Nicole Duncan

Not the Same Old Thing

When you’re a quick-serve executive for a brand with decades of history, it can be hard to change with the times while retaining a connection with loyal, longtime customers. But, as in all things, evolution is necessary in the restaurant business, and a brand refresh that touches all aspects of a concept can propel growth. The key, the experts say, is striking a balance between old and new, and then tracking the progress.

Cultural Cues

Reinvesting in employee training, improved food quality, and more efficient supply chains are all viable options to strengthen an underperforming quick-service restaurant. But before any outward changes can take root, the core of the business must be unified, and several businesses are finding that a better internal culture can lead to better results.

Connecting the Dots

Technological advances have influenced the restaurant industry in obvious ways, including through virtual reservations, online reviews, and increased customer interaction through social media. But in the back of the house, new tracking software and standards are revolutionizing supply systems, allowing restaurant operators to have a better understanding of where their food comes from.

Brands report that the traceability changes have increased efficiency and food safety, while also boosting the bottom line.

Talk of the Town

While it’s become standard practice for corporate brands to engage consumers through channels such as Facebook and Twitter, location-specific marketing could be the new wave of social media. Increasingly, quick-service brands are targeting consumers in individual markets across the U.S.

“It’s really messy [for a brand] to set up [social media pages] regardless of if they intended to start localized social or not,” says Erica McClenny, senior vice president of product management at social software firm Expion.

Think Global, Eat Local

In a globalized world, many quick-serve restaurants look to emerging markets in the Middle East, Asia, and other regions for new growth ventures. While these retailers strive to maintain the cornerstones of their brand, international menus can’t be carbon copies of the American originals. Regional flavors, religious dietary restrictions, and different suppliers all play a part in shaping unique dishes for consumers abroad.

Fit Right In

In downtown New Orleans, local artistry and distinctive architecture are never more than a stone’s throw away. For this reason, it may come as a surprise to some visitors to find the world’s most ubiquitous coffeehouse chain nestled among the businesses on Canal Street.

But, unlike other units boasting the Starbucks name, this store capitalizes on the growing trend of interior design uniquely tailored to fit the surrounding neighborhood.

Around the Vend

Long dominated by the likes of Twinkies and soda, the vending world is now counting quick-serve specialties among its selections. Consumers craving a fix from some of their favorite brands are no longer restricted by regular hours of operation, and operators can boost sales with a small initial investment and low operating costs.

“It’s becoming more and more prevalent,” says Steven Brush, cofounder of the consulting service iBrandEz, which specializes in nontraditional franchising. “Customer occasion marketing basically means where-I-want-it, when-I-want-it types of foods.”