Strategies for thriving—and surviving—amid the changing landscape.

From labor and supply shortages to shrinking margins, today’s foodservice leaders face an endless list of challenges. Chief among those, however, is competing for—and retaining customers—at a time when consumer attention is more fractured than ever before. Meanwhile, today’s customers are savvier and more selective than ever, demanding quick-service restaurants to evolve with the advancement of and access to technologies.

In order to survive, restaurants must quickly adapt. Here, David Vance, vice president of QSR sales for Mood Media—the world’s leading in-store media solutions company with more than 500,000 subscriber locations in over 100 countries—explains exactly what restaurants must do to stay competitive.

1. Elevate the Employee Experience

Much quick-service data focuses on what makes the customer tick, and rightly so. However, applying that same principle to your employees speaks volumes while vying for a percentage of the current employee pool.

“Across the board, we field call after call every single day asking, ‘How do I reach my employees? How do I make a bigger impact?’” Vance says. “Employee communication has become incredibly, increasingly important. You want to be able to inspire, engage, entertain, and inform all at the same time. You have a captive audience.”

Crew communication monitors, for instance, have evolved to displaying full-on newsletters and community outreach information. Vance suggests deploying these at key locations in the back-of-house to not only communicate relevant job information, but also to engage and connect with employees through meaningful content, such as messages from leadership, employee recognition, and even information about how a company is engaging with the community.

“These days it’s much more personal to that employee,” Vance says. “It’s not just speed of service, it’s speed of service while being intellectually and emotionally stimulated.”

2. Personalize the Customer Experience Top to Bottom

Meanwhile, vying for customer attention is equally as important.

“Attention is absolutely the new currency,” says Vance. “You have one chance to make a good impression, and you have one chance to make a lasting impression.”

Capturing this attention requires a deep dive into the emotional IQ of customers and understanding the needs of customers at every level of the organization. This can include incorporating the right song, the right sight, and even the right scent—all at the right time and place. Consider it mood psychology.

With 75 percent of emotions generated by a scent and a 40 percent improvement in mood after being exposed to a pleasant scent, sensory-delivered messages evoke marketable nostalgia across demographics. For example, the smell of toast and the sounds of Greatest Hits at 7 a.m. appeals to a different demographic than patrons who come in at 3 p.m. after school lets out and want to hear the latest pop music.

“Businesses are realizing there’s a natural ebb and flow to a business day, why wouldn’t everything match that flow?” says Vance.

Yet time isn’t the only factor. Vance says restaurants should consider the demographics of each restaurant, even between two locations in the same town and be mindful of ways to make a personal connection in each community. For example, using signs and banners to cheer on a local school sports team is an easy way to connect with customers.

“The only thing that limits one is one’s imagination,” says Vance.

3. Strategize for the Future, not Today

Strategy has become the grande dame, ousting content from its throne. Static signage is dead, and with it went one-hit wonder playlists and languishing menu options.

“If you’re not planning a strategy now, you’re falling way behind,” says Vance, “You have to be way nimbler and way more fluid to today’s consumer, meaning you need to have a metamorphosis if not on a quarterly basis, then certainly biannually.”

Quick-service brands need to keep pace with rapid communication and tech advances. And this paradigm shift holds true for all businesses. Mood Media itself recently dissolved its sales team and built instead an ideology and advanced systems and account management team to better support restaurants with every piece of their customers’ and employees’ brand journey. This reimagined ecosystem is the very think tank model that can be applied to quick-service brands.

“You have to try new initiatives,” Vance says. “You have to be more creative and more impactful at every single touchpoint.”

To learn more, visit the Mood Media website.

By Jocelyn Winn

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