Fast Casual Restaurants in the Age of Zero Patience
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: our culture has come to embrace instant gratification as the highest good in customer service.
Thanks to advancements in technology, guests have come to expect nearly instantaneous results. Why wait in line at the grocery store when you can order basic pantry goods from Amazon? Why go to the bank when you can deposit a check with your phone?
Over the past few years, consumers’ patience has dropped while their expectations have only increased.
This principle certainly holds true in the fast food and fast casual restaurant industry. John Pepper, CEO of Boloco, told QSR Magazine that fast casual customers “value the experience even more now and have traded down from full service in many instances.”
So, here’s the question: As a fast casual or fast food concept, how can you provide the personalized attention and service of a full-service restaurant while maintaining the affordable prices and sleek operations of a limited-service?
Answer: Cut down lines as much as possible. And where there is a wait, mold the experience into a positive one.
Here are a few tips on eliminating lines and turning a wait into a good customer experience at your limited-service restaurant…
1. Make efficient use of space and of technology.
Being mindful about front of the house operations does not mean sacrificing service — it means precise design and wise tech choices.
First order of business: create a space that deliberately molds an efficient work flow. Boloco’s John Pepper goes so far as to “analyze the number of footsteps or arm stretches it takes to get food to our guests” (QSR Magazine).
Next, equipping your concept with the right technology can also make the difference between a long, frustrating guest experience and a fast, easy one. Self-order technology, for example, has been shown to speed up the ordering process so much that sales increase by 20+%. The reason is simple: quick service makes for happy guests.
2. Manage guest expectations.
The largest contributor to a bad waiting experience, research has shown, is the anxiety of uncertainty.
Let’s say a customer has avoided the frustration of waiting in a line and has placed their order at a self-order kiosk. You can improve the experience of waiting for their meal by providing them with an estimated wait time.
An order status monitor, for example, can greatly diffuse a guest’s anxiety during the wait.
3. Combat boredom.
People often get bored waiting. Boredom leads to frustration. After a frustrating experience, a guest may not return. A boring wait could prove an expensive flaw.
Here is an opportunity to have your brand personality shine. The decor that gives your concept its distinctive voice could also be enough to pique guests’ interest.
Signage with your concept’s story, digital menu boards with animated designs, and even simple mirrors can be enough to keep guests occupied (after all, people do love to see themselves and watch others).