Improved Communication is key to Sustainable Growth in Quick Service
After initial declines at the start of lockdown the takeaway market returned to, and in the first two weeks of July exceeded, its pre-COVID high, according to a recent report from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB). This is largely driven by substantial growth in collected and drive-thru orders, which account for the majority of takeaways.
And, despite the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the quick service industry, with fundamental changes in consumer behaviour, supply chain disruption and continued social distancing measures, many operators have thrived under the circumstances.
These changes have driven greater innovation, as operators have rapidly adapted, allowing consumers to dine in, take out, order via a food delivery or ordering app, or use drive-thru and curbside service. And, as Tom Downes, CEO, Quail Digital, explains, at the heart of this innovation and sustained growth lies improved communication across all aspects of business operations.
With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic came the realisation that years of transformative investments in technology could rapidly come to maturity, keeping pace with the fundamental shifts in consumer behaviour at the drive-thru, operations and delivery. From cloud-based software and communication platforms that streamline ordering, payments and inventory, to curated experiences as guests drive up, digital technologies have enabled the industry to embrace remote ordering and – in some cases – delivery – as well as adhere to social distancing measures, almost overnight.
While these technologies are facilitating the shift in how consumers dine, they’re also allowing us to rethink nearly every other aspect of the quick service trade. From outdoor dining to curbside pickup, innovative operators are rethinking their real estate options; re-imagining how customers navigate lines, with new and creative app-based, kiosk and tableside ordering / pickup options. The physical space is being reinvented to meet the changing needs of consumers that may want faster, more touchless options and less face-to-face interactions.
Accurate & Clear Communication
With so many companies thriving with drive thru and curbside conversions, this could well be the retail model of the future. So how can operators ensure all orders are taken and fulfilled accurately and efficiently, across the entire estate, while keeping both customers and staff members safe?
From optimising accuracy and efficiency at the point of order and point of delivery, to enabling retailers to maximise the increasing number of digital ordering channels - including mobile apps; touch screen table service; and third party websites - communication within and throughout the entire estate is fundamental to an efficient and profitable operation.
As every restaurant owner knows, the clearer you can hear the customer, the more accurate and quicker the order preparation process is and the less waste there is. The speedier the execution, the better the customer experience.
The latest generation of communication hardware, such as digital, multi-channel headsets, enable new levels of agility and flexibility with the addition of a third communication channel for single and dual lane drive-thru, curbside ordering and in-restaurant table service, all from the same headset, with a range that covers kitchen, seating on two floors, drive-thru lanes, drive-to bays and parking lot.
Moreover, they will come with advanced noise cancelling technology, which maps and removes all the constant noise it hears, such as traffic and weather, leaving just voices. This allows for improved intelligibility by creating a decibel level of closer to 60 in the headset of the order taker, which is around the level we experience with face to face conversation.
The last six months have demonstrated how quickly consumer behaviours can adapt and change. They have also demonstrated how quickly the quick service industry has embraced innovation to evolve in line with consumer demand. As the industry works through the remaining challenges of 2020 (and beyond), the restaurant business model, consumer habits, and our definition of ‘normal’ will have changed, probably permanently.
While innovation continues to take place in many ways, what has remained constant is the fact that clear and accurate communication sits at the heart of the customer experience. Digitisation and modernisation of quick service communications can help to make every second count, across all aspects of business operations.