Radar and FastCasual, who rated the experiences of nine roadside restaurant chains, show how Panera Bread and The Habit Burger fared.
Mobile ordering, food delivery and roadside pick-up options have shifted from pure convenience to lifelines for customers. Like video calling and virtual collaboration tools in the workplace, these services are the heroes of the restaurant and retail sectors during this pandemic.
As COVID-19 spread, millions of Americans relied on restaurant apps every day to satisfy their appetites with third-party pickup and delivery options. To keep up with increasing demand, expectations and competition, restaurants improved their curb experience and optimized safety and convenience.
We recently partnered with FastCasual.com to review the experiences of nine roadside restaurant chains and compile the results in a free report, but below is a sneak peek of how Panera Bread and The Habit Burger fared. To compare the other seven brands, download the report here.
As we’ll see in this list, companies that handled the pandemic well already had technology in place (either through premonition or through stupid luck) that could address the circumstances of the new normal. Habit Burger – the chain owned by YumBrands since March this year – also had such a head start.
The restaurants, which originated in Santa Barbara, California, did well because they already had the right technology in place to support roadside pick-up and pre-orders. The pandemic then lit a fire among these existing digital efforts, accelerating the rollout of their mobile app and implementation of contactless solutions.
At the start of 2020, 60% of Habit Burger’s sales came from diners dining at the restaurant, and only about 50 of the 276 locations offered drive-thru service. With the arrival of COVID, that all changed, and the other restaurants were also rushing to implement pop-up drive-thrus, contactless drive-up, and contactless curbs.
CEO Russell Bendel has noted “there has been a change in consumer behavior in recent years”. Still, with the pandemic, consumers are really now expecting to “access your brand”. [and] Ordering food in a very safe and convenient way. “
That shift is certainly evident in the recent performance of Habit Burger’s mobile app. Since the app was realigned to make it easy to order, customers have downloaded it 300,000 times in the past few months, and the app continues to record more than 2,300 downloads per day.
Roadside pickup: What works well
The Habit Burger Grill mobile app has a clear user interface that allows you to place your order quickly and conveniently. Marking your order for roadside pickup is also easy, and the app shows your distance and travel time after you’ve chosen your preferred location.
Once ordered, a countdown timer will indicate when your meal will be ready, which will help you plan your arrival. Pick-up points in the restaurant are easy to find thanks to the clear markings. This marking helps avoid traffic jams, a common pitfall in implementing a smooth curb experience.
Roadside Pickup: What Can Be Improved
When I first researched this story, Habit Burger’s app still required manual entry of customer location and expected arrival time, but Habit added geofencing technology to provide stores with real-time alerts as customers arrive, according to an E. -Mail to FastCasual. It reduces waiting times and provides customers with even better food quality while providing an easier process for Habit team members.
Panera aims to become the “Netflix of Coffee” and the chain does justice to that technology-based analogy pretty well.
A $ 8.99 monthly coffee subscription kicked off in late February, growing to half a million subscribers even during the pandemic. And of all the brands on this list, Panera implemented roadside pickup in record time. Then it outperformed everyone else in realizing the full potential of geofencing to improve customer experience and security.
So it’s not surprising that the sandwich chain ranks second in the Digital Maturity benchmark, ahead of McDonald’s and other top performers on our list, Domino’s and Chipotle.
At the start of the pandemic, after Panera discovered that its customers were struggling to find staples, Panera was one of the few restaurant chains to include products such as milk and bread in their offerings.
The chain was also extremely quick to set up roadside pick-up restaurants – seven days to get service up and running at many of their locations. Today roadside collection accounts for 5% of sales.
Panera also took a page off of Domino’s Cookbook by expanding the number of digital channels it is active on. In September, the chain added integration with Google’s Search, Maps and Assistant services for a faster and smoother ordering experience.
Roadside pickup: What works well
Panera is a textbook example of online ordering and roadside pickup. It gets the basics right with the app and online experience, but deserves a generous tip for using location-based technologies. By making full use of geofencing functions, Panera ensures that customers do not have to manually notify employees when they arrive at a restaurant. Instead, employees receive automatic notifications that increase safety and customer satisfaction by delivering orders on time.
Another brilliant move is the coffee subscription. While this does not directly affect the curb experience, it does increase the number of repeat customer visits, which undoubtedly also means increased traffic at the curb.
Roadside Pickup: What Can Be Improved
What’s not to like about Panera’s approach? On an organizational level, we appreciate how his agility enables quick turns in a difficult situation (not a given for a restaurant chain with thousands of locations and over 100,000 employees).
We also love how Panera is taking full advantage of geofencing capabilities to create a better and safer customer experience for its roadside pickup restaurants.
Roadside pickup is here to pass COVID and beyond
The pandemic changed consumer behavior and pressure cooked restaurants into fast and aggressive innovations. Many struggled to adjust to the new normal created by the coronavirus, but winners also emerged who not only deal with the pressure but also thrive.
Some of these successful restaurants are on our list; They are the crème de la crème of roadside pick-up restaurants as they have mastered the main challenges of what we like to call “Curbside 2.0”. These are their common ingredients that provide an elitist curb experience:
- You stimulate customer behavior with a digital loyalty program combined with rewards and special offers.
- They shorten customer waiting times and empower employees by providing employees with location-based live ETA information.
- They own and control the essential elements of their technology stack internally.
- They create restaurant formats with a significant or sometimes exclusive focus on roadside pickup and delivery.
- Your management routinely analyzes anonymized travel and order data from customers in order to find opportunities for improvement.
While these findings apply during the pandemic, restaurants will also enjoy this recipe in a post-COVID world. The demand for roadside pick-up restaurants – and ongoing innovation in the area – will continue long after we beat the virus and (finally) arrive at the “next normal” for the restaurant industry.