Today, that 5-minute standard has changed. It is now three minutes. Why? Because McDonald's and their competitors have learned that their customers have changed. They won't tolerate a 5-minute wait. What did the QSR chains do?
They changed the menu so that combination meals dominate the menu board. That speeds up the decision process for customers – so they can order faster.
The QSRs saved time in the payment process. Credit cards are now accepted at many fast food restaurants. That eliminates the time for counting money and making change.
Here come the order kiosks
They are testing ordering kiosks. That allows the customer to order without a counter person being involved – saving more time (and labor costs, too). And order accuracy is better – because you see the order details and approve it yourself.
Handheld ordering devices are being tested to shorten wait times. In addition, store employees go into the line to take orders. That's another time saver – all you do at the counter is pay and pick up your order.
From the drive-thru to the service counter, QSRs implemented faster solutions. New technology was deployed and tested.
Every step of the shopping process in fast food restaurants was studied. The focus was two-sided: What is the customer doing and what is the restaurant staff doing? What changes can be made to speed up service?
Maximizing each sale
It's not just a matter of timing. There are many additional questions vending operators should be asking themselves about how to serve customers. Specifically:
- Are you maximizing each sale at the vending bank?
- How should products be arranged and displayed in each machine to drive sales?
- What is the best order to deploy machines at the site?
- Does the machine arrangement need to vary from location to location, based on the unique layout of the room where the vending bank is set up?
- Do you need to rethink how you set up and operate a vending bank based on the site population – ethnicity, age and gender?
- What is the right product mix for the location?
The "bible" of retail ethnography, Paco Underhill's book, "Why We Buy," reviews many cases of how ethnography has delivered profitable innovations to mass merchandisers, supermarkets and drugstore chains and fast-food operators, the earliest adopters of this approach. This work points to many trends occurring at retail that will dominate the future world of shopping. These include:
- Opportunities to interact with products through the senses: touch, smell, taste.
- Stimulating opportunities for discovery.
- Personalization, recognition and loyalty – your best customers want to be visibly valued. They are eager to demonstrate their loyalty to your brand.
- Promotions and bargains at the point of sale.
Are your machines meeting the expectations of the newest customers in the marketplace? Young members of the "millennial generation" are growing up "wired."
Apple iPods, Sony Playstations, cellphones, bluetooth accessories and PDAs are embedded in their everyday reality. Will they bypass your vending banks because they appear old and boring, or will your brand be consistent with the technological interactivity they expect?
Is vending meeting all possible needs it can meet?
Another question that retail ethnography can answer is how well you are addressing your customers' desired product mix. Vendors sometimes miss out on sales – to give the customers what they want at the moment that they're ready with cash in hand.
Vending and on-site foodservice operators who base strategic decisions on a customer-centric view of their business will be the ones walking away with the sales in the years to come. It is time to understand what marketers in other retail channels have learned.
Step one is to learn how customers are shopping the vending banks. That is why we need a vending study using retail ethnography.
About the Authors:
Hy Mariampolski is the managing director of QualiData Research Inc., with offices in New York, N.Y. and San Francisco, Calif. He holds a Ph.D. in training combined with community sociology, social psychology and cultural anthropology.
Paul Schlossberg is the president of D/FW Consulting, based in Goshen, N.Y. and is a frequent speaker at NAMA expos.