Data-Driven Customer Experience Insights From the QSR Industry

Category Analysis – Quick Service Restaurants (QSR)
Period - July 2021 - July 2022
Region : USA

The global QSR Market reached $232.3 billion in 2021 and is projected to grow to $308 billion from 2022 - 2027 with a CAGR of 4.9%. Consumers' spending on QSR in the US will reach $296 billion in 2022.

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The analysis is based on customer reviews and conversations online in the segment. The analysis results presented are completely unbiased and not based on any subjective judgment. The source data used for the analysis are user conversations available publicly online like public forums and social media.

Total number of customer conversations analyzed

127, 990

Executive Summary - Customer Experience Insights From the QSR Industry

Various reasons like the unpredictable pandemic conditions, urbanization, changes in food delivery and consumption trends, and the growing number of working professionals volume in the country have led to open numerous opportunities in the QSR (Quick Service Restaurant) industry and the fast food/fast casual industry.

This report aims to dig deeper into customer experience insights to find trends, and changing customer requirements and preferences in the QSR industry.


Top 5 Category Drivers Of The QSR Industry

The fast food industry has distinct standards for success. Customers who visit fast-food restaurants are searching for speed, convenience, price, and predictability. Brands in the fast food industry who are aware of this can master these aspects of the QSR industry. Some brands justify their brand promise with great customer experience/guest experience and customer service, while others do not. If a brand serves good food, experience, and top-notch customer service levels, no matter how much the price increases, they will keep consuming the brand.

Based on 129K customer reviews from 19 top QSR brands, here are the category drivers of QSR:

Top 5 Category Drivers Of The QSR Industry

Top 1 Driver: Convenience

Convenience is the top category driver in the QSR industry, as per the customer experience review analysis. Convenience delights customers even more than Food Quality! Interestingly, convenience has different perceptions for different people. For most customers, getting the food delivered quickly and seamless digital ordering options are the main factors considered as convenience. Great customer service and digital transformation strategies will stimulate convenience for customers.

Top 1 Driver: Convenience

Top 2 Driver: Food Quality

This is the second top category driven by positive customer experience. When people were eating in restaurants, the hygiene of kitchen staff and restaurant cleanliness was also tied to customers' perception of the quality of the food. Now, the fresh, hot, clean, tasty, and reasonable quantity of food at the time of delivery contributes more positivity to this category.

Satisfying customers' taste buds is a main brand promise customers expect from a QSR brand. Also, delivering the right food enhances the positivity in the customer experience and customer service. 

Top 2 Driver: Food Quality

Other drivers of customer experience in the QSR industry are Overall Experience, App Interface, and Staff Behavior.


Gender Divide Analysis

When we checked the customer review volume based on gender, men submitted more customer reviews than women, indicating more male customers for QSR than women. There is more than a 20% gap in the gender distribution on QSR consumption.

QSR Insights-Oct-21-2022-08-05-16-99-AMThe analysis aimed to see if there are notable differences between the preferences of male and female customers. Based on the reviews, though there was not much difference in the top drivers, there were few distinct preferences of female customers when compared to the male customers.

gender - top delighters

The top 3 delighters are identical for both genders. What came up as distinct to women customers was that they seem to expect more food varieties and have a positive customer experience and customer satisfaction around that than men, while men customers are more delighted with staff behavior like customer service than women. Staff behavior positively correlates with employee satisfaction.

App Interface delights both customers, and men found it more positive than women.


Check a few customer verbatims:

i’ve used the app twice now, and both times i’ve been very satisfied fast very easy to place an order, even easier when i go curbside and pick up.”

absolutely love how easy it is to use and keep up with the coupons and specials all in one space!”

“the serves was nice we went to order on the drive thru, the cashier gave us an excellent service, the food was in the right temperature nice and fresh”

it’s fast and definitely saves me a lot of money, since i have some pretty good deals most of the time.”

“a super easy app that helps fast deliver delicious food at a very reasonable price.”

“an excellent experience. all of the staff members where courteous, professional and they even made me laugh….”


Top 5 Customer Concerns In The QSR Industry

Top 5 Customer Concerns In The QSR IndustryOrdering Experience and App Issues are the two top factors that drive negative customer experience, customer service, and customer complaints in the Quick Service Restaurant industry.

Ordering Experience and App Issues

Orders getting canceled and not being able to complete the order are the significant issues raised by customers around Ordering Experience. These ordering issues are tied to the app or digital ordering system. 

App keeps crashing, glitches, slow loading, and inability to place an order smoothly are the issues reported by customers under App Issues. And customers much expect order accuracy.

Some of the other concerns were around waiting time, ordering methods, and missing orders.


Check a few customer verbatims:

i cannot make any orders at all using the mobile ordering as the "add to cart" button seems to have permanently been replaced by a "check availability" button instead, still also needs an expanded and edited drink menu to include ice options, and chocolate milk in the breakfast menu.”

“doesn't work. can never place an order as it always kicks me back at payment screen with error message of default. coupons never apply. always have to go in store to buy.”

“how is it possible that in such a small order there are 4 missing products a third of the order this is a robbery if every customer who stops by the drive true is missing one thing from his order”

never seen worse efficiency took well over 25 minutes just for a quesadilla and chips, staff took their time with every order, no sense of urgency despite multiple orders on screen and they didn’t even get my order right.”

“never works when i try to place my order, it either never goes through or it tells me that i have the wrong card info, or the location doesn’t take mobile orders. please fix! there have been a few times i have tried to use this but i cannot.”

with all of the troubleshooting i did with clearing the cash, data and uninstalling and reinstalling the app still doesn't work properly.”


Analysis of Top QSR Brands

Analysis of Top QSR Brands

For the detailed analysis, we have taken the customer reviews of 19 popular QSR brands in the USA from Play Store, Google Maps, and App Store. Even though all these brands are the Quick Service Restaurant giants and have higher brand equity and brand image, McDonald's has gathered many reviews, leaving all other brands way behind. 


Brand Experience of the QSR Brands

Emerging QSR Brands

Noodles & Company, a US-based brand, is leading in the Convenience, Food Quality, and App Interface categories as per customer reviews. Noodles & Company customers are more impressed with its brand promise and brand image. Saladworks and Arby’s score well on Overall Experience and Staff Behavior, respectively.


4 Important Ds of Customer Experience in the QSR Industry


1. Digital Ordering

QSR - Digital Ordering

Digital ordering is inevitable in the Quick Service Restaurant and fast food restaurant industry. Mobile app orders have been the primary mode of placing orders digitally in the past few years. Besides the emerging trend, covid 19 accelerated this mode of the ordering process. Now, people can order food from any restaurant and eat it from their dining room. Around 60% of digital ordering is done through mobile app ordering. This trend has remained constant throughout the past few years since mobile app ordering has become a default brand promise in the digital era. Other modes include ordering from a website or other online platforms, in-store, phone orders, and curbside.

Order accuracy and convenience in order enhance the digital ordering experience.


2. Drive Thru

As mentioned, people like to eat food ordered from restaurants in their dining rooms. Drive thru also favors this choice of customers.

When we analyze the eating mode, the drive thrus has come as the most preferred mode of eating as per the customer reviews, as around 90% of the people talk about drive-thru in their reviews! Furthermore, there is a 26% increase in opting for this eating mode in the last 6 months. Other modes, such as dine-in, store pickup, and carry-out orders, don't have much acceptance by customers these days.


3. Digital Payments

QSR - Digital Payments

If there is digital ordering, there will be digital payments. People pay for everything digitally these days, not just in the QSR industry. But when we focus on the QSR industry, Apple Pay is the most preferred payment method by QSR customers. Other payments like Paypal and Google Pay are customers' other most preferred payment methods after Apple Pay. If brands integrate these payment options, it will increase customer satisfaction and customer retention and improve the overall bottom line. 


4. Delivery

QSR - Delivery

Delivery partners and apps also influence the customer experience and overall customer service in the QSR industry since people hesitate to consume stale food due to delayed delivery or wrong and missing items in the delivered package. The usage of delivery apps like DoorDash, Grubhub, and other in-house delivery apps like Pizza Hut and Subway has doubled in July 2022 compared to February 2022. More people use DoorDash than other apps, as per QSR customer reviews.


Pizzas Will Continue To Be A Dominant Category For The QSR

Pizzas Will Continue To Be A Dominant Category For The QSR

The most popular or consumed QSR segments are Pizza, Sandwiches, Burgers, French Fries, and Soups. Pizza has been the top consumed QSR segment consistently throughout the last couple of years, with 58% of QSR customer reviews. And customers’ pizza obsession has grown by 47% in the previous year!


Consumption Pattern  - Pizza, Burgers, Sandwiches, and Noodles

There is a higher customer demand for pizza, burgers, sandwiches, and noodles. The burger is mainly consumed in the mid-morning and lunchtime, while customers prefer Pizza during the evening and dinner.

QSR - Pizza and Burger insight

Sandwich is a perfect lunch for customers, as per their reviews. Noodles are consumed as lunch, evening, and dinner-time food.

QSR - Sandwich and Noodles insight


QSR Consumption in the Week Days V/s Weekends

QSR Consumption in the Week Days V/s Weekends

On weekdays, we can see that people go for QSRs during lunch hours. But, on weekends, the rush begins at lunchtime and lasts till 7 PM, around dinner time. If QSR brands focus on these times and do preparations, it will significantly impact the bottom line.


Key Trends In The QSR Industry


Key Trends In The QSR Industry

Promotions & Deals

QSR customers want exciting promotions and deals. These promotions and deals are mainly offered through delivery apps and other digital ordering apps that influence customers’ purchase decisions. People are more interested in group meals and 2-in-1 deals. There has been a 43% increase in customer reviews in 6 months! These offers, promotions, and deals can also be tied up with loyalty programs. Hence, exciting promotions and deals boost customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.


Healthier Fast Food

There has been an emerging trend in QSR customer reviews over healthier fast food in 6 months. And it has a whopping 600% increase from January 2022. Reviews around other trends like vegan and vegetarianism haven’t significantly improved in these months.


Cities with Higher Rates of QSR Consumption

Houston consistently has a higher rate of QSR consumers since 22% of the total QSR reviews are submitted from this city. Las Vegas is following Houston with a 15% review volume.

Cities with Higher Rates of QSR Consumption

Detailed Report

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