Discover some of the key QSR trends we expect to see in 2024, and learn how to use these trends to give your operation the competitive edge.
2023 has been a more positive year for the QSR sector than we’ve seen since before the pandemic.
Despite the cost of living crisis affecting customer footfall, average spend has actually increased, and QSRs have enjoyed a unique position of strength in taking advantage of customers trading down from casual dining.
Now it’s time to look ahead to the trends we expect in 2024.
It’s important to note – though – that not all trends are created equal. And whilst 2023 was a step in the right direction, QSRs continue to go through a wide range of changes and challenges.
That’s why we’ve taken time to pull out a cross-section of the most important trends set to make a big difference over the next twelve months (and beyond), and will take a look at how you can improve the restaurant experience for your staff, operations and customers.
The top eight QSR trends to prepare for in 2024
1. Ensure your delivery channels work efficiently alongside the rest of your operation
The pandemic continues to affect QSRs in a variety of ways, and while significant, not all are negative. For example, in the US, Drive-Through services now account for more than two-thirds of QSR revenue, and despite a 12% drop since 2019, are retaining net positive sales.
With less of a drive-through culture in the UK, however, the trend is impacting businesses with increases in home delivery and takeaway demand.
This resilience is a testament to the channel’s strength and the opportunities it presents. For operators, the focus should be on streamlining order channels wherever possible. Make sure they don’t get in each other’s way during busy periods. If it’s getting complex to balance your different channels, this issue can usually be traced back to a fragmented tech stack.
Consolidation and efficiency are key areas to explore here, turning a potential challenge into a profitable solution.
2. Increase focus on plant-based and ethically sourced food
There continues to be a significant rise in plant-based menu options, driven both by increasing guest demand and sustainability goals. Overall, the plant-based food market is expected to increase by almost USD12Bn in 2024.
The QSR industry is responding to the growing base of health-conscious and environmentally aware guests by innovating menus. By introducing plant-based versions of popular items and promoting the health and environmental benefits, QSRs can align with consumer values and preferences. Along with this, an efficient menu management solution will become more important than ever as quick market shifts put pressure on operators to alter menu options at pace.
Also worth noting is the sweeping health and wellness wave, particularly among younger demographics. The surge in demand for plant-based and healthier food options signifies a shift from niche market to mainstream necessity. QSRs can capitalise on this trend through technology that analyses customer data, personalised marketing efforts, and by developing innovative menu offerings for health-conscious consumers.
3. Get the technological edge by streamlining order management
By 2024, a significant segment of QSR operations is expected to be automated. The rise in popularity of self-service kiosks, digital ordering platforms, and AI-driven bots like burger-grilling machines has already revolutionised kitchen efficiency, labour costs, and customer experience.
The most valuable edge that technology can deliver to an operation in 2024, though, is a boost in efficiency. By streamlining order management operators can stop wasting time on the uphill struggle of a fragmented tech stack, and unblock profitability.
In 2023, it’s become more clear that operators are recognising spreading operations across multiple providers is holding them back from business goals.
48% of operators
report the most valuable aspect of a POS is being able to update single menu items across multiple channels
79% of operators
report the most valuable aspect of a POS is being able to visualise all data in one place
40% of operators
report that having multiple tech providers is inefficient
An order management system can be a game-changer in this scenario, offering a streamlined operation that makes boosting revenue quicker, easier, and more efficient.
4. Make your operation more eco-friendly
Sustainability is becoming a core focus for QSRs. Eco-friendly practices like compostable packaging and recycling initiatives can fulfil consumer expectations around the environment.
Having easily accessible sales data that reflects your entire operation in real-time will also help you to understand how much is being sold where, enabling you to reduce waste and enhance sustainability efforts.
Also, consumers, especially Millennials and Gen Z, show a preference for brands that address social and environmental issues, leading to QSRs incorporating social purpose into their brand strategies. Digital storytelling and engagement through marketing can amplify your brand’s association with positive social responsibility – you may have already noticed a rise in rounding up the bill for charity appearing as part of the customer experience.
5. Adapt to new trends with flexible menus
The rise of remote work has further shifted traditional meal patterns, with breakfast traffic experiencing notable lows and highs as customers adapt to new working patterns. QSRs can again adapt by diversifying menus, such as offering all-day breakfast menus, and using technology to adjust offerings and pricing strategies based on new eating patterns.
6. Embrace localised marketing
Local community engagement is also becoming crucial. Partner with neighbourhood organisations and tailor marketing strategies to reflect community-focused initiatives. This hyper-local approach is resonating with guests who prefer to support businesses with a positive local impact.
7. Make apps work for more than just digital ordering
The use of mobile technology for ordering, promotions, and customer engagement is now par for the course. Brands are employing mobile apps and social media platforms to create personalised customer experiences and foster brand loyalty. These platforms are becoming a hub for engagement, offering notifications about local events, special promotions, and loyalty rewards.
8. Focus on your staff’s future to increase retention
When it comes to the labour crisis, the focus has shifted away from how difficult finding staff is to how difficult keeping them can be.
Brands are taking more care to invest in their workforce as a critical part of their growth strategy. Certain progression programs like those at GAIL’s Bakery and Pret a Manger promote career development opportunities within the QSR and coffee shop industry.
Speaking at lunch! 2023, Shereen Ritchie – COO of Buns From Home – noted that hospitality isn’t usually seen as a long-term career because younger employees don’t see progression potential.
“We’re not seen as a ‘real job’,” she said, “but our industry is so special. You can come from nothing, and you can be somebody. We need to champion our industry and show it is a ‘proper job’. Get the next generation in, evolve your business so it works for them, too.”
Use the right technology to capitalise on trends in 2024
The simplifying of technology systems is essential for QSRs to capitalise on these trends. Tools like an order management system can streamline operations, reduce error chances, and provide valuable customer insights. They can also enable dynamic pricing strategies, enhance operational efficiency, and boost customer satisfaction.
Book a chat with one of our restaurant tech experts to learn more about exactly how an order management system can set your operation up for a profitable year (and beyond)…