The quick-service restaurant industry is continuously changing. Fast-casual and quick-serve brands across the globe are reevaluating what it means to be a restaurant with shifting customer expectations, and 2023 will be no different.

Many brands were experimenting with mobile applications before the pandemic struck, and the early adoption paid off. With smartphones replacing the usual brick-and-mortar store as the go-to place for people to find something to eat and drink, what was a $14.9 billion industry in 2019 is projected to reach heights of $34.6 billion in 2023, with 52 percent of quick-service sales expected to be driven by digital by 2025. As inflation drives food prices up, companies must prioritize utility and convenience to engage and retain their customers. For example, to ease consumers into a purchase, they should highlight all relevant details (price point, serving size, deals etc.) upfront. The more comfortable someone making a purchase is, the more likely they will do it—and what better place than in a mobile app?

We’ve seen many successful quick-service restaurant brand apps launch points-based loyalty schemes to reward repeat customers, and according to Movable Ink’s Audience of One 2022 Report, 33 percent say they will spend more if they’re offered. With loyalty program expansion and refinement on the docket for 2023, marketers just need to figure out what the next step is. It’s proven that if given a positive experience, millennials and older generations are more willing to do something or go somewhere. It’s not enough to offer a basic points program if brands want to compete within the industry. Quick-service restaurant marketers now need to make their loyalty programs more interactive via rewards, personalized deals, order recommendations, and offering special events are all great ways to reward loyalty and drive convenience.

Next year, we will see fast-food and fast-casual marketers looking to capitalize on evolving technology to create better in-app experiences, like AI or VR/AR. We anticipate the restaurant of the future will exist to service mobile orders first and foremost, so restaurants will need to take some untraditional paths in the next few years in order to achieve new avenues for success.

Alex May is the Associate Director of the Travel, Hospitality, & Food Services Strategy at Movable Ink.

Fast Casual, Fast Food, Growth, Marketing & Promotions, Operations, Outside Insights, Story, Technology