Winter is around the corner, bringing colder temperatures and prompting many restaurants to question whether their operations can survive the season.
Many quick-service restaurants (QSRs) have taken their dine-in services outdoors since the pandemic began to better adhere to social distancing protocols and capacity limits on indoor seating. As the warm weather fades, however, they are now being forced to get creative — from providing electric heaters to setting up geodesic domes — to keep customers safe and warm.
Cold weather may put a damper on in-person sales, but it is unlikely to diminish customers’ newfound enthusiasm for digital and mobile ordering solutions. PYMNTS research shows that the shift to digital and mobile ordering solutions is especially robust in more populated locations. The study found that 25.8 percent of those living in larger cities have pivoted to ordering online from restaurants that have traditionally offered table service, while 16.3 percent say the same about ordering from QSRs.
Another component crucial to keeping customers engaged during the pandemic is rolling out loyalty programs and incentives that cater to their individual tastes, as these can vary among consumers from different regions. A PYMNTS survey revealed that more than 52 percent of consumers in big cities are already tapping restaurants’ loyalty programs, for example, but less than 36 percent of those who reside in small towns and rural areas say the same. This means QSRs must offer customized loyalty programs rather than taking one-size-fits-all approaches to win over consumers for the long haul.
The November/December edition of the Order To Eat Tracker(R) examines restaurants’ efforts to localize their loyalty experiences as well as the digital features in which they can invest to help them reach customers who are keen on staying remote during the pandemic.
Developments From the Order to Eat World
Delivery partnerships can be key to helping restaurants — especially smaller operations — weather the pandemic as consumers’ demands for digital ordering continue to grow. A survey found that roughly one-third of restaurants said they would have closed permanently if they had not forged partnerships with third-party delivery services such as DoorDash, Uber Eats and Grubhub. This reality has even prompted some QSRs to put a hold on longstanding tensions with these services regarding their fees.
The pandemic is also causing a shift in restaurant customers’ preferred ordering and payment methods, with a majority now saying that they prefer to do so remotely rather than with waitstaff. Seventy percent of consumers now wish to order digitally for delivery, according to a study, while 57 percent say they have downloaded delivery apps to do so. Sixty-two percent of customers also say the availability of digital ordering and payment options can influence whether they choose to patronize a QSR, further highlighting the importance of remote ordering options.
Collaborations between technology and solutions providers can also help QSRs access the latest tools to compete in the digital ordering space. Customer service management and engagement solutions platform Paytronix announced in October that it selected Oracle‘s cloud-based point-of-sale (POS) to augment its ordering and delivery platform, for example. Restaurants can leverage Oracle’s Micro POS integration to supplement Paytronix’s platform with information on inventory statuses, store hours lead times and other details.
For more on these and other order to eat news items, download this month’s Tracker.
How Chipotle Is Weathering the Pandemic With Localized Digital Ordering, Loyalty Programs
As digital and mobile app sales soar, QSRs are relying heavily on their loyalty and rewards programs as well as digital ordering features to keep customers engaged. This does not mean that they should take a one-size-fits-all approach, but rather that they must individualize their offerings to maximize their appeal.
In this month’s Feature Story, Nicole West, vice president of digital strategy and product management at fast casual chain Chipotle Mexican Grill, explains why restaurants should approach loyalty offerings and digital ordering innovations with localization in mind.
Deep Dive: How QSRs Can Take Loyalty Programs to the Next Level With Localization
The shift from dining in to ordering out during the pandemic has been significant, with more than 31.6 million consumers making the jump. This has required QSRs to dramatically reconfigure their operations with digital and mobile ordering innovations in mind, and many have also optimized their loyalty programs to better reach consumers across different regions.
This month’s Deep Dive explores how consumers are using digital ordering channels and how eateries can personalize and localize their rewards approaches to retain customers.
About the Tracker
The monthly Order To Eat Tracker(R), a PYMNTS and Paytronix collaboration, offers coverage of the most recent news and trends in the restaurant ordering ecosystem.