The Promise and Prospect for QSRs Post-Pandemic:An Interview with Jon Luther

There’s no doubt about it: The QSR and Fast Casual restaurant industry is poised to recover well from the COVID-19 pandemic. Partly, that’s because it was already ahead of the trends for convenience and takeout before the pandemic. But, as industry veteran Jon Luther (chair of Inspire Brands and formerly of Dunkin’ Brands) noted recently in an interview with A2Go, this is a critical juncture in the industry’s trajectory.

“The biggest issues facing the industry’s future are topline growth and supply chain management and how they will be facilitated by advanced technology,” he says. “If companies don’t invest in these areas, obsolescence will be sure to follow.” In other words, the balance that needs to be struck is between present need and future opportunity.

Asset Allocation

Asset allocation pertains to decisions such as these:

• Are ghost kitchens the wave of the future?
• Should we incorporate indoor seating at our stores?
• Should be invest in food trucks?
• Should we invest in drive-thru in new brick and mortar locations?
• How are we set up for delivery and curbside pickup?
• Do we have a mobile app for our own stores, or do we rely on aggregators?
• How do we use digital technologies to learn more about our customers and create more efficient workflows?

Luther believes that these questions can be answered by a customer insight process that incorporates both AI and “physical reconnaissance”—the new and the old approaches together. The main question companies should be asking is, “What is the heartbeat of our company?” For Dunkin’ it was the ritual that its customers had of dropping into stores to get coffee and donuts to go, whether at the start of their day or in between activities throughout the day. “That’s when we realized that our donuts were accompanying the main revenue generator, our coffee,” Luther says. “And we shifted our tagline to ‘America runs on Dunkin’.”

For Luther, the success of your brand relies on your leadership: “Do you have values-based leadership? This is truly a competitive advantage,” he says. “Strategies have to be well thought out and implemented by your leaders, and leaders must choose their teams carefully. Your team has to be committed to your values as well because they are the ones who will implement them.”

AI Investment

Besides asset allocation, Luther thinks every company should be investing in the new technologies of AI that greatly benefit the industry in so many ways—from understanding trends and patterns to providing optimal recommendations for action.

The QSR early adopters are already there. How should a midsized company look at this opportunity? Luther believes it must understand the new tech and determine what some of the first steps are. The Gartners and Forresters studying AI over the past decade and more confirm that AI will play an increasingly critical role in competitiveness and survival. Today, they are talking about AI’s ability to solve particular pain points and then link with other solutions for end-to-end synchronicity.

Analytics2Go adopted this philosophy from its beginnings four years ago. We have launched a solution for the QSR industry called A2Go xSell that helps individual stores understand its customers’ purchasing behaviors and the context of those purchases on a seasonal, weekly, and daily basis. As a result, the solution delivers product recommendations for suggestive selling that are on point in real time (milliseconds) at every channel outlet: from brick-and-mortar stores to digital screens. In tests at leading brands, the solution yields 5% – 10% increases in revenue and more in margins.

We developed this solution for QSR as a starter for the industry because of the importance of cross- and up-selling to revenue growth. It dovetails with others we are developing for pricing and promotion optimization for the industry.

Jon Luther is the former Chairman and CEO of Dunkin’ Brands and current Chair of Inspire Brands.

Analytics2Go is an AI as a Service & Solution company based in Sarasota, Florida. Click Here to learn more about our cross-sell solution for QSR.

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