In the age of speed, the QSR (Quick-serve restaurant) industry is booming. With an ever-growing enthusiasm, analysts, marketers, sales people, managers, and executives gather every year at the Fast Casual Executive Summit to hear from top-level restaurant executives who are leaders and innovators in the industry.
 
Now in its 14th year, the Fast Casual Executive Summit is an opportunity for everyone involved. The event is a chance for restaurant executives to get together in a casual setting to learn from one another. 
 
The summit is packed with interactive sessions that delve deep into topics that are on the minds of restaurant leaders today. Participants can take a dip into the collective wisdom “in the room,” which is distilled into concrete, actionable ideas that attendees take home.
 
Quick-serve restaurants (QSRs) have been drawing in customers for decades. Their reasonable prices, convenience, and quick service makes them an appealing option for any meal. That alone though isn’t enough for QSRs to maintain or grow market share. It’s critical to keep up with today’s fast-changing society and recent trends and adapt to meet customer preferences and expected experiences.
 
Ordering food in QSRs has always been about catering to the customer. Whether it is changing up the menu to provide healthier options, using a delivery service, or incorporating technology into their ordering system, customer satisfaction is at the center of it all.
 

Opportunities for Analysts

 
All the executives who participated at the summit believe that data plays a pivotal role in the evolution of their businesses. Optimization is of the essence, and efficiency is key to manage vast volumes, which QSRs are dealing with. 
 
In terms of revenue, the QSR industry made $256 billion in 2018, while the consumer spendings were close to $300 billion. These numbers position the QSR industry as one of the top-grossing industries in the U.S., which is an amazing opportunity for analysts. 
 
At the first Fast Casual Summit in 2005, revenue in the QSR industry was $178 billion. Unlike other digital-transformed industries, the revenue was mainly flat for a long time, until 2018, when the digital transformation revolution, machine learning, and big data came into play. 
 
Analytics companies, such as Cognetik, can play a pivotal role in optimizing and transforming companies in the QSR industry. By leveraging data, restaurants can better understand what their customers want and can build their processes around that. 
 
There are amazing revenue growth opportunities in eliminating redundancy, optimizing delivery time, and reducing waste and unnecessary items on the menu. Similar to a user journey analysis on a website, QSRs can experiment with what works best, A/B test different scenarios for their customers, and deliver the best experience for their audience. 

Graph source: Statista 

Key Insights from the Summit

 
“Find people’s hidden talents and motivations. Look everywhere talent might lie and never mistake a lack of knowledge with a lack of intelligence.” – Karen Kelley, Chief Restaurant Operations Officer, Panera Bread.  
 
“The hard part is you’ve got to live it,” she said. “Managers need to understand the core values of their company and practice them on a daily basis, and the values have to be demonstrated at every level.”
 
Another key insight at the conference was that delivery drives top-line revenue, but not margin. When starting, start small with just a few locations, a single partner, and no integration. Currently, the average restaurant is using 2 1/2 delivery partners.
 
We all know how hard it is for a company to find the perfect balance in the budget between departments. Matt Friedman, founder of Wing Zone explains how using marketing incentives to encourage franchise adoption is critical. For example, he talked about a geo-fencing program that had 15% adoption without incentive. Following an incentive program, the adoption rate extended to a staggering 60%.
 
Dennis O’Toole from Kitchen Equipment Solutions made an interesting prediction, which might very well prove to be true in the near future. He said that computer vision is coming to monitor food safety and product quality in restaurants. Computer vision is an interdisciplinary scientific field that deals with how computers can be made to gain high-level understanding from digital images or videos. From the perspective of engineering, it seeks to automate tasks that the human visual system can do.
 
If this is the case, it would be a huge step forward for customers, restaurants, and regulators as well. However, it would also alter the regulations for QSRs and restaurants in general. 
 
Geoff Alexander from WowBao also brought into discussion the integration of POS data and digital signage at their restaurants. This means the organization would take digital transformation to the next level and leverage data that would prove invaluable. 
 
This change would help them have a comprehensive view of what performs and whatnot, which can then translate into prioritizing items on the menu, and eventually redesigning the menu altogether. 
 
“Make it easier for the operator to know what’s important and to raise key issues to the top of the priority list when needed,” Alexander said
 
If you want to learn more about how to optimize your business, also check our blog post The Race to Becoming a Leader in the QSR Industry
 

About the author

Sebastian Stan

Sebastian is a journalist and digital strategist with years of experience in the news industry, social media, content creation and management, and digital analytics.

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