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After Adaptation And Innovation In 2020, What’s Next For QSRs?

January 5, 2021 Sarah Cavill

Shutterstock_1457668496 Woman with mobile phone ordering food online

Last year, when consumers were stuck at home, grocery delivery sales soared, as did the need for comfort foods and easy delivery of restaurant meals. Quick-serve restaurants (QSRs) in particular saw an uptick in sales, with many consumers seeking reliable, budget-friendly options. Alicia Kelso for Restaurant Dive reports that a study by market research firm Incisiv found “digital sales will make up more than half (54%) of limited-service and quick-service business by 2025. This marks a 70% increase over pre-COVID estimates.” 

QSRs, Indispensable In 2020, Are Likely To Offer More Of The Digital Innovation That Was So Successful Last Year

The digital adaptations necessary by QSRs, including KFC, Panera and Chipotle, allowed restaurants to give consumers what they wanted, quickly and with the consistency consumers were craving. In 2021, particularly with the massive growth of digital, many of the tactics that worked in 2020 will continue to evolve and become refined as QSRs leverage the support and loyalty gained last year. In addition, QSRs are known for fun, often outlandish, advertising campaigns that resonate with consumers, a trend unlikely to stop anytime soon. 

The sections below summarize previously published DMS Insights articles about restaurant and franchise news in 2020.

Coffee Wars: Panera Heats Up The Coffee Wars With New Subscription

Panera launched their unlimited coffee subscription for MyPanera Rewards members in late February. The MyPanera+ Coffee subscription offered subscribers unlimited coffee, tea or iced coffee for $8.99 a month, with the hope, of course, that while enjoying their coffee customers would order breakfast or lunch too. Although the timing wasn’t ideal, Panera was able to recruit 800,000 subscribers to MyPanera+ by July 2020, a huge customer acquisition success. Loyalty programs and freemiums are likely to play a large role with QSRs in the new year, as restaurants look to entice customers to stick around even as the country opens up.

Long-Form Content: From Fast Food To Fashion And Beyond

When KFC released the new trailer for A Recipe For Seduction, the KFC mini-movie in which Mario Lopez plays the Colonel, the whole of Twitter gasped. The silly concept may not have been everyone’s cup of tea (reviews were tepid), but longform advertising is increasingly popular and innovation in QSR advertising campaigns reliable. (KFC in particular has often deployed wacky and funny campaigns that get consumers talking.) As QSR and fast food brands look to hold momentum in 2021, creative and unexpected advertising strategies will continue to launch across digital and terrestrial channels. 

Quick-Serve Restaurants Encourage Surge In Digital Ordering

Throughout the pandemic, the implementation of digital strategies helped QSRs stay top of mind and relevant for consumers. Many nationwide chains and franchise brands made changes to their apps, including offering contactless delivery, seamless payment options and curbside pick-up, to help consumers feel safe about ordering. The growth of digital experiences for QSRs is an important part of plans to expand during and after the pandemic. 

From QSR To Beauty, Brands Embrace Environmental Sustainability In Latest CSR Campaigns

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been a big story this year, with businesses pivoting to make masks and PPE, data showing consumers want more social awareness and charitable acts from brands and businesses all getting attention. Chipotle and Panera have both led the way for QSRs, with environmental initiatives that prioritize sustainable practices and brand transparency. Younger consumers in particular expect a lot from brands, so CSR is likely to become a bigger piece of campaign and product strategies for QSRs going forward. 

Click here to read more franchise and restaurant advertising news from DMS Insights.

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About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Senior Marketing Communications Writer, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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