Friday, March 28, 2014

Fast Food in 2014: Make It Snappy, with a Smile and an App

Fast food is getting faster by the minute--literally. A recent Bloomberg Businessweek article explains how the Little Caesars pizza franchises owned by Valor Equity Partners use detailed day-by-day sales projections to prepare pizzas, wings, and other foods in anticipation of customer orders, 30 minutes at a time, based on sales history and sales projections.

For example, from 6 to 6:30 pm at a Little Caesars in Salt Lake City, the staff will have ready 67 pepperoni pizzas, 39 cheese pizzas, 6 Hawaiian pizzas, and so on. Picking up the pace is pleasing customers: The dollar value of the average customer order here is nearly 8% higher than before the projections and efficiency fine-tuning went into effect. The bottom line: Shaving even a few minutes off the waiting time can be a competitive advantage when targeting consumers who value speedy service.

The idea is the fast-food equivalent of Amazon's possible plan to "pre-ship" merchandise that consumers look at (or even pause the mouse over)--before an order is placed. Consumers want what they want, when they want it, as Amazon and Little Caesars know.

On the other hand, drive-through performance is affected by the number of cars and the complexity of orders being prepared. Last year, a study reported in QSR magazine found more cars in line at Chick-Fil-A drive-throughs. Chick-Fil-A says that the increase in specialty menu items means it takes more time to get each order right.

The relationship factor is also a consideration for this fast-food marketer: "When you have Chick-fil-A team members who are making eye contact with you and listening to you, even through a speaker box, they’re more attentive, they’re more focused, they’re more likely to get it right … and they’re also more likely to get it out with much more grace and efficiency."

Still, for most drive-through customers, speed matters. McDonald's is adding a third drive-through lane at its busiest locations to accommodate customers in a hurry. And now, here comes the fast-food ordering app--for customers who want their orders ready for pickup without waiting. 

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