QSRs Reap the Benefits of Digital Experiences

Restaurant Brands, McDonald’s credit their digital strategies for year-to-date sales gains. 

August 02, 2021

Woman looking at McDonald's App

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Second quarter earnings are shedding light on how well quick-service restaurants are performing compared to the same time last year and revealing just how their digital strategies are impacting the bottom line.

In a press release reporting the company’s second quarter financial results, Restaurant Brands International (RBI) CEO José E. Cil credits rapid consumer adoption of the company’s digital channels and an acceleration in new restaurant openings around the world for its second quarter financial performance.

“With the pandemic affecting consumer behavior, the importance of digital sales, including delivery, has grown. We expect to continue to support enhancements of our digital and marketing capabilities. While we do not know the full future impact COVID-19 will have on our business, we expect to see a continued impact from COVID-19 on our results in 2021,” said Cil.

CNBC reports that during the second quarter, digital sales for RBI’s brands increased almost 60% year over year and 15% compared with last quarter across its domestic markets for the Burger King, Tim Hortons and Popeyes brands. Also, the company’s unit growth has returned to pre-pandemic levels with 378 net new restaurants opening in the first half of 2021.

The news source notes that Tim Hortons reported same-store sales growth of 27.6% during Q2 2021. The Canadian restaurant chain saw sales plummet during the pandemic as consumers made coffee at home. As a result, Tim Hortons has been slow to bounce back. “It’s important to remember that Canada, especially Ontario, remained under strict lockdowns throughout the second quarter, even as vaccination rates improved,” Cil said.

Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen’s U.S. same-store sales fell 2.5%. Cil suggested that the “chicken wars” and labor challenges put pressure on Popeyes’ sales this quarter.

McDonald’s also posted strong Q2 2021 performance with a nod to the company’s global digital strategy. Year to date sales from digital channels across the QSR’s top six markets were nearly $8 billion—a 70% increase versus the year prior. “It’s clear that our next chapter will be driven by our leadership in digital,” said McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski in a press release.

McDonald’s announced a new Customer Experience team to transform how customers engage with the brand. This cross-functional team (data analytics, digital customer engagement, marketing, restaurant solutions) will enable the QSR to enhance the customer experience at each physical and digital customer touchpoint, according to a press release.

“As customer needs continue to evolve, we will create a frictionless brand experience across all our service channels using the insights generated from our increasingly important digital platforms,” said Kempczinski.