In the quick-service restaurant industry, the role of technology has transitioned from an optional upgrade to a core component of business strategy and customer engagement. As we approach 2024, the integration of tech in quick-serves is becoming more sophisticated and tailored to the unique needs of this fast-paced sector.

Geofencing: A strategic essential

The value of geofencing is becoming increasingly evident in the QSR landscape. Industry giants like McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A are not just experimenting but fully integrating geofencing into their operations. McDonald’s ambitious goal to improve wait times by about 60 seconds in top markets by 2025 through its Ready on Arrival pickup technology is a testament to the efficiency gains offered by geofencing. Moreover, platforms are democratizing access to this technology, making it feasible for both large and small quick-serves to implement.

Contactless and automation is here to stay

The pandemic accelerated the adoption of contactless and automated services, and these are now entrenched in the quick-service restaurant industry. From self-service kiosks to mobile ordering apps, and even the introduction of robotics, this technology is redefining the customer experience. It aligns perfectly with the industry’s priorities of speed, convenience, and reducing human error.

AI: From data collection to data intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not about futuristic robot-run kitchens. Instead, it’s about intelligent data utilization. AI in quick service is increasingly about predictive analytics for inventory management, personalized customer engagement, and efficient staffing. It represents a shift from data collection to data intelligence, where insights derived from AI significantly impact decision-making and strategy.

Deepening customer connections through personalization

In 2024, personalization in quick service will evolve beyond basic customization. Leveraging customer data to tailor experiences, menu recommendations, and offers will become more nuanced and sophisticated. This level of personalization is key to building deeper customer relationships, enhancing loyalty, and providing services that resonate with individual preferences.

Consolidating tools for efficiency and cost savings

Quick-service restaurants are seeing a clear shift toward vendor consolidation, especially in tools related to location services, maps, and address autocomplete. This trend is about optimizing costs and simplifying operations. Utilizing platforms that provide maps and geofencing in a single platform is no longer a luxury but a necessity for quick-serves aiming to be cost-effective and efficient.

AR and VR: From video games to mainstream

In the next few years, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) will transcend their traditional roles in gaming to become valuable tools in the quick-service restaurant space. AR’s potential in enhancing interactive menus and VR’s application in immersive staff training are just the beginning. These technologies are set to transform how customers interact with quick-serves and how staff are trained, offering more engaging, efficient, and enjoyable experiences.

Streamlining operations with smart tech

2024 will witness an even greater integration of smart technology in restaurant operations. From dynamic inventory management systems to AI-driven predictive maintenance for kitchen equipment, technology is set to streamline operations like never before. The focus will be on technologies that not only solve current challenges but also adapt to future needs, ensuring agility and resilience in a rapidly evolving market.

Sustainability through technology

Sustainability is becoming a crucial aspect of the quick-service restaurant industry, and technology plays a pivotal role in this shift. From energy-efficient kitchen appliances to waste reduction algorithms, tech-driven sustainability initiatives are set to become more prevalent. These efforts not only contribute to environmental conservation but also resonate with the growing eco-conscious consumer base.

As we look toward 2024, the intersection of technology and quick service is characterized by strategic integration, operational efficiency, and enhanced customer experiences. The adoption of technologies like geofencing, AI, AR, VR, and contactless services is not just about staying current; it’s about actively shaping the future of the industry. In this tech-forward era, the success of quick-service restaurants will increasingly depend on how effectively they harness technology to meet their business goals and satisfy customer needs.

Nick Patrick is the CEO and Co-Founder of Companies like Panera, DICK’s Sporting Goods, T-Mobile, and Zillow use Radar’s geofencing SDKs and maps APIs to power location-based experiences across hundreds of millions of devices worldwide. Nick was previously the Director of Product at Handy and a product manager at Foursquare.