Challenges facing quick services restaurants (QSRs) and how to tackle them 

Quick service restaurants (QSRs) are appealing to a lot of hospitality business owners. As the name suggests, they’re quick and efficient, with standardised processes and simple menus. Plus, they generally have a higher volume of customers due to the speedy nature of service. 

But there are roadblocks that crop up for QSRs. 

Rising costs, constant competition, and increasing difficulty in retaining staff are just a few examples. The good news is that you’ve come to the right place to learn how to smash these roadblocks! 

Keep reading for your expert tips and advice on how to overcome the challenges of QSRs. But first, let’s clarify what a QSR actually is. 

What are quick service restaurants? 

Quick service restaurants (QSRs) is a food venue that efficiently serves inexpensive meals. They focus on speed and convenience instead of the dining experience. In fact, they rarely have tables or seating for diners (if they do, it’s often limited). 

Customers place their orders and receive their food quickly over the counter. In terms of food, QSRs tend to offer a streamlined menu of popular items, like burgers, fries, and drinks. They have a standardised process for preparing these foods as efficiently as possible. 

QSRs are designed for diners who want a quick and tasty meal on-the-go in a casual setting. Think about QSR chains like McDonald’s or Subway as examples. Customers make their orders, get it quickly, and either take it home or eat it at the venue

What are the common challenges for QSRs?

Let’s walk through some of the common challenges QSRs face in the current climate. 

  • Labour shortages. It’s no secret that there’s a labour shortage in hospitality. There are 132,000 vacancies across the sector, and changes to the immigration system are making it harder to fill these roles. For QSRs, the labour shortage hits particularly hard. Turnover rates are already high, with only 54% of QSR employees reaching 90 days of working before quitting. 
  • Increasing food costs. Costs are going up across the country, and food is no exception. QSRs work because they offer low-cost meals, but with prices going up, it can be hard to maintain competitive pricing and meet customer expectations.
Employee checking the cost of inventory with Nory
  • Competition from other QSRs. Maintaining a competitive edge in a challenging and saturated market isn’t easy —and that’s exactly what QSRs are faced with. It’s becoming harder to stand out from the crowd and keep loyal customers, especially when costs are increasing and menu prices have to go up
  • Changing customer preferences. Studies predict that diners want increasingly diversified offerings from restaurants and takeaways. For QSRs, this can be tricky to deliver. They’re designed to use the same ingredients and processes to keep costs low and provide an efficient service. If they have to constantly change what they’re doing to meet customer demand, it can impact efficiency and make it hard to keep ingredient costs low.
  • Finding great franchisee partners. QSRs are perfectly designed for franchising. They have minimal ingredients, standardised processes, and simple menu items. But the success of franchising also relies on finding the right franchise partners, which is easier said than done. 

So, what’s the solution to these challenges?

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to these challenges. However, there are some things you can do to turn things around and improve your bottom line: 

Use the right technology

Having the right technology plays a crucial role in the success of a quick service restaurant. It can streamline QSR operations, improve employee management, and help you identify ways to increase profits. 

Take a look at Leon as an example. They‘ve recently announced that labour shortages could impact their growth plans, so they turned to technology. 

The fast-food chain plans to digitalise its restaurants to offset some of the risk from labour shortages. This involves digitising the ordering process. Guests can order food from an in-store kiosk or via the Leon app. 

So what does this tell us?

With the right technology, you can combat some of the challenges QSR restaurants face.

With Nory, for example, you can:

Optimise food costs.

Keep tabs on food costs and usage to ensure your inventory is as optimal as possible. If you’re over-ordering certain ingredients or wasting them, our QSR reporting will pick it up and let you know. Then, you can update your inventory orders accordingly. 

Tracking inventory performance and food waste with Nory

Improve employee management to increase retention.

Studies show that clarity around schedules and pay are some of the most important aspects for QSR workers at the start of their employment. Using a platform like Nory, you can provide a clear and easy way for new staff to get paid and access their shift schedule! 

Track customer preferences.

Identify the menu items customers prefer and optimise your menu accordingly. For example, if the classic beef burger is the most popular item, you might create a meal deal to try and increase revenue and improve your bottom line. 

Improve your franchising efforts.

Take the weight off the shoulders of new franchisees by handling all operations in a central location. Organise inventory management, oversee supply chains, manage the workforce, and take customer payments.

Nory success alert 🚨 Find out how Griolladh successfully franchised their restaurant and grew their business by 3x with Nory! Here’s what Jacob Long, co-owner of Griolladhh, says about using Nory through the franchising process: 

“We would go through recipes, costs, labour, technology — everything. After opening, we still provide ongoing support and training. We’ll be there for however long it takes to get people up and running, and Nory makes this easier for us to manage.”

Jacob Long, co-owner of Griolladhh
Employee holding a freshly toasted sandwich from Griolladh

Maximise marketing

Digital marketing is a great way to reach a wider audience and build relationships with existing customers — both of which are beneficial for success. It’s also a great way to stand out from your competition, showcasing who you are as a brand and why people should buy from your restaurant. 

Here are some tips to get you started on the right foot: 

Consider timing.

As simple as it sounds, timing is everything with digital marketing. For example, offering family deals during school holidays, or increasing promotions when a local event is likely to increase footfall. Domino’s does this pretty well, offering a variety of promotions in line with demand at different times of the day. For example, offering a £8.99 collection on lunchtime pizzas, or buy-one-get-one-free every Tuesday (a typically quiet time for the business). 

Value Meal Deal

Target locally.

To see results from your marketing efforts, it’s important to think about location. It’s no use paying for paid ads to reach people on the other side of the country because they’re not going to order from you (or at least, it’s very unlikely). Instead, try to focus on targeting people in your vicinity. That way, you’re more likely to reach people that will actually visit or order from your QSR. 

Host a social media giveaway.

Social giveaways are a great way to get your QSR in front of more people, and it generates some buzz around your restaurant. It’s a win-win! Look at I am Doner for some inspiration, a QSR based in the UK, UAE, and Canada. Their latest giveaway offers a free office lunch for someone who shares a picture of their sad office lunch (we’ve all been there), tags their coworkers, and tags @iamdoneruk in the post: 

I am Doner competition

Nory success alert 🚨 Discover how I Am Doner used Nory to manage its growing and distributed workforce from one location, increasing sales per labour hour by 7% over three months in the process! 

“Nory remains a central pillar in supporting our growth and operational excellence.” – Bridie Fox, Head of Operations at I am Döner

Invest in people

Attracting and hiring new staff should definitely be a priority for QSR restaurants, especially in the current climate — but the desire to hire more staff sometimes means overlooking your existing workforce. 

What we’re trying to say is that retention is just as important as finding new staff. By focusing on retention, you build a happy, motivated and dedicated workforce. As a result, they’re less likely to leave and more likely to perform their jobs well. 

Here are some of the ways you can invest in your people

Offer learning and development.

Research shows that when restaurant employees fully understand how to execute their roles, they’re more confident, engaged, and likely to stay in the job longer. So give employees a chance to develop their skills and achieve their professional goals by offering training and development.  McDonald’s is a good example of this, providing apprenticeships for staff who want to grow and develop their skills in the industry, as well as a career resource hub to help current employees achieve their professional goals. 

Reward hard work.

If employees are recognised for their hard work, they’re more likely to stick around. Studies show there’s a strong connection between recognition and retention, and that engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave their roles. Create recognition programmes to ensure your workforce is rewarded for their efforts. You can track productivity, for example, and reward employees who hit high productivity levels. Or, you could create goals and milestones for employees to work towards, and reward them when they reach those goals. 

Nory's labour performance dashboard

Manage your QSR with Nory 

There are hurdles to overcome in managing a QSR, but there are also tools and platforms to help you do it successfully. 

At Nory, we help fast-growing QSRs improve their bottom line by streamlining operations, improving your workforce management, and helping your franchise with ease. Our AI-powered software can predict future demand to ensure optimal inventory levels, preventing you from overspending and wasting ingredients.

I am Döner is unifying its processes with Nory

This has empowered I am Döner to boost productivity by 7%

Read I am Doner’s story

FAQs about QSRs

What differentiates full service from quick service restaurants? 

Quick-service restaurants provide fast, counter-based service. They have limited menu options, lower prices, and prioritise speed and convenience. 

Full-service restaurants, on the other hand, offer tableside service. They have a wide menu selection and typically higher prices, focusing more on the dining experience.

What is the difference between fast food and QSR?

Fast food is a type of QSR, but it’s not the only format. Other QSRs offer different types of quick, convenient meals with a focus on efficiency and consistency. Some of these provide healthier options, like Clean Kitchen

Who is the largest QSR?

McDonald’s is the global QSR market leader, making over $48.6 billion in revenue in 2022. That’s around $20 billion more than the next ranked chain. 🤯