What can we expect from the QSR industry in 2017? A strong and improving economy over the past five years has restarted the restaurant industries’ growth engine. Money is flowing back into the space to fund expansion, growth, M&A, and revitalization initiatives, with Restaurant Brand International’s purchase of Popeyes as the most recent example.

We predict five major trends will help fuel the new growth in the QSR and Fast Casual:

  1. Culinary evolution. We are seeing the emergence of chef-driven fast casual concepts like Calexico, Larkburger, and Slap Fish. These culinary pioneers are pushing consumers into a wide variety of options that embrace themes of sustainability, farm to table, nutrition, and serving size proportions all while delivering exciting new flavor profiles. Hyper-local produce with onsite vegetable and herb gardens will become more prevalent, and craft sodas will become a new beverage category.
  2. Mobility and delivery services. Diners are far more likely to use mobile and delivery services to fit prepared food into their days. This opens up competition from fast casual, casual dining, and meal preparation services. Having the food you want when you want it has become the norm, and delivery from services such as Eat24, UberEATS and Grubhub have changed the way consumers connect with their favorite restaurants. Simply being conveniently available can give you an edge to claw back a few incremental visits from your valued guests.
  3. Technology advances. Apps will become increasingly important for choosing where to eat, ordering food and paying. Our new 2017 QSR research shows that adoption and use of restaurant apps has increased across all age categories, with about one-third of all consumers using apps to order and pay for food. In addition, we see increased usage of kiosks and tabletop technology.  
  4. Intense competition. There is more competition than ever for diners’ wallet share.  When faced with so much choice, many consumers are spreading their visits across a wider array of brands to diversify their experiences. In an attempt to capture as much revenue as possible, restaurants are battling back by offering meal solutions for more dayparts and snacks between meals, bolstering beverage options, and increasing their menu complexity. All of these measures create pressure within the four walls that can have the consequence of slower service and failure to meet operational standards. Operators must balance retaining consumer interest without falling into the complexity trap.
  5. Investment in CX. In the next two weeks, we’ll be sharing more information about our just-completed 2017 QSR/Fast Casual industry research. Brands invest heavily in customer experience (CX) initiatives to ensure locations deliver against the brand standards, delight their customers and grow their same store sales comps. Who’s winning the CX game? Watch for our breakout of brands that have won their customers’ loyalty in this extremely competitive space.  

Check out 2016 QSR summary infographics for these categories, and check back with us later this month for 2017 results.

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