QSRs Look to Mobile Payments, Beyond to Fend Off Retail’s Fate

January 7, 2019         By: Steven Anderson

On the surface, it would seem like the quick service restaurant (QSR) would be largely immune from all those changes that hit retail. After all, no one was going to open an Amazon for burgers or steak or something. While it’s possible to ship food—dry ice can be a wonderful thing—it definitely doesn’t work for hot food. Yet there have been changes to emerge in the QSR market, and now, the market is at risk of complete change and in some cases, collapse.

What changes hit the QSR market? Simple: Uber Eats. Not just Uber Eats, of course, but all the other firms out there that operate similarly to Uber Eats, allowing for quick and easy delivery. Now, QSRs are effectively production stations. There are no diners. There’s little if any potential for upselling, let alone trying to talk people into buying drinks, and the tip, if any, is going to the delivery driver.

In QSR’s favor, they’re taking at least some cues from the retail market and trying frantically to avoid a similar fate. The efforts aren’t all effective—some refer to them as “bifurcated”, “bolt-on”, and “clunky” where terms like “seamless” should apply—but the concepts behind them are reasonable enough.

The problem here is as it usually is; businesses that are used to a certain way of doing business—indeed, all their systems are built around said certain way—are now required to completely change. Change is slow even under the best of conditions, especially for larger-scale corporate operations, like many QSRs actually are.

It wasn’t exactly out of line for QSRs to believe themselves immune to retail’s changes. People get their noses bent out of joint waiting 20 minutes for a steak; they’d never wait through a two-day shipping period. Yet we saw here that change could affect them as well, thanks to the growth of delivery services. There is still value in going to a restaurant, thanks to things like décor and freshness, but others believe that the loyalty program may ultimately save the day.

Whatever it is that helps, it should be tried; the QSR is already suffering somewhat for the changes, and unless it wants to become a cheap food factory, it needs to make some lasting, meaningful changes quickly.