Quick-service, fast-casual and full-service used to be three distinct restaurant categories. Now, as consumer preferences for convenience and value change, foodservice outlets are beginning to blur the lines between their respective sectors.
Delivery, online ordering and in-store technology have made it easier for quick-service and fast-casual restaurants to offer more benefits for diners, moving closer to the hospitality level of a full-service restaurant.
Panera Bread made this shift a few years ago with its Panera 2.0 concept, which added ordering kiosks and table service to its restaurants. Panera's CEO at the time, Ron Shaich, noted "This higher-quality experience differentiates Panera from fast food and even much of fast-casual. We think it is a more polished version of fast-casual," reported Business Insider (Oct. 29, 2014).
In addition, Panera Bread is testing a dinner menu in Jacksonville, FL, and Lexington, KY. Dinner currently accounts for about a quarter to a third of Panera's sales, but it sees the meal as a potentially massive opportunity, reported CNBC (June 19). It will add heartier options available only after 4:30 p.m., such as flatbread pizzas, meatier sandwiches, bowls and vegetable sides.
Following in Panera's footsteps, Chick-fil-A launched "dine-in mobile ordering" via its app, which allows guests to order from a table in the restaurant and have their meal delivered to them. The chain integrated Near Field Communication technology into the table numbers, enabling customers to tap their phone on the table number to check in.
Convenience is at the forefront of this new service for Chick-fil-A. "This technology will be particularly helpful for busy parents who can now head straight into the restaurant and have their meal brought to their table at their convenience, without waiting in line," said Khalilah Cooper, Chick-fil-A director, service & hospitality. "As we continue to grow and evolve Chick-fil-A's digital experience, we’re focused on how the design of the physical restaurant environment can make the ordering and meal fulfillment journey even more seamless and enjoyable for our guests."
The chain began testing dine-in mobile ordering in 2018 at 80 restaurants and received positive feedback from customers, particularly those with large parties or families with children.
Chick-fil-A is known for its hospitality, being named the top fast food chain for brand intimacy, or creating a bond with the customer, according to the Brand Intimacy report from MBLM. Over 26% of Chick-fil-A users would be willing to pay 20% more for the brand's products, the third-highest price resilience score in the study.
Jennette has been with The Food Institute since 2013. As Marketing Director, she is responsible for promoting all Food Institute books, seminars and webinars, as well as writing and editing the Food Institute’s annual publications. Additionally, she writes for and edits the daily news update, Today in Food, and contributes to the weekly Food Institute Report. She has a background in non-profit and environmental marketing, programming and writing, and graduated from Rowan University in 2012 with a degree in Communication Studies.
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