The retail food market is highly competitive with price and quality of food products, new product development, digital engagement, advertising levels and promotional initiatives (including the frequent use of price discounting, such as through value meal menu options, coupons and other methods), customer service, reputation, restaurant location, and attractiveness and maintenance of properties.
That’s why top companies in the sector have been developing technological innovation plans for the last few years. They aim to implement the most effective and groundbreaking processes in order to capture the largest possible market share.
For example, McDonald’s released its Velocity Growth Plan in March 2017, which progressively established the three key elements of its corporate strategy: technology, delivery and Experience of the Future (E.O.T.F.) restaurants. The three basics that seem to dominate all the action plans of the rest of the brands in this business.
How fast food industry innovates?
At ORQUEST we are excited about the disruptive technological processes that the fast food sector is now experiencing. Let’s see a few relevant cases about this innovation.
Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are the two current companies carrying out the most striking technological development.
Beyond Meat and its mission to create The Future of Protein® – plant-based burgers, beef, sausage and crumbles and Impossible Foods with their plant-based heme protein made via fermentation of genetically engineered yeast. Both brands have created a fulfilling “no-meat” experience by using technology.
The creation and consolidation of this new form of environmentally friendly food has made classic companies like Kentucky Fried Chicken take the plunge and invest millions in R&D to offer an alternative to chicken or cow meat.
First, by signing a partnership agreement with Beyond Meat to launch a plant-based version of its fried chicken in selected restaurants in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego. And second, by developing in Russia the world’s first lab-produced chicken nuggets, partnered with 3D Bioprinting Solutions.
Developing the “future meat” is born in response to the growing popularity of a healthy nutrition and lifestyle. So, this KFC project tries to make its lab-produced chicken nuggets as similar as possible in taste and appearance to the original KFC product.
That’s the fast food innovation’s challenge for companies like KFC: to combine the classic flavor of the secret 11 herb and spice sauce created by The Colonel in 1939 with the technological disruptions necessary to remain competitive in the 21st century.
KFC is not the only firm to adopt the “no-meat” experience. Burger King also sells the plant-based Rebel Whopper and just launched in USA the Impossible Croissan’wich, a breakfast sandwich. Even Starbucks launched its own Impossible breakfast sandwich in June.
The adaptability of the brands to the new customer habits has determined the commitment to delivery as one of the key pillars of the business.
In the Velocity Growth Plan mentioned at the beginning of the article, McDonald’s also focuses on growing its delivery footprint. Delivery has increased to a $3 billion business for McDonald’s and the fast food company now offers delivery in more than 20,000 restaurants across 75 countries, more than half of all McDonald’s restaurants globally.
Stephen J. Easterbrook, President and CEO of McDonald’s ensures that: “Delivery has been one of our most successful accelerators [..] Our ability to continue expanding our delivery reach further demonstrates how our size, scale and convenient locations close to customers gives us a tremendous advantage.”
Innovation in the processes
McDonald’s also has a strong voice in innovation processes. Raúl Ocaña, Ops IT Lead, DNO-Operations of McDonald’s, says: “Our industry is increasingly dynamic. It is through innovation that we are able to stay ahead of the game and we offer solutions that enhance our customers’ experience. At McDonald’s we are committed to digitalization and technology as a way to unify and simplify our systems and processes.”
These systems and processes are part of EOFT, the so-called Experience Of The Future. A new business identity that includes all the innovations that make it possible to boost the sales and purchasing processes and, therefore, to improve the customer’s experience as well as the performance and happiness of the establishment’s employees.
At KFC, they claim something very similar to what we discussed in this article when asked about one of their latest disruptive technology investments: “The implementation of iflares at Amrest KFCs has been a breakthrough for the quality department. The ability to access the status of the operations and HACCP processes from any location in real time has changed the way in which the equipment is related. Today, any change in their operations is implemented immediately, providing an accurate picture of the state of the facilities.”
Why do major companies have such an impact on the optimization of these production processes?
This fast food innovation guarantees two priority objectives: food quality and zero waste. In the case of McDonald’s, adopting the EOFT has allowed them to design processes to avoid cross-contamination when preparing food for coeliacs as well as being able to accurately schedule the demands of their kitchens in order to come as close to zero waste as possible.
Improving internal processes is a must in order to continue gaining market share and reducing costs. Even more, these innovations are perfectly compatible with strategic marketing and communication actions to associate fast food with fitness, as, for example, Yum China is doing by becoming the main sponsor of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games.
What will the restaurant of the future look like?
After seeing and tasting all these technological innovations, at ORQUEST we have tried to imagine the restaurant of the future.
We have approached it from the analytical and planning point of view that characterizes our workforce management software. We have concluded that a restaurant should have the following key features:
Minimizes the impact on staff turnover
Adjustsproduction to sales forecast
Reduces operational management costs
Facilitates immediatedecision making
Global, real-time access to all business data
Analyze, predict and schedule accurate and effectively
The analysis, prediction and accurate scheduling are the trademarks of our solution based on cutting edge algorithms, Advanced Analytics and Artificial Intelligence, designed specifically for the retail and fast food industry.
You could discover in this short video all the keys of the implementation of ORQUEST software in McDonald’s Spain restaurants.
With ourWorkforce Management software your business will be able to face the demands of the new normality: (un)predictable demand, social distancing and shifts optimization.
C007/20-ED. 2020 call for proposals on technological development based on artificial intelligence and other digital enabling technologies within the framework of the strategic action of digital economy and society of the state R&D&I program