QSRs Are Staying Ahead of the Curve

Placer.ai reports on how QSRs are outperforming the full-dining experience.

April 17, 2024

QSRs and fast-casual dining are having a moment with data showing that a combination of factors—including fast and efficient service, the rising popularity of chicken-based dining concepts and effective LTOs—are all playing a part in the categories’ recent success, said Placer.ai. Over the past year, QSR and fast-casual chains “have thrived, consistently outperforming the full-service dining segment with positive year-over-year visit growth every quarter since 2023,” according to Placer.ai.

According to the report, leading fast-food chains are investing heavily in technologies and systems designed to help them serve customers ever more quickly:

Taco Bell’s Touch Display Kitchen System is designed to optimize cooking operations and improve wait times, while the chain’s Go Mobile restaurant format seeks to alleviate bottlenecks in the drive-thru lane.

Chick-fil-A also has dedicated channels for quick mobile order pick-up and is planning four-lane drive-thru’s with second-floor kitchens to get meals out even faster.

Wendy’s is experimenting with generative AI and developing an underground, robotic system to deliver digital orders to designated parking spots within seconds.

NACS Daily recently reported that virtual cashiers are part of a growing movement to limit the number of human workers in a store at a given time. In the fast-food industry, companies are looking to grow profit margins in a time of increasing wages.

Location intelligence shows, the report stated, that all three chains are succeeding in reducing customer wait times. Over the past four years, Taco Bell, Chick-fil-A and Wendy’s have seen steady increases in the share of visits to their venues lasting less than 10 minutes.

QSR Magazine’s Annual QSR Drive-Thru Report, released last month revealed the QSR average speed of service was 5 minutes and 43 seconds, NACS Daily reported.

Another large factor contributing to QSR and fast casual success in 2024 may be the rise of chicken-based chains. In Q1 2024, 15.3% of Fast Casual & QSR visits were to a chicken restaurant concept, compared to just 13.4% in Q1 2019, the white paper said.

Holiday promotions and unique limited-time offers are generating seasonal visit spikes. Placer.ai shared the example of Arby’s promotion of a 2 for $6 sandwich that launched February 1, with two of the three sandwich options on promotion being fish-based in an apparent attempt to entice diners forgoing meat in observance of Lent.

Placer.ai reports that the offer seems to have driven significant traffic spikes, with foot traffic during the promotion period significantly higher than the January daily visit average. And traffic was particularly elevated during Lent—which this year fell on Wednesday, February 14 through Thursday, March 28, with visits spiking on Fridays when those observing are most likely to seek out fish-based meals.

Download the full report.