4 Quick-Service Restaurant Trends Driving Innovation

The pandemic created a shift in the way consumers shop, interact and even order food. With more people consistently working from home or choosing to leave their jobs, quick-service restaurants (QSRs) can no longer count on the dependable flow of foot traffic coming through their doors. To adapt and win, they must rethink how they engage and retain customers and take a digital-first approach. Here are a few of the quick-service restaurant trends driving innovation today.

The Great Resignation

Delivering the best customer experience happens with talent acquisition and retention. But that’s difficult for the QSR industry during the labor shortage caused by “The Great Resignation.”

According to Snagajob, in the broader labor force, there’s been a 70% increase in job vacancies and a 10% decrease in people looking for work. Retention is hugely important because workers are leaving companies and industries altogether for new and different opportunities.

But this labor shortage has one positive benefit. It’s given companies the chance to re-evaluate their company culture, recruiting and training techniques and their customer experience. This re-evaluation has ushered in innovation – a shift toward automating processes, which could potentially help fill staffing gaps.

Long gone are the days of restaurants leaving “help wanted” signs in their windows. Evolving technology is reshaping recruiting techniques. It’s time to recruit candidates using methods similar to how you market to consumers. Post job listings on your site and digital apps while also reaching potential employees organically via their social media accounts.

Unpredictable Consumer Behavior

The pandemic has thrown a wrench in many aspects of our lives including our dining habits. Skipping breakfast dining isn’t the only thing that’s changed for the QSR industry. How customers are now interacting with QSR brands is quite different too: More cars are snaking through drive-thru lines, and single orders have increased – right along with customers’ increased desire for quicker and easier food service, no-contact digital ordering experiences and deliveries. In fact, according to QSR magazine, food deliveries have gone from 70% of sales pre-pandemic to above 90%.

Consumers are no longer satisfied with only having the option to order meals at the counter or drive-thru. They want fast, efficient and convenient service at the best price possible. To meet consumer demand and the pace of change, QSRs must introduce digital technologies such as communicating through their app and personalized menus to improve their customer experience.

Apps are a great convenience. Customers not only can order food ahead of time for pickup or delivery, but incentives such as in-app coupons and loyalty programs keep them coming back for more. Offering delivery service is another great convenience that’s becoming the norm. For instance, eMarketer reported on-the-go orders made up 80% of Starbucks transactions before the pandemic, and that increased 10% in 2021’s first quarter alone.

QSRS must reimagine how they do business and innovate to keep up with changing times. Get some inspiration from these two QSR heavyweights. Taco Bell is working on a new Taco Bell Defy concept, which is set to include four drive-thru lanes – three of which will solely focus on mobile orders and pickup. And Chipotle launched its first Digital Kitchen, offering pickup and delivery orders exclusively, and Chipotlanes, digital-order-only drive-thru or walk-up lanes.


No one-size-fits-all solutions exist when it comes to acquiring and retaining customers, but personalization can help. AdTheorent’s Dining Trends report shared 71% of the consumers surveyed said that receiving an ad tailored to them from a QSR gives them a more favorable opinion of that brand.

Customize your ads by advertising to your customers through your app. Use location data to geotarget or geofence your customers and send push notifications to them based on time of day, their food preferences and more. Or send short message service (SMS) messages to customers based on their previous purchases.

Another way to personalize the customer experience is to use AI technology. McDonalds started using AI technology to customize their drive-thru menu boards: The boards suggest additional items for purchase based on when and what a customer orders. AI will likely only get more popular as QSR brands seek out new ways to upsell customers.

Digital Transformation

Attention spans are fleeting these days. So be quick and to the point with your advertising messages. Reach your target consumers through an omnichannel advertising strategy, whenever they’re browsing the internet, listening to a podcast or watching a show on a connected TV (CTV) device. Then identify look-alike audiences across display, CTV, native, paid search, paid social and programmatic audio for further reach.

You can also use your app to collect first-party data, which is important as Google moves forward with third-party cookie deprecation in 2023. Or you can use it to ramp up contactless service. Starbucks is already evolving with the times and together with Amazon has created a hybrid coffee shop and market in New York City – where consumers can check out without needing to pay at the counter.

How Goodway Can Help QSRs

To elevate your brand and break away from the competition, you need a trusted partner and advisor to keep you informed on the latest QSR trends and propel your full-funnel digital strategy. Look to us. We’ve partnered with a number of QSR brands over the years to help them build measurable digital marketing campaigns that work.

With our digital media services, expertise and breadth of experience in the QSR space, we can help you customize your audience strategy using first-party data, lean into personalization with digital marketing campaigns and amplify your results through social and influencer marketing for more referrals. Let’s work together now so you can stand apart in the crowded marketplace and rise from the pandemic stronger than before.