QSR Trends for 2024: Technology, Economy and Design
With the Champagne and fireworks of New Year’s Eve fast approaching, we look ahead to see what 2024 has in store for the quick service restaurant industry.
To help, we gathered observations and insights from multiple sources: with prediction spanning technology, financials, and design & construction. Learn what CTM Design Services Ltd., EHL Group and Snackpass are listing as their QSR Design Trends for 2024.
Top question of 2024: “Should I Stay or should I go?” – CTM Design
The effects of the pandemic are still reverberating throughout the restaurant segment. According to Canadian QSR engineering firm CTM Design Services Ltd., while some QSRs are trying new approaches to bring back dine-customers, others are gearing up their facilities to meet the increased demand for take-out and delivery.
Upscale Design: To win back dine-in customers, several chains are elevating the experience by creating spaces people want to spend time in. Many QSRs are opting for high-end finishes and creating layers of lighting (i.e. having multiple levels of lighting in their space by providing ambient lighting, pendant lighting, and feature lighting) to echo the ambiance of upscale dining locations. Another trend is the addition of feature design elements that create visual interest and texture.
Sustainable Design: To demonstrate leadership, many chains are sourcing wood from FSC-certified manufacturers and using locally sourced products to reduce their carbon footprint. There has been a movement to “biophilic design” – which is about incorporating natural elements into a space. For example, natural finishes (such as wood and stone) and greenery (including living walls).
Larger Kitchens/ Reduced Dine-In Capacity: As dine-in traffic declines and pickup, delivery & online ordering continue to grow, QSRs need more kitchen space to meet their productivity goals. This has led many to expand the kitchen/line area by reducing the footprint of the dining area.
Dedicated Pickup Windows: This trend started during the COVID-19 pandemic and shows no sign of abating. Chains continue to build dedicated pickup windows/waiting areas for delivery drivers.
A Temporary Pause on EV Charging Stations: Many Canadian businesses are taking a wait-and-see approach before investing in EV charging infrastructure. The reasons include efforts to standardize charging systems in Canada – and the anticipated arrival of a new player promising a more accurate billing system based on kilowatt-hours.
EHL Group anticipates belt-tightening/new tech.
In these challenging times where people are struggling with the rising cost of living, consumers will look for ways to reduce spending. This is according to an article by EHL Group, published on hospitality.net.
They cite a Deloitte study that found 50% of Gen-Zs and Millennials report living paycheck to paycheck and predict this will likely lead many to reduce their takeout orders.
In response, EHL expects restaurants to adopt technology to reduce costs and improve efficiency while expanding services to include grocery items, meal kits and retail items.
EHL identified several technologies it feels will become ubiquitous in 2024.
- Increased Competition in the App Space – Larger chains are pushing back against 3rd party delivery services by introducing their own apps. The third parties are standing their ground with new features and services (such as delivery to some sporting events).
- Automated Inventory Management Software – QSRs are using new tools to track and anticipate stocking needs and improve order efficiency. These systems will also help reduce the chronic challenge of food waste due to spoilage – a $100B problem in the hospitality sector.
- QR Codes VS. Physical Menus – More restaurants continue to use online menus, with many now offering integrated online payment. QR codes provide an economical solution. No app required!
- Autonomous Delivery and Robocooks – In the US, drones and autonomous vehicles are being tested by leading brands in key markets. While the skies won’t look like something out of Blade Runner in 2024, another future trend is happening today.
Robotics are being increasingly deployed in front- and back-of-house roles – and now allow customers to order by voice and have bots cook and process their orders.
- Enhanced Online Reservation Experiences – Line dancing lessons, tasting menus or wine pairings to accompany your meal? Restaurants are seeking new ways to stand out and delight.
- Digital Customer Loyalty – Technology (such as AI) will monitor ordering and provide personalized recommendations and tailored offers/rewards.
- Automated Customer Service – Up to 46% of restauranteurs currently have some form of automated customer communications, and this is set to grow. AI Chatbots are being increasingly deployed to guide customers through the website, take orders, recommend promotions and answer questions.
6 Technologies to Watch for in 2024 – Snackpass
Leading QSR technology provider Snackpass identified 6 technologies that will be prevalent in 2024.
- Personalized Service Powered by AI – Artificial intelligence will allow QSRs to cater to guest preferences like never before… from order recommendations to marketing campaigns.
- Robots in the Kitchen – This isn’t sci-fi, but something that’s already happening. Automated kitchen systems and robotic chefs are helping to improve speed and consistency while reducing labour costs.
- Better Mobile/Contactless Experiences – This trend continues to grow post-Covid, and it’s getting more sophisticated through powerful apps.
- Sustainable Tech: Customers want businesses that reflect their values. Expect QSRs to implement new green/ technology to reduce energy usage and food waste.
- VR & AR – Virtual and augmented reality tech will let customers ‘visualize’ their order while improving staff training in simulated environments.
- Data-driven Decisions: Readily available analytics and business intelligence tools are providing unprecedented insights into all aspects of a business. Those who use data will have a leg up in improving efficiency and customer experience.
In the year ahead, QSRs will continue to work to find the right balance between the in-restaurant and takeaway/delivery model, while navigating a challenging economy.
According to the predictions around 2024 QSR trends, it’s apparent that technology and design will both play key roles in facilitating the evolution of the quick service restaurant industry.