With the pandemic having a significant impact on local businesses, the responsibility to provide consumers with a bespoke dining experience has fallen on the quick service restaurant industry
Traditionally, the purpose of the QSR industry was to give customers a convenient, cheap meal option. However, the shift towards luxury, sleek dining seen across leading global brands has not only enhanced consumer experience, but it has also firmly placed the QSR industry in the post-pandemic world.
QSR outlets available today have drastically improved upon their appeal to the modern, health-focused consumer.
Sigríður Steinunn Jónsdóttir, the managing director of Ísey Skyr Bar, discusses how QSR franchises are changing the way they think to stay current and provide customers satisfaction.
Three key values
Speed of service, the nutritional value of the meal and the taste of the product are the three primary elements that contribute to a successful QSR experience. However, it is typical for well-established, leading QSR brands to only tick one or two of the boxes. If a consumer is looking for a speedy, tasty snack, they generally sacrifice nutritional value – taste and nutrition mean it may take longer, and speed and health may be detrimental to the taste. As a result, consumers have been actively seeking outlets that not only offer all three of those factors but exceed the expectations of what might have been delivered by a QSR outlet before the pandemic.
In the post-pandemic world, QSR brands need to appeal to consumers who have become significantly more health-focused, while providing a convenient service that suits their newly re-discovered active lifestyle.
Pre-pandemic, fast food brands generated the largest share of market value. However, independent outlets almost matched the value of traditional fast food restaurants. This strongly suggests that, while fast-food outlets remain the go-to option for consumers, it is the independent, bespoke dining experience that consumers are now actively requesting and are prepared to pay more money for.
One key element that contributes to the bespoke dining experience is heritage, and it has become increasingly important to consumers to not only know where their meal has come from, but also the story of how it got there. Through this, heritage QSR brands have grown rapidly, with the fastest-growing outlets today telling a rich story to accompany a fine dining experience.
Style and substance are now one and the same
QSR menus across the industry have been undergoing a widespread scaling back of products available in order to maximise efficiency and reduce waiting times. This means brands have been able to focus not only on their styling and aesthetic appeal to consumers but also on the nutritional value of their meals. The UK has become significantly more health conscious, with important steps being taken to ensure consumers are aware of the health implications, such as calorie counts being put on menus.
As a result of this, there has been a huge increase in the availability of healthy alternatives on menus, most significantly in fast food establishments. In a busy world that has only recently been reopened, the QSR industry has never been more in demand. But now, substance is style, and that substance must be healthy to drive consumer interest.
The whole experience is what counts
That is not to say aesthetic value does not still have a huge impact on the success of today’s modern QSR outlet. With the rise of social media and bite-size content now playing a huge role in the marketing practices of a brand, it is more important than ever to ensure the aesthetic value of a QSR outlet matches the theme and product. The Lumina Intelligence UK Restaurant Market Report 2021-2022 suggests that the UK restaurant market will grow by 59 per cent in 2022. It is because of this that QSR outlets today not only have to make their product tick vital nutritional boxes for consumers, but their experience as a whole must make consumers want to get their phones out and take pictures.
The moment a consumer enters a QSR outlet is as important as the product and service itself.
Supporting local, thinking global
Regardless of the international footprint of a brand, consumers love to see that multi-national companies are supporting local produce. Customers demand transparency in ingredients and aspire to be more socially responsible and committed to sourcing local food and drinks. They want to know where their food is coming from and the ethical impact it has on the environment and labour around the world. They are also looking to create environmentally conscious and ethical decisions when it comes to their food choices.
It is because of this that the QSR industry is seeing more brands extend their own local footprint by creating job opportunities that go far beyond the concept itself. And the manufacturing and sourcing of produce are vital in delivering a tasteful and ethically conscious consumer experience.
A word from the boss
With all that in mind, Sigríður is confident it is an exciting time for the QSR industry.
“Since the pandemic, consumers have become increasingly conscious of their experience with fast food from start to finish,” she said. “And it’s because of progressive, forward-thinking brands such as Ísey Skyr Bar that the industry is being reinvented for the better.
“From the sourcing and manufacturing process to the moment a consumer posts a picture on social media, the QSR experience has never been more ahead of the curve, which is thanks to brands listening to and understanding what their customers want and need from fast food outlets.”