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Sep 12 2019 Company News

There are some fairly major developments happening in the QSR space at the moment. A combination of rising rents and shifting consumer preferences has led to some interesting experiments from big brands hoping to streamline operations and reduce overhead, while still delivering on customer expectations.

What’s going on and who’s doing it? If you subscribe to any of the industry trades, you’re probably familiar with some of the jargon used to define the shift from traditional storefront and eatery formats into newer, experimental alternatives that challenge the need for a full-service, dine-in experience in the QSR sector.

For whatever reason, a lot of this language leans toward the macabre – ghost kitchens, dark kitchens and headless restaurants, for example. Equally, you’ll hear references to less sinister sounding online-only, delivery-only and cloud kitchens – not quite as dramatic perhaps, but essentially the same thing.

Some of these initiatives focus on delivering the same level of output from a physically smaller restaurant footprint, while others take advantage of existing products and solutions – employed in new ways – to facilitate a complete rethink of the ordering and delivery mechanism. It’s a smart reorganisation and redeployment of existing customer-facing tools to gain even greater efficiencies.

According to a recent article on financial and business news website Business Insider, McDonald’s has launched its first ‘McDonald’s to Go’ outlet on London’s Fleet Street. In the company’s first format change since the drive-thru was introduced in the 1970s, diners won’t find any of the features that McDonald’s is known for – there are no cashiers, no tables or seating and no décor of any kind – never mind the carpark or kid’s playground.

Customers place their own orders (from a cut-down menu) via touchscreen, pay (using card only – cash isn’t accepted) and are issued with a numbered receipt. They move to the food collection point and await their order, which is cooked in the on-premise kitchen. An overhead screen in the collection area shows when the order is at the counter ready for pick up.

A little closer to home, KFC has elected to open its world-first drive-through-only establishment in Newcastle’s Broadmeadow, a couple of hours north of Sydney. According to reports, the new outlet will feature five drive-through lanes, three of which will be dedicated fast-service lanes used only for pick-up of orders made via the KFC app or website.

Customers that choose to order via either the app or online are given a four-digit code, which they enter via a touchscreen located in one of the fast lanes in order to pick up their meal. The remaining two lanes will feature staff to conduct traditional drive-through order and payment transactions. The trial site is due to be operational by the end of 2019, with other stores planned across Australia if it proves successful.

Not a one-size-fits-all

So, while these new models will service certain need states, they’re not a one-size-fits-all solution that will suit every business in all locations. The ‘to-go’ only approach of the McDonald’s example is perfect for high foot traffic areas in major cities, but it also relies on the presence of suitable (and weatherproof) public amenities like parks or community seating for customers to enjoy their meals.

Anecdotal assessment of the ‘go to’ store suggests that the order and fulfilment process is not much quicker than under the standard operational method. Does this mean the benefit is skewed toward the operator and not the customer? Not really. Customers aren’t looking for conversation or ambience when they opt for the golden arches – they want an inexpensive, quick option that delivers on expectations and McDonald’s to Go does exactly that, with the added benefit of streamlining operations and reducing overhead.

We love to see this type of experimentation happening, particularly because both the McDonald’s and KFC initiatives utilise existing technology in new and different ways. Employing customer-facing self-service kiosks, online ordering and customised apps to completely shift the delivery model is exciting for us and for our customers. This stuff is our bread and butter, after all. We’ve deployed over 85,000 device installations worldwide, plenty of which are in the QSR space. That means our customers are already uniquely positioned to explore these new and emerging ideas without huge investment or other significant barriers to entry.

We know it’s not for everyone, and that nothing will ever replace the human need for socialisation and the joy of dining out, but it’s interesting to see some thinking that challenges the status quo when it comes to service delivery. While it’s too soon to know how either endeavour will be received by consumers in the longer term, we love that both utilise products and solutions that are readily available today to not only improve operations, but to also ensure that customer expectations continue to be met – we think that’s a win for both sides.

So, if you’re ready to get ahead of the curve, or interested in looking at things differently, it’s time to get in touch. You’ve already got the technology, talk to us about how to reap even more benefit.

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