First, Happy Valentine’s Day. May you find your love like I did.
Back in October, I had an idea for a column for January, but when I found out the topic of January’s issue, Great Franchise Deals, I wanted to write on that subject. So, January’s column became February. And it is just for fun, nothing heavy like packaging. After you read, if you have any thoughts, please e-mail me, and maybe I can do a follow-up column on reader ideas on the subject. So here goes.
Did you ever think about what the quick serve of the future might be like? Given everything we know about the state of the world and the business, what will we be when we grow up?
I have a million things to do, but I’m hungry and I have no time to even think about cooking or nuking my farina and emu casserole. I decide to go to my favorite quick serve. First, I text my order to them using my specially assigned payment code. Then I climb into my shiny, all-electric car, rev up the battery, and head out. As I get close, I tune the satellite radio to the station at the quick serve to find out my assigned lane where I can pick up my order. You see, it is all drive thru.
The restaurant is an extremely efficient, unassuming building that has no seating or ordering windows. It is all drive thru because I have no time to sit and eat. The drive thru is a stack of lanes six stories high and I pull into number four, my assigned lane. We are moving at about 10 miles per hour and all I have to do is hesitate momentarily and grab my order from the conveyor and I am gone. No human intervention.
Now, about that order. Due to menu fatigue, all quick serves are specialized into a very specific menu. They can’t afford to be all things to all people. I selected a hamburger quick serve for today, so the menu consists of hamburgers, fries, and drinks. That’s it. That’s why they can be so fast and fresh. Portion sizes are consistent with the extremely healthy lifestyle we must adhere to. Packaging keeps the hot hot and the cold cold, and that’s it. No logos, games, trite sayings, or NASCAR racers. By the way, breakfast is served all day.
As far as staff, there is a manager. The rest of the very small crew are professionals. Each station is manned by a person highly trained in that station and paid very well to perform. There are reachable sales goals and stretch goals. Bonuses are paid for achieving each level of goal. And there is a clean-up crew to make sure no litter leaves the lot. The franchisor provides a huge business-consulting department to make sure that each operator gets the help he needs to succeed. There are no financial investor operators. Every operator must work in the store. There are no uniforms, just comfortable, attractive clothing because no one is seen by the customer. And you know what? There are no bathrooms to worry about.
The company is very concerned with value since the old definition has returned and customers are very aware of what they get for what they pay. Company-owned stores are for experimentation, not necessarily profit, so new ideas abound. It’s easy not to make mistakes, just don’t have any ideas. Profit is No. 1 because it is what the operator exists on.
There is no marketing as we knew it in the old days. Advertising doesn’t exist. Technology killed it. You can buzz past any commercial anyone tries to run. And that includes the Internet. All marketing is for individual stores either through the Internet or give-back programs that reward customers by giving proceeds to their favorite charities. If anything, image is really important to branding. Promotion does not add cost to the sale—nothing the customer has to pay extra for.
Catering is the second part of the store’s sales. Fast, efficient delivery has been figured out and along with packaging, delivery temperatures are perfect.
There is a regular maintenance schedule for the outside of the building and grounds. A major part of the owner’s job is to speak to service clubs and other organizations about the store and the company. Any activity that takes place in the trading area of the store has store sponsorship. There is a program with service clubs and youth organizations to clean up around the store in return for contributions from the store. The brand is a total part of the community.
There is a loyalty program and extra points are given for purchase of drinks. Orders over a certain amount automatically receive a discount to encourage group orders. The store is very aware of the tastes of the trading area and adjusts its condiments accordingly. Frozen product and premiums such as hats and T-shirts are available for purchase. There is continuous entertainment on the store radio station and announcements of events to come, both community and at the store. All promotional signage and menuboards with gorgeous food photography are digital and therefore easily changed at a moment’s notice. The store has total communications flexibility.
So that’s my quick serve of the future. Food, service, value, great working conditions, and happy, profitable operators. You know, there is a quick serve that I am aware of today that kind of mirrors many of these areas. Can you guess who I’m thinking of?
Until then, have a Peaceful Life and Happy Trails.