Casual dining has been in some trouble for a while now--let’s recall that even before March of this year, the segment was getting t-boned, undercut in cost and value proposition by fast casual, and rendered generic and dated by upstart independent eateries. They were stuck in the middle, in every sense of the phrase--between generations, economic classes, and the urban/rural divide, fast casual was built for everybody but seemed to be appealing to relatively few.
What a difference a year can make.
It was just over a year ago that we published this blog, taking on Popeye’s wildly successful crispy chicken sandwich, which dominated the culture (and sadly crime blotters) for months, becoming Business Insider’s fast food menu item of the year and continuing its hot streak into 2020.
Go ahead and add Ronald McDonald and Travis Scott to the list of unlikely 2020 team ups, as the world’s hottest rapper and the world’s biggest burger joint recently unveiled a limited time promotion, the first celebrity-branded meal at McDonald's since the Michael Jordan extra value meal in the mid 1990s.
In the third week of March, when the coronavirus pandemic first started changing day-to-day life, we observed in this market research blog that these changes would likely impact QSRs more than any other segment. Their model was best suited for the pandemic’s attendant push to off-premise dining and their price point was right for a recession, they just had to figure out how to get people enrolled in their mobile apps and streamline their locations for omnichannel operations.
White Castle, purveyors of tiny burgers and stoner fantasies, is running a pilot program testing a kitchen robot called Flippy, which will take over some kitchen duties like running the fryer and grill. That’s right, before we get robot umpires to definitively call balls and strikes or robot lifeguards to keep our swimmers safe, we are getting an almost fully autonomous robot in a QSR kitchen. This is likely a sign of things to come, with automation and robotics assuming back-of-house tasks with increasing frequency and efficiency though this could lead to some serious Matrix-level dystopia.