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The 2024 Digital Transformation in Fast Casual and QSR Summit- What Everyone is Talking About!




Attending the 2024 Digital Transformation in Fast Casual and QSR Summit was an eye-opening experience, filled with valuable insights and practical strategies for enhancing customer experiences and improving operational efficiency through technology. Here are the key takeaways that resonated with me, including some highlights from Crisp’s session.


Embracing AI in the Restaurant Industry



AI has been a hot topic for quite some time, but it’s encouraging to see the industry moving towards practical, scalable solutions. Restaurants are no longer just chasing the latest AI trends; they’re seeking technology partners who truly understand their needs. While AI is advancing, there’s still no clear long-term roadmap, making it essential to balance innovation with practicality. Technologies like generative AI for feedback summaries and machine learning for prediction and segmentation were discussed, but there’s a clear caution against losing the human touch in dining experiences.


The Power of Subconscious Influence



Velvet Taco’s session was fascinating, shedding light on how subconscious influences play a massive role in customer decisions—about 80-90% of them, in fact. Building brand affinity through positive interactions at every touchpoint is more crucial than ever, especially when the average American sees around 10,000 ads daily. Engaging employees in brand promotion and responding to customer feedback can significantly strengthen this bond. Swig’s culture of care stood out, with their leadership actively participating in community engagement initiatives like the "Share the Love" campaign for breast cancer awareness.


Data-Driven Customer Engagement


McDonald’s panel was all about transforming customers from guests to fans using data to guide every marketing decision. They’ve identified 32 different customer journeys for ordering, which is impressive! Their inclusive digital strategies, while keeping fundamental principles in focus, highlight the importance of flexibility. Hearthouse’s approach to balancing customer and employee needs with a human-centered data strategy was equally compelling. They stressed the importance of staying curious about technology but warned against blindly chasing trends without ensuring they fit well with your business.


Strategic Tech Adoption

The summit showcased various approaches to tech adoption. Many brands start with POS systems as the foundation, then move to training platforms, loyalty apps, and phased deployment of other technologies. The key is to address specific franchisee needs and operational challenges. Viewing the business process as an ecosystem helps avoid the temptation of adopting unnecessary features. It’s crucial to involve stakeholders in tech decisions to ensure smooth implementation and minimize negative impacts on the team.


Simplicity and Speed: Keys to Success

Several brands, including Biscuit Belly and Shootz, emphasized the importance of keeping technology simple and maintaining high standards of guest experience. They also highlighted the need for speed and consistency in service, suggesting regular employee meetings to keep everyone aligned and continuously improve. The simplicity and user-friendliness of technology are essential for operational success.



Practical Tips for Technology Implementation

Balanced planning is vital. It starts with needs and risk analyses, a clear plan, and ensuring all stakeholders approve and understand their roles. Effective project management includes defining the project scope, writing detailed plans, and being ready to pivot as needed. Building strong vendor relationships is also crucial. Choose vendors who understand and can solve your problems, and be open to ongoing product improvements.


Crisp’s Insights on Drive-Thru Efficiency

Dylan Roeder from Swig shared some fantastic insights on drive-thru efficiency, highlighting that speed not only keeps customers happy but also significantly impacts the restaurant’s bottom line. Upstream ordering was emphasized as a way to enhance customer service and increase drive-thru speed, directly contributing to earning potential.




Final Thoughts

The summit underscored that successful digital transformation in the fast-casual and QSR sectors requires a strategic, flexible approach. It’s not just about adopting the latest technology but finding scalable solutions that align with the brand’s needs and enhance both customer and employee experiences. By focusing on practical implementations, involving stakeholders, and maintaining a clear problem-solving approach, restaurants can effectively leverage technology to drive growth and satisfaction.

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