The Importance of Customer Experience for Growing Fast-Casual Restaurants

There are countless case studies and statistics that illuminate the value of creating an industry-leading Customer Experience program, but it can be taxing on organizational resources and employee time to see this kind of program in practice. In the food service industry, Customer Experience is highly prioritized by the customer, thus those restaurants that provide a certain level of Customer Experience tend to find consistent growth and success. One specific sector of food-service that is engaged in rapid expansion are fast-casual brands. However, these brands that rely on having top-of-the-line Customer Experience programs will find it challenging to ensure that all the expanded branches are retaining the values that lead to brand authenticity. Fast-casual brands that are experiencing this growth need to have mystery shopping or other custom research programs in place to ensure that all franchises are operating according to brand standards.

Fast-casual restaurant sales and revenue are a rapidly growing aspect of the food-service industry, expanding at a rate twice as high as the rest of the restaurant industry[1]. With a reported growth rate of 500% since 1999[2], brands that can match the convenience of fast-food brands while providing better quality products and services can become a part of this massively expanding community. However, while growth is a signifier of good times, it can also lead to significant problems that can affect brand perception and authenticity. Customers expect a consistent experience from fast-casual brands, regardless of whether they are at your Cedar Rapids, Charlotte, or Detroit location. As a result, it is important that organizations have measures in place to capture data about each location. Therefore, a mystery shopping program is a vital part of any successful fast-casual restaurant organization.

Mystery shopping is essential to achieving this level of Customer Experience because it gives brand’s an outside-in perspective of daily operations. Mystery shoppers provide unbiased feedback because they are disconnected from the brand, and the analysis they give can be segmented to measure whichever aspect of the Customer Experience is deemed most important by organizational leaders. This is an important distinction from other customer feedback sources because instead of presenting all customers with the opportunity to discuss whatever is on their mind, it gives detailed instructions to dedicated consumers to analyze a specific aspect of the Customer Experience process. This is extremely valued by brands with multiple franchised locations because this specificity can provide actionable data to focus and align the different branches. It will also help provide a clear hierarchy of those branches are performing at a high level, and those that have room for improvement.

Those brands that can better understand the value that customers desire will find that they will need to spend less to attract new customers, and instead can focus on improving their existing customer relationships. Improving Customer Experience, specifically through mystery shopping services, should serve as a guiding philosophy for fast-casual restaurant brands that want to capitalize on expansion, rather than be handicapped by it. It is extremely challenging to create a consistent Customer Experience across different franchised locations, but those fast-casual brands that employ mystery shopping programs can better understand the way each branch functions, and thus foster an overall better organizational Customer Experience.

[1] https://www.franchisehelp.com/industry-reports/fast-casual-industry-report/

[2] https://www.franchisehelp.com/industry-reports/fast-casual-industry-report/


Second To None empowers customer-centric brands to deliver consistent, intentional and authentic consumer experiences.

We adeptly design and manage mystery shopping, compliance, engagement and voice of customer solutions grounded in strategic relevance, program integrity and actionable insights. Our solutions are developed on the basis of solid research and statistical science. We achieve success through a relentless focus on quality and innovation, consultative relationships and a talented team of professional associates.

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