Digital sales will account for more than half, or 54%, of all quick service and limited service restaurant sales by 2025, according to new survey figures from the market research company Incisiv. That’s 70% higher than pre-COVID estimates, the firm notes.
This projected growth is not difficult to understand. It’s been a year-long total fire for restaurants, with hundreds of thousands of restaurants permanently closed and billions of dollars already lost. Currently, restaurants across the country are reverting to offsite-only models, which lend themselves more to minimal interactions between restaurant staff and customers.
But as we saw at the start of the pandemic, even limited/quick-service restaurants struggled to handle the sudden influx of take-out orders, curbside pickup, drive-thru and delivery. . Big brands with cash to burn and existing digital strategies have obviously held up better over the past eight months than those without a lot of tech investments in place. By July, Chipotle had increased digital sales by more than 200% thanks to the brand’s pre-COVID focus in this area. Another example is Starbucks, which, as publicly stated, 80% of its pre-pandemic orders were already for take-out chains.
Separately, Incisiv notes that while restaurant chains are investing in technology, they “do not necessarily address the highest priorities or the solutions that will deliver the greatest maximum return on investment among diverse customer expectations.”
It’s a point we make all the time here at The Spoon. There are seemingly endless options for businesses when it comes to technology, but not all of them are equal in terms of the value they provide to a business trying to serve its customers quickly, securely, and with the same quality as she would get in the dining room. . For example, so-called “contactless” kits that address the dining room experience may become a staple of the future, but they can’t really add value when dining rooms are closed. On the other hand, focusing technology investments on tools that will make digital ordering and fulfillment easier and cheaper should be a priority. To that end, Incisiv’s report urges restaurants to “make improvements in digital technology.” Those who do, according to the report, “will be better off should another shutdown occur.” Which, if you hadn’t noticed, is happening right now.
As noted above, some of QSR’s biggest brands are clearly in the lead when it comes to digital sales trends, but Incisiv says there are many areas for growth and improvement. Customer satisfaction actually remains low in a few key areas. Only 40% of survey respondents were satisfied with their pickup experience; this number drops to 25% for delivery. Half of customers prefer to pay with a mobile wallet, but less than 20% of QSRs offer extensive payment options.
The survey found that “nearly 70%” of restaurant chains have “declared their intention” to increase investment in mobile ordering. Long-term, digital sales are expected to decline slightly once dine-in service resumes with a semblance of yesteryear. However, the return of the dining room won’t mean the end of offsite, not if recent developments around condensed store formats and expanded drive-thru lanes are any indication. Incisiv also notes that the share of delivery sales is expected to increase by 23% by 2025, compared to a pre-COVID forecast of 15%.
As the report notes, if all of this is true, it will be QSR chains that will make the most progress in terms of digital control and set an example for the rest of the industry.