There is no doubt that the landscape of QSR technology is changing. So much so, that if some restaurateurs don’t act fast to play catch up, they’ll be left in the weeds.

What kinds of trends, you ask?

The list is growing, but it begins with online ordering options, mobile ordering options, digital menu boards, and social media campaigns.

But what other technological trends are happening inside the walls of fast casuals and quick service restaurants? And are they the kind of trends you need to be on board with?

Here are the top 7 emerging technological trends you need to be aware of:

1) Online Ordering Options

So there you are, sitting at home, dreaming about a medium pizza with all the toppings. You want it and you want it now. So much so, that you don’t think twice about opening up a browser window on your phone and heading straight to the website of the local pizza shop.

A short time after you place your online order, you pick up your hot, fresh, pizza, pleased as a peach. And if statistics that speak to the value of online ordering are true, you’ll be back to order again very soon.

Marcus Higgins, the Vice President of sales at EatStreet, an online ordering provider, says that the younger generation is driving the trend of digital ordering. According to QSRWeb.com, Higgins says that online customers are more likely to re-order within 60 days of walk-in customers, a fact that contributes a 300% growth in sales over dine-in traffic.

Some fast casual restaurants like Panera are helping to further encourage online ordering by offering a discount to the customer if they order online for their next purchase.

If sales are tripling in some QSR’s with this kind of feature, what are you waiting for in your neck of the woods?

2) Digital Menu Boards

Digital menu boards have been dubbed the “Silent Seller” because of the tantalizing images and videos that create instant gratification and help generate more revenue in a shorter amount of time.

Digital menu boards are showing up more and more in the drive-thru lanes of restaurants, but for the most part, we see digital menu boards inside and behind the counter. Some roll video of steaming burgers hot off the grill, or crisp, cold soda being poured over perfect chunks of ice. Our mouths water and so we order more.

This is how QSRs and fast casuals upsell; they show the customer what they want instead of asking the customer what they want.

With digital visuals, the customer’s eyes are driven to signature items and highly profitable sweet treats, moving them to make quicker decisions.

McDonald’s is now installing smart technology into their digital boards so that they can make suggestions to the customer based on the weather. When it’s hot, lemonade may be on the menu. When it cold, perhaps a hearty bowl of chili or hot chocolate shows up.

“[The smart menus] can monitor temperature outside and it will know which products sell better at hotter or colder temperatures and promote those products,” McDonald’s US President Mike Andres said. (Quote courtesy of businessinsider.com)

That’s one hot idea, don’t you think?

3) Social Media

It’s been said that if you aren’t on social media, you don’t exist. QSRs and fast casuals that use social media as part of any marketing strategy are making sure that the world knows they do exist.

Many fast casuals recognize the importance of sharing and promoting on social and are bringing in teams to help generate posts and create content.

America’s favorite donut shop, Dunkin Donuts, has 31 Twitter and Facebook accounts, all of which are monitored by social experts.

The 10-person team takes care of managing special promotions and sweepstakes. On a local level, stores share the team-managed promotions and sweepstakes, but also add any local news and promos that are up and coming.

Per an interview conducted by qsrmagazine.com, Dunkin Donuts’ social media manager Jessica Gioglio said, “It is important that we are able to share information with our local fans about events or special promotions that may be happening in their hometown and to have that open dialogue with them.”

Some restaurants use customers to help spread the word about their business by offering promotions that encourage those consumers to share comments and photos on social media.

One such restaurant is McDonald’s. Their Pay With Lovin’ campaign encourages customers to offer random acts of kindness in an effort to promote the love and stop the hate.

Participants are asked to tag McDonald’s on Twitter and share videos on Facebook. In return, they eat at McDonald’s at no cost.

Hey, if a free meal is involved, why not?

4) Free Wi-Fi

I have a writer friend who enjoys working in a variety of bookstores and cafés. It gets him out of the house, working around other people, and in a place where he can eat without actually cooking.

He’s told me he’s eaten breakfast and lunch plenty of times while at certain cafés and sees other writers doing the same. They’re buying. Twice. And that’s not a bad thing for the restaurant.

Places like Panera Bread and Starbucks have free Wi-Fi for customers. These QSRs have figured out if they give customers what they need, those customers will essentially foot the bill for the Wi-Fi service because they’re staying longer in the restaurant and opening their wallets more.

If entrepreneurs, writers, or other business people weren’t able to work within the walls of their establishment, that’s $25 – $30 dollars that would be spent somewhere else. And if you’re anything like my friend, he does this two or three times a week. Sometimes at Panera, sometimes at Starbucks, and sometimes at locally owned cafés or bookstores.

Considering we are a mobile Universe (after all, this is the Digital Age), having Wi-Fi available at your QSR is almost a must. Without it, you could be losing out on a whole new generation of paying customers.

5) Encourage Meetings

Speaking of Wi-Fi, by providing Internet Service and space for professional people to use Wi-Fi during important meetings, your restaurant is bound to experience increased revenue.

Denny’s Restaurant is most popular for their big breakfast offerings. But it’s also popular for the meeting rooms behind their main dining area.

Networking among business owners and other business professionals is a hot ticket item for many. Those networking meetings need to be held somewhere. Denny’s get’s this and offers it all over the country at various stores.

Even McDonald’s is the recipient of professional meetings at some franchises.

If coffee, breakfast, Wi-Fi, and comfortable seeing is available for a group of 12 or more, the QSR profits, the networking group makes progress, and everybody goes home happy.

That’s worth selling a dozen egg McMuffiins on any given weekday morning, don’t you think?

6) Streaming Sound

Ever pop into a restaurant to watch your favorite game only to be sound blocked by dozens of noisy patrons? It’s the pits.

While many QSR’s don’t offer large screen TVs that cater to sports fans, some do offer TV’s that are tuned into local or national news stations for patrons to view while they eat.

But sometimes (especially after the soccer team with 35 hungry, noisy players pops in) the sound on the large screen is drowned out. So how do QSRs keep patrons in their seats and buying?

They offer streaming sound in their establishment.

Apps like hearTV enable the user to download the app that talks to a hearTV transmitter located within the store. Users can pop in a pair of ear buds and continue to listen to the game or the news via their smartphone.

Instead of the customer getting up and going home to watch TV, they stick around. If they stick around, they’re more likely to buy another drink or meal.

7) Self-Service Kiosks

They’re small, highly functional, and perfect for those that aren’t in the mood to communicate.

They are the ever-loving self-service kiosk, and they’re popping up everywhere

The self-service kiosk allows customers to place their order privately. The beauty of the kiosks is that they automatically update when a menu item is sold out. This enables the customer to quickly see what there isn’t, so they can quickly order what there is.

Time is money, right? Kiosks save time. And if it decreases manpower and payroll dollars, that’s a bonus for many QSRs.

Despite the convenience and the easy use of the kiosks, there still rages a debate of whether or not the digital machines are taking jobs away from workers.

Nonetheless, more and more fast casual and QSR’s are implementing the kiosks and more hungry people are using them.

Conclusion

For those still in the weeds about which technological advancements they need to become a part of, it’s safe to say that there really is no end in sight when it comes to the trends.

As soon as one trend becomes popular, like online mobile ordering or self-service kiosks, another trend shows up loud and proud, boasting it’s wares to the QSR world.

So what is next? And where will you be when it emerges? Join the QSR revolution. The revolution is waiting for you.

Which digital trends are you on board with? Which do you think you don’t need in your restaurant?