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Quick-Service Restaurants Stick to Basics in Evolving Landscape

Competition in the foodservice industry, especially for quick-service restaurants, has never been fiercer. Consumers, particularly the surging purchasing power associated with the Millennial generation, are looking for a different experience than their predecessors. Supply chain sustainability, ethnic foods and every imaginable “fill-in-the-blank-free” diet is influencing foodservice purchases, and these issues would not even cross a food executive’s mind a few years ago.

However, despite these changes, some more mundane changes can increase revenue for quick-service chains, and value figures to be one of the main avenues for existing quick-service restaurants to retain their market share. As the profitability of the “dollar menu” and other like-minded value menus begins to wane, companies are adapting. To that end, Wendy’s introduced a widely popular “4 for $4” menu that offers consumers a junior bacon cheeseburger, four piece chicken nuggets, fries, and a drink. Initial reports note that the promotional deal has not significantly affected dollars per order as of yet.

Not to be outdone, McDonald’s asked franchisees to approve a “McPick 2” menu that includes items that were traditionally sold on the company’s Dollar Menu, including the McDouble, McChicken and small fries. The Operator’s National Advertising Fund approved the value message, and franchisees later agreed to the promotional menu, hoping that the new deal will help encourage consumers to visit their local restaurant location.

McDonald’s also knows that a scorned consumer won’t return, and will be launching initiatives aimed at reducing error rates and screw-ups at the drive-thru window. The company will launch a new “ask, ask, tell” method to provide three opportunities to check that what the customer requested is what the customer gets, a crucial component as 70% of the company’s sales are made to people who don’t leave their vehicles. In addition, the company is asking restaurants to turn off prerecorded drive-thru greetings so that real-time workers interact with customers instead. Lastly, the company is asking workers to no longer fold over the tops of paper bags so that consumers can quickly inspect their meal to make sure all items are present.

Despite the increasing importance of items that were not on quick-service restaurants’ radars just a few years ago, simple initiatives aimed at providing better value and customer service during ordering can help a chain exponentially. Listening to customers, like finally allowing all-day breakfast, will resonate and lead to more sales as customers begin to feel like they are listened to. Basic customer service never goes out of style.