arrived. Forty-seven percent were on board if a hot meal resulted. Coupons (32%) and not missing out on the brand’s latest offers (21%) were also taken into account.

A place where you can see it in action: Over 50% of Panera Bread orders today are processed in a way that captures data (app, online, kiosk, drive-thru, loyalty at checkout). And all indicators suggest that customers will continue to do so if the restaurant is worth it.

What has digital done to tips? This is an important question as restaurants grapple with workforce dynamics. The ability to promise higher hourly wages through tipping is a lever that many brands hope to leverage. Employees at Fast Casual Honeygrow earn an average of $13 to $15, depending on the position. Managers north of that. However, the chain’s all-digital format (in-store kiosks) more often lends itself to tipping, says CEO Justin Rosenberg.

It measures around $1.50 an hour, which means those same front-line workers can actually earn $16.50 or more.

“There are a lot of places you can go to in a cafe and I’ve often noticed people ordering, using their card, then the cashier spins the iPad, then there’s the tip option,” says Rosenberg. “And I think a lot of times people feel uncomfortable with that. Whereas with the kiosks as we have them, there is no pressure.

It’s helped with training, too. “How can Honeygrow improve the customer experience? isn’t just a whiteboard tactic that flows from the top down, says Rosenberg. Exceeding customer expectations is something hourly employees see right on their paychecks.

Almost half (46%) of Bluedot respondents said they don’t tip for mobile and web orders. Of those who don’t, 27% admitted to having thought about it, but ultimately decided against it.

Thirty-seven percent also feel obligated to tip at the counter. Asking for a tip on a tablet made one in three consumers feel uncomfortable, and of those who didn’t feel pressured, 70% were happy to tip.

Overall, although inconsistent, 74% of consumers said they tipped when dining out. 33% tip equally whether they order through an app, the web, or in person, while 30% tip extra in person and 11% say they do so online.

A majority (58%) said they tip appropriately when placing orders with third-party apps; an additional 13%; 9% less; and 20% not at all.

Higher check, mostly quick-service restaurants continue to report mobile orders and digital channels, seem to reflect larger group sizes and patience in menu selection as much as anything else.

But overall, there’s little debate that restaurant patrons have learned from the pandemic, much as restaurants have.

They turned to digital out of necessity, but became full guests with higher demands.

According to Paytronix’s 2022 Restaurant Friction Index, released in March, 41% of a restaurant’s average sales now go through digital channels, including mobile apps, aggregators and websites. That’s way more than the 32% generated through physical location and the 26% generated through phone calls.

Restaurants were receiving orders through an average of 2.7 different shopping channels at any given time (mobile app, aggregator, desktop website, on-site or phone visits). “Today’s top-performing restaurants view customer experience holistically, not as separate channels,” said Andrew Robbins, CEO of Paytronix Systems, Inc.

Unsurprisingly, 41% of managers said in the report that they consider it “very important” today to provide customers with a consistent and integrated cross-channel ordering experience.

On top of that, providing the right ordering (39%) and payment (38%) options would be “very” important for their innovation strategies going forward. Loyalty features and pickup options were equally common considerations, at 38%, respectively.

“In this environment, loyalty, payments and digital ordering all work in concert, so whether a customer is ordering from their sofa or from a restaurant table, the experience is one that keeps them coming back” , adds Robbins.

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