Maybe you noticed it the last time you walked into a quick serve restaurant – little touches that you were once more likely to find in fast casual restaurants. Food being prepared in the front of the store, plastic booths that have been replaced with cozy seating arrangements next to a fireplace, these are just a couple examples of changes being made. With the increasing loyalty restaurants such as Chipotle and Panera receive from consumers, it can be easy to see why QSRs are beginning to approach their style in a different way.
What does the marriage of these two industries look like exactly? Learn more about how QSRs are incorporating fast casual into more than the overall layouts of their locations and trying to establish bonds with customers in new ways.
Open kitchens, open minds. Mentioned earlier, an open kitchen is the one of the first steps a restaurant can take to encourage transparency between a brand and its customers. The popular fast casual brand Chipotle prides itself on its ability to display ingredients and prepare menu items as they are ordered in front of customers. While this isn’t typically the approach most QSRs take, different brands are making the decision to put it all out in the open. Domino’s has introduced several “pizza theaters” throughout the country where employees can show off skills such as dough tossing and pie creation in front of visitors. It also allows customers to see firsthand the fresh ingredients that are being used.
Letting quick serve customers slow down. One of the main appeals of a great QSR is the ability to serve quality food fast. However, these same restaurants are exploring different avenues that allow customers to slow down, get comfortable and still enjoy that quality food beyond the drive-thru. Kentucky Fried Chicken has been working on a whole new brand concept called KFC Eleven (the Eleven is a reference to the Colonel’s world famous recipe) which will combine old menu options with new offerings in a more modern environment. With only one version of the concept currently open, KFC is hoping to eventually expand and invite customers to see the brand in a new light.
Embrace the brand. A handful of restaurants are stepping back and thinking of ways to let their brand do the talking; highlighting distinctive values and characteristics can make a transition seem more authentic and organic. Captain D’s examined what made it different than its competitors and let that be their guide in creating a more fast casual atmosphere. In search of a more ‘beach-like feel” to pair with their seafood menu, the restaurant’s decor began to reflect that of a fun beach house, with new menu items to match, recreating the feeling one might have enjoying a meal with friends after a day by the water. The brand hopes these changes can attract younger crowds and encourage folks to stick around and take in the scenery while enjoying shrimp kabobs.
As consumers make their choices on where to eat their next meal, QSRs are finding creative and innovative ways to keep up with a constantly changing industry. Perhaps the blending of these two world will create an entirely new dining experience.
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