Blog, Operational efficiency

QSR owners and managers work hard to sharpen operational efficiency to grow their business and be more profitable. To do that, they must create an excellent customer experience to boost loyalty and sales and create an exceptional employee experience to attract and keep good people. 2020 put all that to the test in ways no one could have predicted.

It was a year of learning for QSR veterans and new store owners alike. Some operations fared better than others. So, just what did we learn? Todd Biscocci of TacoBocci shared his experience and insights with us recently. Todd started with 17 Taco Bell stores in the Tucson area five years ago, has made significant improvements since then, and opened his 20th store last June. Taco Bocci’s mission? “Great people serving great food.”

Employee redistribution

“Stay home” orders hit in March, and Todd’s sales dropped 35% in the first 4-6 weeks. Looking at his cash reserves, Todd believed he could weather this drastic drop for maybe a year. But, like every franchisee in the country, he had to make a major decision and make it quickly: should he cut labor to save costs? He thinks 80% of owners did just that, but he did not.

He asked himself, “How do I keep people employed and still have a win for the business?”

Todd saw that people were still using drive-thrus to visit QSRs. So he refocused on that. With the dining room shut down and no counter customers to serve, he redirected existing employees and both production lines to feed his drive-thru.

He noted additional major changes in consumer patterns and immediately addressed those to maintain maximum operational efficiency:

  • Because no one was going to the office and college kids stayed in their dorms, he eliminated breakfast and late-night service.
  • With customers turning to delivery, Taco Bell followed suit, partnering with four delivery aggregators such as DoorDash.

Speedy service

Todd kept his labor but knew drive-through service would have to be “really fast” to generate additional income and keep customers happy. They won’t even stop if they see long lines. Employees took up the challenge, and by year’s end, they were averaging 20-30 seconds faster on drive-thru delivery than before COVID. Not only that, the average check increased about $1.50 – with more families ordering, the average purchase went from 4 to 7 items. More food per transaction, and they were still faster.

Just recently, TacoBocci stores also implemented a customer service technique popular with retailers – line busting. Employees with tablets worked the drive-thru line, taking orders earlier to keep things moving faster. (Many Taco Bell and Chick-fil-A stores are now doing this.)

Because Todd pivoted to meet new consumer patterns, he was able to keep people employed and improve operational efficiency. Sales came back, and TacoBocci ended the year at +1.2% — despite all those weeks at -35%.

The new normal for QSRs

Everyone’s trying to solve for how consumers are accessing now, says Todd, and success depends on your ability to function quicker and quicker. He predicts:

  •     Drive-thru sets you up for success, with multiple lanes to keep lines short.
  •     Hiring will focus on food prep and drive-thru window service.
  •     Well-equipped kitchens will serve drive-thru, delivery drivers, and to-go pick up. 
  •     Technology enables QSRs to serve customers via every available channel. (Todd’s goal is to become 50% digital.)
  •     Data is more critical than ever to keep up with consumer preferences and trends.
  •     Reconfigured stores – no dine in but a couple of tables for to-go waiting, pick-up window for delivery drivers, cubbies for to-go pickup.
  •     Cheaper build-out – Todd expects he can save $100,000-200,000 by scaling back from 2500 square feet to ~1800 with minimal dining area.

Todd is thrilled he decided to keep his employees. A lot of his colleagues did not, he says, and now wish they had. And 2021? Taco Bell has a great pipeline and products, and TacoBocci is off to a great start. Todd hopes to reopen breakfast and late night in the latter half of the year after the COVID vaccine becomes prevalent. It’s going to be a good year.

 

Speed of Service Playbook