A 3-step playbook for scaling your QSR

Originally published on QSRweb

I recently read a Forbes article that showed 80 percent of us drop our New Year's resolutions a mere month into the new year. But the story went on to say that research shows there are solid actions people can take to increase their chances of success, including creating a realistic vision, making a plan to achieve it that includes a progression of small steps, and finally always remaining flexible to the pressures and interruptions everyday life presents along your way to turning a goal into reality. 

QSR operators can take the same approach to business growth goals in 2019. For instance, when I look at my own restaurant technology company, I can see how much this kind of "slow-and-steady" system has helped me scale my business effectively. And though that story is not the focus of this blog, I do see strong connections between our steps to growth and those of many of the restaurant brands we work with.. 

For instance, in 2017, my company was in six cities, two countries, and we had 1,600 partners. Over the next two years, we focused on strategic partnerships and finding locations that were the right fit for our product, so we could then deliver the best possible customer experience. As a result, we're now on pace to double our global and U.S. footprint and nearly triple our number of restaurant partners in 2019. 

What the secret? It all begins with the impressions your QSR creates 

The 10-times growth we're experiencing began with very small initial steps. When we first launched, we followed the mantra that first impressions set the tone for how people engage with your brand. So, we focused on choosing quality partners and food vendors, promoting food events to generate buzz around our restaurants, and finding ways to give new customers reasons to try us out. 

Some of the events we've launched have been on a massive scale, like branding our own U.S. digital food festival, while others have been on a smaller scale, like creating $1 coffee campaigns in local neighborhoods. 

Likewise, we've seen our partners and QSRs launch similar successes like one brand's "Cookie Happy Hours," off-peak hours that offer customers discounted menu items. This kind of tactic helps boost sales, build customer rapport and reduce waste. With this kind of approach your brand will build "buzz," along with a customer following, all the while, establishing a niche your brand can "own." 

Next, analyze, then conquer 

One of the most profound changes for restaurants in the last four years comes by way of the data that now gives brands insight about their brand's transactions. Today, operating decisions like menu changes, staffing decisions and hours of operation are far less about those "gut feelings" brands relied on in a less data-rich world and more about the facts revealed in customer transactions. 

With the rise of digital ordering, restaurant leaders can make better business decisions because data takes a lot of the guesswork out of running a restaurant. Now you can clearly see and analyze the items selected for first-time customers' food orders. That allows you to review information that can reveal the strengths or weaknesses of specific QSRs and how they compare with different locations. 

For example, one restaurant may have lower customer satisfaction survey scores, while another is revealed to be an ordering powerhouse. Now business owners can review their data and adjust their staff, menu items and service needs accordingly to scale effectively. 

Maximize use of technology 

This step goes far beyond just ensuring that your brand has a functional website and ordering app to include an entire range of technological uses designed to boost both sales and customer loyalty. In this stage of the game it's helpful to ask yourself, "How can I make ordering from my QSR a more enjoyable experience?"

Through my company's work with QSR brands, we've learned that incorporating loyalty programs and gamification into your marketing efforts can greatly increase customer orders. For example, if every time a customer orders more than one beverage they earn points toward free or discounted item, those customers will order more often. 

Additionally, the easier a brand makes it for people, like nearby office workers, to add their colleagues to lunch orders, the more likely that QSR is to grow its order size. This was the logic behind the addition of the "piggyback" function in our food ordering app, which both simplified the ordering and made it a social activity. 

Now, co-workers are incentivized to use the app to pick up meals for colleagues because they receive reward points each time they create more than one order. In turn, this enhances the "fun" in the app's user experience and gives customers a reason to choose your QSR over others nearby with similar menu offerings. 

The bottom line in all this is that a few simple over-arching operational practices in your approach to your growth goals will help build the right foundation to sustain growth over time. As a result, in 2019 scaling your QSR will be a resolution you're actually prepared to keep. 

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