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How Digital Elevates Fast Casual

The restaurant industry, fast or casual, has been rocked over the past year. One of the biggest points of impact is how brands can connect and engage with customers. Your digital technology, existing or new, can either be a key differentiator or a major friction point in the customer's experience.

May 25, 2021 3 minute read

Technology has played an enormous role in transforming what was once considered a simple process for fast-casual diners. It used to be: place your order with an employee at the counter, wait for your food, get your drink, sit and eat. Now thanks to the continued enhancement of the technology quite literally at our fingertips, customer expectations have changed. What used to be a mundane ritual is now one that demands speed, personalization and delivery — that is, at least, if you want to give your patrons the experience they're craving. 

So where has technology had the most significant impact? Let's start with some of the experiences that may frustrate you when you are dining.  

Service and annoying ordering experiences are two of the biggest dislikes for customers. Fortunately, there are many ways technology can help improve wait times and the ordering process both in and out of the restaurant, with a few examples shared below.

Up-selling opportunities 

Digital displays and self-order kiosks keep lines moving while keeping customers informed — two ways to combat wait time and inefficient ordering processes. 

Digital displays offer an added benefit for fast-casual restaurants because it allows them to showcase exactly what they want — for example, a seasonal promotion or best sellers. Another advantage operationally and for those time-sensitive patrons is spotlighting the customer's name so they know their order's status and when it's ready.

Self-order kiosks are also exponentially effective, giving the customer more control over what they order. And for newer customers, kiosks provide more time to peruse options — while allowing the restaurant to influence buying decisions by promoting new menu items, special offers or up-sizing the order. 

Ordering on the go  

The number of customers who prefer ordering ahead or delivery keeps growing. Branded apps are no longer a luxury — they are a necessity.  
 
Beyond the app is the customer communication it facilitates. With options like white label delivery with third-party partners and tracked orders for up-to-the-minute details of where your order is and when you can expect it to be ready or delivered, transparency mitigates friction.  

Customers can also order by voice and pick up their food from a digital locker unlocked by a quick scan of a QR code sent to their phone. Is your brand worried customers will grab the wrong order, producing a negative customer interaction? Through strategic discovery and extensive user testing, customer friction can be identified and solved. There are always solutions that can be identified to set brands & customer experiences up for success.  

Don't forget, another simple way to keep customers connected — digital gift cards. Giving the option for gift cards to be automatically reloaded through an app and redeemed from a customer's phone is even more appealing, especially for younger generations.  

While the average consumer might not think twice about the technology required to run a successful fast-casual restaurant, they notice when technology degrades their experience. With so many changes to the way people choose to dine as of late, such as customers continuing to order curbside and selecting delivery options vs. dining in, fast-casual restaurants need to be prepared for either scenario to stay competitive. 

A top-notch customer experience across all channels is vital. How else could your brand elevate a customer’s experience to the next level using technology?  

Learn more about our retail industry experience.
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