HubKonnect CEO Michael Koch on AI and Big Data Trends for the QSR Industry in 2022

I am constantly in the boardroom with the top Quick Service Restaurant CMOs and CEOs across this industry. As we map out their unique AI, Data, and digital strategies for 2022, there are consistent themes we see across the entire industry. This inspired me to outline the industry’s best and most innovative trends for the impending 2022.

1. Surge of Better Data: All data is not created equal. As we approach a new year, the QSR industry will finally understand that actionable insights and business decision-making will require better, real-time data. There will be an arms race of who can gobble up the best data partners and in turn, the winning companies will be the ones that have the best and most innovative Artificial Intelligence capabilities to synthesize this data into actionable tactics and outcomes.

Consumer behavior has changed dramatically over the last 24 months and the key to succeeding in a constantly evolving world is to have the best data insights, the right technology in the hands of the restaurant franchisees, and then having the ability to utilize this vast data and take strategic action across marketing, supply chain, hiring, operations, and IT.  Making 2022 initiatives around constantly changing customer behavior and consumer needs with the help of big data and AI is essential. How big data is communicated across many siloed organizations will determine who wins and who loses in the quick-service restaurant industry.

2. Localized Data-Driven Marketing: A hyper-local, grassroots approach to marketing and understanding/tapping into localized consumer behavior data is the future of QSR marketing. The companies that focus on hyper-local marketing and then effectively engage with their communities will win the next decade of customer loyalty and sales.  The COVID-19 Pandemic has shown us the power of Local Store Marketing and how it must be customized and unique in each country, state, city, and municipality due to constantly evolving local pandemic regulations and unique consumer behavior.

Marketing will accelerate away from a primary focus on national or regional campaigns and instead focus on unique local events and trends in each trading area.  Local data, mobile data, and demographic information are all factors that must be considered when understanding who are the best customers.  LSM needs to be easily actionable for restaurant owners/managers and based on consumers at an individual data pattern level in each local market. Sales will be grown at the individual unit and it has never been more important for each individual franchise restaurant to have access to the right data and tools via a user-friendly platform.  Local data will not just stay local, but be fully integrated into companies mobile apps in an effort to drive local promotional and loyalty-based offers on the individual unit. No longer are the days that corporate agencies create a one-size-fits-all marketing/advertising approach.  Local data will help each franchise store develop/implement the right tactics, via the right channels, at the right optimal times with the right local assets. Understanding the performance of tactics and strategies for each individual retail store in 2022 is how they will survive in this new world where consumer behavior is constantly evolving.

3.  Acceleration of AI Adoption: Digital transformations will no longer take years, but rather mere months. The prioritization of data and AI will be seen across all Quick Service Restaurant business units as a necessity. I believe they will quickly evolve to look at their businesses as both restaurants and “tech companies.” The ability to scale AI, data, and the processing of data, with the right tools while enabling restaurant owners to see a clear actionable picture for each retail store will provide a true competitive advantage in the year ahead.  We will see in 2022 direct acquisitions of tech, AI, and data companies by the leading QSRs to ensure a competitive advantage over the competition. As a result, this is great for new innovation, small franchise business owners, and most importantly – the customers!  Innovation happens in the toughest of times and I believe this capability will scale across the industry through acquisition. It will also mean corporate communication and shared projects will be even more interconnected. Overall, AI adoption will bring better communication across corporate marketing, digital, IT, supply chain, and operations.

True Innovation requires a lot more strategic freedom and outside thinking when looking at technical challenges facing the QSR Industry. This tech infusion in 2022 will create an interconnected environment and speed up decision-making in real-time.  The current structure of large companies will meet the speed and agility of the tech world.  This will mean that your favorite burger restaurant, or coffee shop, will be able to move at the speed necessary to serve you the most optimal way, at the right time, while also knowing what you want, when you want it, and delivering it in the manner you deem best. What an exciting year ahead for the consumer and the entire QSR Industry.