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As Quick-Service Restaurants Pivot To Meet Customer Habits, Consultants Can Keep Things On Track


While few industries escaped the pandemic unscathed, restaurants were among the hardest hit. Many of those that did survive did so by pivoting to new business models, with an increased focus on takeout, delivery and other contact-free options. 

Quick-service restaurants, or QSRs, in particular, embraced these options and, as a result, consumer habits have changed even as pandemic restrictions are lifted. 

“Many people are continuing to choose drive-thru and takeout over dining in restaurants because they have come to value the speed of service and ease of payment,” said Kevin Sanders, director of civil engineering at EBI Consulting, which provides architecture, engineering, due diligence and environmental sustainability services to organizations across the country. 

Paul Roberts, EBI’s director of architecture and engineering, added that this move has led QSRs to embrace new technologies and explore systems that allow people to order and pay online and minimize the time spent in an establishment. Restaurants are also making physical changes — building larger kitchens and reducing their dining rooms to accommodate customer preferences, and even building multiple drive-thrus so people can get their orders faster and without ever having to step inside. 

According to Roberts, an estimated 61% of consumers are currently ordering delivery or takeout at least once a week, compared to 21% a year ago and 18% in 2020. The majority of those consumers — 62.6% — are ordering from QSRs, compared to fast-casual or fine dining. 

During this time of change, EBI has worked with multiple QSR businesses and corporate headquarters as a strategic partner, consulting on everything from development and design services to environmental services to tenant improvements and remodeling plans. Sanders said that EBI operates as a one-stop shop for design and consulting, construction administration, project management, quality control, health and safety and more. 

Roberts said that while many EBI clients were already working on adopting technology to make ordering and paying for food more seamless prior to the pandemic, things have really picked up since, with more clients embracing this tech and working to update their brick-and-mortar locations as well. EBI has been working with these clients to ensure that projects are completed quickly and efficiently, while addressing any concerns that may arise along the way. 

“For commercial developers, time is money, so speed to market is critical,” Sanders said. “They want to get operational as fast as possible without cutting corners. This is where we can help.” 

He added that at the corporate level, whether they are renovating a selection of regional restaurants or rolling out changes across their entire portfolio, brand consistency is a must. Understanding and enforcing brand standards during the design stage, and not cutting corners or ignoring certain brand-related elements to save money, is critical, and EBI can help enforce that brand strategy throughout the process. 

Trust is also key when it comes to these projects, Roberts said. EBI works as a trusted adviser that can deliver quality across the board and flag any potential issues that may arise before they turn into costly mistakes. 

Sanders gave an example of one major QSR chain that EBI worked with during the height of the pandemic. For this company, EBI helped develop touch-free processes and social distancing within its restaurants to help keep customers safe, and now it is helping other clients create even more pandemic-driven innovations. 

“For some of our major QSR clients we have looked at different and innovative drive-thru configurations to get as many cars through the drive-thru in the shortest time possible,” he said. “This includes double stack drive-thrus and dedicated mobile pickup lanes.” 

He added that some QSRs are making the move to a “ghost kitchen” concept, where mobile food delivery services pick up food at designated kitchens that do not offer any seating or direct customer service. EBI has been working with major QSR brands to create these types of concepts so that they can connect to food delivery services like Uber Eats faster and more efficiently — giving customers the delivery product they want fast without spending money on unnecessary space. 

“Trends have changed and QSRs are pivoting quickly to meet consumer needs,” Sanders said. “We can help them achieve their goals while maximizing their profits and maintaining their brand.” 

This article was produced in collaboration between Studio B and EBI Consulting. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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