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For restaurant chains, time is of the essence amid a pandemic: Eatery Pulse Streem

A time study shows winners, losers, significance of order-ahead execution

The health crisis has elevated the interaction between restaurants and their customers. First, by and large, consumers are expecting restaurants to adopt safety measures, including the distancing of tables and restricting the number of diners. In September, a growing number of consumers wanted these measures in place, indicating there was a greater penchant for practices that safeguard customers and staff.

Most recently, 62 percent of consumers expect restaurants to space tables and chairs, while only 47 percent said so in Q2. In Q3 quarter-to-date, 59 percent of respondents indicated they expect restaurants to limit the number of diners in a restaurant. That percentage was only 40 just one quarter ago.

Second, we’re seeing an increased emphasis on making ordering easy for customers and the fruits of the labor of several restaurant chains through a 2020 Time Study. Restaurants are all in on takeout, including pickup, drive-thru and delivery. According to an annual assessment by Rakuten Ready in its “2020 Time Study”, order-head pickup efficiency has become increasingly important in today’s time-starved and pandemic-concerned world.

While the results were a bit surprising this year, QSR was the only segment that maintained top time ratings. The study examines the wait times among several restaurant chains juxtaposed against customer satisfaction scores. This year, Rakuten Ready also added a new casual-dining segment for assessment and evaluation.

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“Consumer behavior has changed, so brands must continue to innovate around contactless – it’s not just a short term trend, it is here to stay,” noted Rakuten Ready. Among QSRs, Chipotle’s 1:54 time was the best last year and also this year in the arena of in-store pickup. Chipotle also delivered some of the highest CSAT (Customer Satisfaction) scores– not surprising for a chain that has invested heavily in the digital experience.

Rakuten Ready, which is a company that provides app-based solutions for order-ahead pickup, identified Starbucks, Domino’s, Dunkin’ and Taco Bell as additional chains that were able to deliver short wait times and high customer satisfaction scores.

In the drive-thru arena, Starbucks was a clear winner at a wait time of 2:51. Pizza Hut also performed admirably with a wait time of 5:21, although the experience was noted as somewhat confusing. Meanwhile, “Starbucks had a consistently easy and positive experience across all trips.”

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When it was time to deliver curbside, casual-dining chains demonstrated an ability to get orders delivered within three minutes. A surprise to some might be Olive Garden, which posted a 2:59 wait time.

Photo credit: Pizza Hut (featured preview image)

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