Hurry for catering service models

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Embracing quick service business models is key to continued success in the restaurant industry

The restaurant industry has faced its fair share of trials and tribulations since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with establishments forced to adapt to government restrictions and strict health guidelines on the fly.

Many restaurants have been forced to close permanently or find a new business model that would allow them to stay open. Survive and adapt was the name of the game.

Indoor dining was, memorably, the first to go. Restaurants built outside seats for the guests. Parking spaces transformed into picnic tables, sidewalks into alleys.

However, more than getting people to sit down and dine, restaurant owners needed to figure out how best to get their product out into the community, and quickly.

Quick service, as it is called, is not a new business model, but it is one that not only grows in the industry, but grows in hearts, minds and stomachs. hungry customers all over the world.

papa johns, delivery, motorcycle

“The customer has spoken,” said Papa Johns CEO Rob Lynch. told QSR magazine. “They want to get food delivered or get ultra-convenient food.”

Out for delivery

Before COVID-19, Chinese food and pizza were probably what came to mind when imagining something that would be delivered. That, of course, has now been reversed.

Pickup and delivery has become essential for restaurants during the pandemic, and their ability to respond to customer demands quickly, efficiently and conveniently has become paramount.

For a long time it was (convenience) the drive-thru window,” Lynch told QSR magazine. “Now technology is changing that. I think the brands that embrace this and can make it work in their business model will be the ones that continue to exceed the industry.”

delivery bike

Restaurants well equipped to handle quick service have soared during the pandemic, with reported annual sales growth of 10.15% from October 2020 to October 2021, according to Black Box Intelligence. Drive-thru sales increased by 46.96%, and delivery requests increased by 84.53%.

Non-quick service restaurants, on the other hand, saw sales growth of just 2.83%.

Aside from food-only restaurants, one type of establishment that needed to adapt was the fast-casual space, which typically would not have had drive-thru or delivery options.

Combo meal

Now, with restrictions no longer preventing people from eating in, the combination of a fast-casual dining experience with the choice of take-out or delivery has paid off.

burgers, takeaway

“We’ve really fast-forwarded years into the future in a very short time,” David Portalatin, food industry adviser at The NPD Group, told QSR magazine.

Orders outside of the actual premises of fast casual restaurants increased by 30% year over year between August 2020 and August 2021, while traffic from outside restaurants increased by more than 80%.

“If you look at the restaurant industry for the five years leading up to COVID, what was growing? Offsite transactions were increasing,” Portalatin told QSR magazine. “(Quick-service restaurants) took part in full-service restaurants.”

In addition to dining at home, consumers are increasingly looking to place their pick-up, take-out and delivery orders digitally, rather than talking to someone face-to-face.

takeaway, box

Being able to place an order on a mobile app or website became more of a requirement than a commodity, and restaurants needed to invest and design accordingly.

Another benefit of being able to successfully deliver a prompt service experience is the customer loyalty that brands can now expect to see in return.

There are a number of reasons for this, but again, it mostly comes down to consumer convenience in the first place. Letting them place orders wherever they want, on whatever medium they want, makes them happy and breaks down barriers.

“You need to be relevant to the consumer and you need to have an app that’s not only easy to navigate, but also entices you to visit more often, whether that’s through loyalty earned and redeemed, or simply a continuous onslaught of great deals,” Fazoli CEO Carl Howard told QSR magazine.



Prior to COVID-19, going through the drive-thru lane was another option that was often based more on convenience than need. Since the pandemic, it has become both.

During the pandemic, drive-thru establishments were at one point the only realistic option for diners and, with consumers unsure who was open, finding a busy drive-thru lane left little question.

At the same time, the drive-thru window rush has stretched thin restaurants with a single lane.

A new idea taking shape is to have multiple drive-thru lanesincluding one specifically dedicated to orders placed digitally rather than in person.


Curbside pickup has also picked up steam, as restaurants have built additional infrastructure to make more room for customers who choose to stay in their cars.

Ask for help

One area that will need to be addressed is staff shortagewith millions either resigned or be forced out of their jobs during the pandemic.

Of course, being well supervised is imperative. Keeping everything running smoothly inside and out requires a well-oiled machine.

Having employees who can navigate drive-thru lanes using tablets to pre-take customer orders can also move the needle.

In addition to getting more orders faster, using tablets can also increase efficiency and customer happiness, as it eliminates the risk of errors or misunderstandings that can occur when ordering through a high steering wheel speaker.


“What we’ve found with tablets is that the customer experience is much better,” Howard told QSR magazine. “Because we made fewer mistakes. We have no communication problem. We are right in front of you, direct to direct. Thus, there is less confusion on the command which could be slightly confused or misheard via the headset.

Being greeted outside your car also adds a personal touch to the drive-thru experience, as you may feel like you are being served at a table, but in your car.

In the future, customer expectations will continue to grow and trends will change, but one thing seems to remain certain, whatever happens, it will have to be done quickly.

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