News of the deployment of AI (Artificial Intelligence) menu boards for QSR popped up during Restaurant Point West in Austin, Texas this month, and such technological advances — while not exactly brand new — are unquestionably part of the QSR future.
But the four-person Miller Zell team on hand found during board presentations and one-on-one discussions that something else topped the list of urgent concerns:
- How do QSRs get more done with less?
- And how do they maintain brand consistency at scale while also completing projects on time and on budget?
While there will be continued debate about AI vs. the Human Touch (HT?), and every QSR should be focusing on improving its technological integration, personalization and data collection, the fundamental challenges of restaurant development remain front and center.
Real-world pain points in search of real-world solutions
One QSR executive noted that he’d been asked to upgrade 100 locations but with a budget that would support, oh, about 15.
Another pointed out that her entire project was on hold because she couldn’t outfit her locations with HVAC units.
And another observed that he’d been provided a new, smaller-footprint restaurant design that looked great, at least until it was built. Then his team discovered that the space between bar stools and tables was too narrow for many customers to navigate.
These examples might inspire smiles as much as nods of understanding, but they are real-world pain points: budgets, logistics and design.
If a QSR wants to increase its investment in technology, it’s more than likely going to look for ways to decrease other costs. And with inflation and rising labor expenses, that’s not easy.
Projects completed on time and on budget? If you aren’t prepared with a Plan B for dealing with unexpected delays with the delivery of critical equipment, both schedules and costs could blow up.
And if your design skips the prototyping phase and turns out functionally challenged and damages the restaurant experience, then your customers will eat elsewhere.
A solution for these and other potential pratfalls?
Enlisting an experienced partner who understands the nuances of executing QSR projects at scale, one who can enter the process at any time and improve outcomes across the board for all stakeholders. This partner can collaborate both within and outside your organization and crowdsource solutions and make sure they are done consistently well.
Marketing vs. operations
Marketing teams with their right-brain, creative thinking focus on branding, promotions and customer acquisition. And these are critical. Operations teams mostly stick to the left brain, focusing on the pragmatic, such as costs, inventory and day-to-day in-store execution and efficiency. This too is critical.
While both seek to elevate the customer experience, they often clash, as big ideas in marketing can create stress for restaurant-level operations.
This is where the partner comes in, owning a mastery of both languages so a mutually beneficial collaboration can take place, one that achieves a shared goal of great restaurant experiences delivered on time and on budget.
Concept to completion: cost-effectively executing design intent
Great design is rooted in strategic listening to start and value engineering throughout. This process encompasses project goals, parameters, timelines, budgets and potential vendor partners.
From design intent, you finalize design criteria and create a design playbook that delineates clear guidelines for restaurants. These then hold marketing and operations partners mutually accountable for a good, better, best approach to applying environmental refreshes and updates. There’s both flexibility for restaurant adoption and guardrails for brand consistency.
Marketing is thrilled with more restaurant traffic, and operations is excited by an efficient and transparent process that delivered that new traffic.
While many Restaurant Point discussions centered on an evolving marketplace, such as better integrating delivery and pickup spaces into QSR design, the overriding challenge is moving quickly and efficiently from design to execution with a collaborative process that inspires end-user satisfaction with an upgraded customer experience.
As a company offering end-to-end services that provide solutions for evolving QSRs and other branded environments, this is a discussion we embrace.