Quick-service brands must leverage predictive data to improve outcomes

Consumer data is the lifeblood of modern industry, and quick-service operators find themselves behind the curve, yet uniquely positioned to join the movement. Responsible for about 70 percent of the total sales at an average quick-service restaurant, the drive-thru window in particular presents operators a golden opportunity to leverage data and enhance profitability.

Top industry brands are already employing smart, customer-facing digital menuboards and AI-driven, crew-facing displays that help predict what each customer will want, driving suggestive selling in the drive thru. These advancements are helping restaurants keep pace with other industries. 

“When you visit Amazon, search the Internet, stream a movie, post to social media, or use a map, there are multiple companies tracking your every move,” says Chris Riegel, CEO of STRATACACHE. “Data scientists figured out long ago that humans are remarkably predictable based on prior behavior, and that this can be leveraged to influence consumer choice. Even though the quick-service industry finds itself behind in this process, now is the time to really capitalize on all the data that is pouring in.” 

Because consumer actions are highly predictable, mobile devices and sensors in the drive thru can inform with accuracy what frequent customers will order while tailoring a menu to customer taste. On top of that, these technologies factor in the number of consumers visiting the location over the past hour, week, or month; the local weather; or traffic—and all of these variables play into the probability of a particular order being placed. Smart sensors deployed in kitchens can track which items are being held versus which need to be queued for production. This is adjusted based on the size of the line—for example, if a long line of cars snakes around the building, the digital menuboard will downplay items that take longer to prepare. The total package of predictive technology can help cut 11 to 30 seconds off each customer’s drive-thru experience, and improve overall sales by 5 to 7 percent, says Riegel. 

“Critics may ask, ‘Is this invasive?’” Riegel says. “These technologies are regulated and built to comply with tough GDPR standards, but every company must know their brand voice. In an aggressive marketplace where customer choice is expanding and pennies decide success, these tools are one approach to keeping your brand in the game and driving additional value for customers, franchisees, and shareholders alike.”

Leveraging new technology and data is now the standard in the drive-thru lane, and quick-service operators not up to date are missing out on efficiencies that would improve their business. Relevancy in this data-centric world requires ongoing investment, innovation, and strategic partnership between brand and franchise to ensure mutual success using customer data. 

“That’s where STRATACACHE comes in,” says Riegel. “Sometimes it’s hard for operators to know where to start, and that’s understandable. But finding a partner with a history of success is the key to joining the growing trend of leveraging customer data to drive sales and an overall better customer experience.” 

By Charlie Pogacar

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