Digital transformation for quick-service restaurants is more important than ever. Customer behavior is changing—and restaurants looking to remain competitive must adapt. 

Compared to pre-pandemic days, 2022 experienced a 36 percent increase in consumers ordering via mobile and a 32 percent uptick in ordering via a restaurant’s website. That’s why quick-service restaurants need a top-notch digital strategy. By meeting customers where they are, you’ll deliver exceptional experiences that ultimately drive engagement.

Digital transformation, however, isn’t something that just happens. You must dedicate time, resources, planning, testing, and collaboration to ensure you’re implementing a digital strategy that aligns with your restaurant’s strategic goals, customer preferences, and technology infrastructure. And, choosing the right technology partners is a vital part of that process.

Check out these three takeaways for how your restaurant can transform your customer experience and generate strong results along the way.

No. 1 Anchor Your Strategy Around a Goal 

Your digital strategy must have a clear mission. To craft this goal, it’s important to learn from various stakeholders throughout your organization about their experiences from your internal teams to your customers to your operators and beyond. With this input, restaurant leaders get a holistic understanding on how transforming the digital experience will impact all arms of your business and you can therefore create a mission that will resonate across the board.

And when it comes to a strong mission, it’s not necessarily about fancy language or pie-in-the-sky aspirations; it’s much simpler. Your restaurant may want a faster way to serve customers or make your operators more efficient in their day-to-day. 

Be clear and concise about what you want to accomplish so you can make a plan that gets you toward that goal. 

No. 2 Make a Strong Business Case (with Data)

Digital transformation requires buy-in across the board, especially from quick-service franchisees. At its core, digital transformation is an investment in your restaurant’s future. Show franchisees how your digital strategy will pay off. Explain how you plan to use data to inform stronger decision-making, whether that’s adding new locations, changing an operational process, or investing in a new form of advertising. 

Bojangles—a quick-service leader famous for their fried chicken—looked at how they could grow the pie (or really the basket) from a transactions perspective with a revamped digital strategy.. When crunching the numbers, Bojangles found mobile ordering presenting a big opportunity for them; digital transactions constituted 65 percent of their total transactions and Android users generated 2.5 times the check amount compared to an in-store customer. 

With this information in hand, Bojangles was able to secure alignment from necessary stakeholders and continue on their digital roadmap. 

At the end of the day, numbers speak volumes. Use data to make your business case for digital transformation. 

No. 3 Focus on the Customer

All the technology in the world means very little if your customers don’t see the value or if your operation teams don’t understand the system. When pursuing a digital transformation strategy, quick-service restaurants must take their teams, customers, and processes into account. 

And, quick-service restaurants should focus on the fundamentals, which could include ensuring your menu is easy to navigate or that your location finder is well built. Once those essential functionalities are working well, you can focus on rewards and offers, like providing your loyal customers with a personalized discount via your mobile app. 

With a best-in-class customer engagement ecosystem, for example, quick-service restaurants get essential data to better understand their customers and drive loyalty throughout every stage of the customer lifecycle from acquisition to retention. 

As quick-service competition intensifies and customer demands continually evolve, digital transformation will differentiate restaurants that flounder from the ones that flourish. Pave the way for your restaurant’s success with a well-crafted (and well-executed) digital strategy.

Jon Greenlee is the VP of Sales and Marketing at Sparkfly, a retail technology solutions company that helps brands like Chipotle, Del Taco, Denny’s Corporation, Bojangles, and Krystal unify their customer engagement technologies. As a former restaurant operator turned technology strategist, Jon is passionate about curating personalized customer experiences. His daily focus revolves around acquiring new business opportunities, strengthening existing partnerships, and maintaining excellent client relationships. Before joining Sparkfly, Jon served as Vice President of Sales at Service Management Group and oversaw T-Mobile’s SMB sales across the Midwest region. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Missouri and an MBA from MidAmerica Nazarene University.

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