Quick Service Restaurant Innovation: How QSRs Are Winning at Digital

Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) enjoy a unique position of stability that other players in the brick and mortar retail environment do not; while brick and mortar retailers remain challenged by online demand and worried about losing revenue to online buyers, the rate of growth for QSRs has been steadily increasing, leading all restaurant industry growth. In an environment where upscale and casual dining sales are slowing significantly, and retail brick and mortar locations continue to fight the uphill battle to remain profitable, QSRs saw 8.9% year-over-year growth, accounting for 39% of overall restaurant spend in the U.S. in 2019.

“Digital enablement has been a key factor in QSR growth.”

As tech-centric and mobile-first consumers continue to grow in size and purchasing power, QSRs have successfully utilized new technology to re-create the same level of convenience and value that they have long offered in their menus. Looking at innovative ways to attract customers, QSRs are successfully leveraging customer-facing tools and applications that deliver on the promise of value and convenience through new technologies:

  • cashless payments and tableside payment options that improve table turnover time
  • mobile delivery app integrations
  • backend solutions that both personalize preferences and anticipate the needs of the customers through customized offers
  • payment solutions that track these digital offers and provide attribution to real in-store sales

Adoption of new restaurant technology has been rapid on the consumer side, as adults are 30% more likely to use restaurant technology today than they were just two years prior. That said, 32% of diners believe restaurants are lagging in their use of technology.


How to Leverage New Technology

Incorporating new technology into daily operations does not have to be a scary proposition. By beginning with the end consumer in mind, understanding targeting parameters, monitoring foot traffic, and tying online activity to in-store revenue, QSRs can continue to be industry leaders in revenue growth and innovation.

See How Empyr Can Help

Begin with the End in Mind

Understanding the end goal of your marketing is integral to choosing technology that works for QSR brands. Is the goal new revenue through limited-time offers? New menu items? Overall brand awareness? Each of these will determine which platforms will be utilized.

Ease of Use/Adoption

Nobody wants another app on their phone. Brands fail when they ask customers to adapt to their own systems and processes. Technology should adapt to the customer, not vice versa. Ideally, adoption should be seamless for your customers and painless to set up store-side.

The ability to leverage apps that customers already have on their phones — Yelp, Uber Eats, Postmates, and even banking apps — to drive revenue is the next wave of digital advertising. Through platforms such as Empyr, QSR brands can piggyback on the popularity of existing apps to drive more traffic to their front doors, bridging the gap between online and offline advertising attribution.

Understand Targeting Parameters

What are the most effective ways to understand your customer base? Is it through competitor targeting, audience-based, geo-based, etc.? Or are you taking it a step further, utilizing actual purchase transaction data from fin-tech partners to gain market share on your competitors?

Understanding when and where a customer eats and how much they spend can inform a myriad of marketing tactics that will increase revenue.

Monitoring Foot Traffic

Are you utilizing the latest tech to track foot traffic? Are you using old-school methods like beacon technology? Or utilizing new software like Placed, which has advanced tools for geo-targeting and predictive analytics to anticipate customers visiting brick and mortar locations?

Related: Attribution Failures: The Rise & Fall of Beacon Technology

Targeting Your Core (Loyalty) Audience & Demographic

Getting your message in front of the customer that has the highest propensity to make a purchase is more important than ever — especially given the competitiveness of the QSR landscape. Providing a cash back offer can help incentivize potential customers to choose your brand over a competitor. Card linked offers also provide a boost to current loyalty programs that can increase frequency and average order value for current customers, while leveraging purchase transaction data to garner market share from your competitors.

QSR Case Study

Like many in the QSR space, this brand was struggling to connect their online ad spend to actual in-store revenue. Empyr worked with them to reach 250M+ consumers while providing 100% attribution between online ads to in-store sales — with no upfront costs or minimum. The brand paid only when consumers made a purchase. Grab the case study below.

Measuring Online Impact at the Store Level

With so many different variables and technological options, tracking and reporting are much more complex than they have been in the past. QSRs need to understand results, and how to measure effectiveness from online to in-store efforts. They want to know how many people or visits they are driving to the location? But unfortunately, many don’t have a holistic way to see how these efforts translate into actual revenue.

QSRs can close the attribution gap through a partner (like Empyr) that will augment location data with transaction data and deliver detailed reporting on in-store revenue impacted by various online efforts. Learn more.

Other Factors Impacting Performance

Healthier Options

QSRs are well-served by providing healthier, higher-end, organic options for their customers, as well as clearly identifying and labeling allergens and even adding calorie count to menu items.

Burger King recently announced the “Impossible Whopper,” while Chipotle and Subway have enjoyed sustained success as the healthy cornerstones of the QSR industry.

Customizable Packages

With a significant portion of the population on some sort of diet, it is becoming increasingly important for QSRs to align quick and easy menu selections with elements of the most popular dietary restrictions.

Loyalty Programs

Loyalty programs are one popular method to encourage repeat business. Card linked offers provide a boost to current loyalty programs that can increase frequency and average order value for current customers.

Related: Card-Linked Offers 101: All of Your Questions, Answered


While QSRs continue to be the restaurant industry leaders and are a bright spot in otherwise declining brick and mortar landscape, their future growth will depend on continued technological adaptation and innovation directed by evolving customer demands.

Want to know the impact of every advertising dollar spent? Get in touch with Empyr today.

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