What You Can Learn from Fast Casual Success

Technomic projects growth for all segments of the restaurant industry next year, with most growth in the two or three percent range. But one restaurant segment is projected to outpace the others by leaps and bounds at 7.5%… 

Today, we’re going to examine some of the reasons fast casual restaurants are beating out the other segments, and learn the tactics you can use in your own strategy—no matter your restaurant type. 

First, it’s important that we get clear on exactly what “fast casual” entails. Restaurants that fall into this segment include Panera, Freshii, Caliburger, and many more. Fast casual restaurants offer a quick dining solution with a more upscale atmosphere. 

Generally, fast casual restaurants offer healthy options, well-designed interiors, affordable quality, and flavor diversity. Beyond these elements, one of the keys that sets this segment apart is its focus on providing solutions for the time-pressed customer.  

The fast casual customer is tech savvy and busy. He or she demands convenience and wants to be in control. Fast casual restaurants have developed a wide range of innovations to give more control to their customers, from facial recognition loyalty programs to self-service kiosks. 

This focus on quality, atmosphere, and, most importantly, guest convenience has led to more and more fast casual restaurants opening up across the country, and already established brands rapidly adding locations. 

Luckily, even if your restaurant doesn’t fall into the fast casual segment, there are still important lessons to learn from them and innovations to put in place that can dial up your convenience for customers and give them more control and more satisfaction.  

Here are four things you can begin to implement now: 

  1. Efficient Apps. Your customers want to interact with your restaurant in a way that is most convenient for them and, often, that way will be via their mobile devices. An app that allows your customers to check-in, earn and redeem rewards, pay, and other such features makes it easier for people to stay involved in your loyalty program and easier for them to interact with (and purchase from) your restaurant. 
  2. Mobile Payment. An easy mobile experience is key to success, and allowing for payment via mobile devices enhances that experience. Mobile payment can allow people to pay for delivery and pick-up orders, and can also allow them to pay via their mobile devices even while at the table in your restaurant. It makes it easier for your customer to pay when and how they want to, and also ensures that they stay connected with and engaged in your loyalty program. Plus, mobile payment also ensures you’re gathering useful data about customer behavior. 
  3. Curbside Pick-Up. Allowing people to order and then get their meal without even getting out of their car demonstrates that you value your customers’ time. This offering doesn’t need to be specific to QSRs or fast casual restaurants either; both casual dining and fine dining could  add this service to their offerings. 
  4. Delivery. With more and more delivery-only companies coming on the market and with the biggest players continually increasing their speed and transparency, adding delivery options to their offerings should be something every restaurant is considering. It’s important to note, too, that 52% of delivery orders are digital, so it’s important that your website and/or app connect seamlessly with your delivery experience. 

The old saying is “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” but perhaps it’s more appropriate to say, “if you can’t BE ‘em, join ‘em.” You don’t need to be a fast casual restaurant to capitalize on the techniques fast casual restaurants are utilizing and the success that they’re enjoying. 

Focus on putting the control in the hands of your customers by enhancing your technology, and it makes it just that much easier for your customers to choose to dine with you again and again. Learn more about the fast casual segment in our latest on demand webinar, “If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em by Putting the Guest in Control.”

Terri Burton

The Author
Terri leads the content marketing team at Paytronix. A restaurant software veteran, Terri joined the company in March 2015 and was responsible for major account sales in the North East before moving over to marketing in the Spring of 2018.

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