3 Tips for QSR Digital Transformation from Bojangles and Checkers & Rally’s

Digital transformation for QSRs isn’t something that just happens. You must dedicate time, resources, planning, testing, and collaboration to ensure you’re implementing a digital strategy that aligns with your restaurant’s strategic goals, customer preferences, and technology infrastructure. And, choosing the right technology partners is a vital part of that process.

At Industry Now 2023, Sparkfly’s VP of Sales & Marketing Jon Greelee moderated a session where Bojangles Senior Director of Omnichannel Sergio Perez and Checkers and Rally’s Senior Director of Marketing Technology & eCommerce Ryan Reichmann shared their paths to going with a best-in-class customer engagement ecosystem.

In this article, you’ll find three key takeaways on how these QSR powerhouses are working to transform their customer experiences and generate strong results along the way.

#1 Anchor Your Strategy Around a Goal 

When Sergio joined the Bojangles team nearly two and a half years ago, he had an important goal to achieve when evaluating their digital strategy: How can the restaurant leader build for the future versus building to catch up?

Sergio and his team got to work by outlining the items that they wanted to solve from an operations and customer point of view. They connected with internal teams like restaurant operators to learn more about their experiences and pain points. After conducting in-depth research, it was time to bring the best technology partners to the table.

“Make sure to access your infrastructure at the store level and restaurant support center before determining which partners will play well with the tech that you have,” Sergio said. “You could have a beautifully built piece of technology, but it may not work with your POS system or your partners. In the end, that creates more trouble.”

For Checkers and Rally’s, their digital transformation journey started a bit differently.

“We started out completely backwards,” Ryan said. “At first, we went checking boxes off [with the technology].”

Realizing this was not the ideal approach, Ryan and his team got into a room and started focusing on aligning around one mission. And when it comes to a strong mission, it’s not necessarily about fancy language or pie-in-the-sky aspirations; it’s much simpler.

“When we were first ideating, we had a long forward-facing mission. One night I was thinking about it and thought, ‘what do we really want to say?’ And that was improving the customer and operating experience,” Ryan said. “Everyone agreed right away and we focused on what we could do to save our guests and operators both time and money.”

With the working team rallied around the mission, they set out to get alignment from other stakeholders within the organization.

#2 Make a Strong Business Case (with Data)

Digital transformation requires buy-in across the board, especially from QSR franchisees. Bojangles had an ownership group that fronted the cost of building the new digital experience and testing it for the first three years. From there, the team had to prove to franchisees that the model would be successful and profitable.

“We showed stakeholders how we were going to leverage data to make smarter business decisions whether that’s investing in certain media placements, adding a new item to the menu, or improving a certain location,” Sergio said.

One area where Bojangles drove operational efficiencies was in making its famous fried chicken. For those unfamiliar, Sergio noted that fried chicken takes a lot of time to make—14 minutes to be exact. Therefore, by elementing capabilities like order ahead and curbside pickup, the Bojangles simplified operations and improved the guest experience.

The team also looked at how they could grow the pie (or really the basket) from a transactions perspective, with mobile ordering presenting a big opportunity for them. The team found:

  • Digital transactions were ~65% incremental
  • Digital users generated 2.5X the check amount compared to an in-restaurant customer
  • Digital users were 30% more frequent than in-restaurant consumers

“There was a real benefit in having more frequent customers spend more money and making operations easy,” Sergio said. “That’s why we call it a digital investment. Every franchisee will be willing to listen to you when you show them how you’ll drive incremental transactions and grow their business.”

For Checkers and Rally’s, Ryan called a variety of stakeholders—from franchisees to operators to internal teams and more—to learn more about their experience and pain points.

He presented them with three options they could pursue for their digital transformation strategy: 

  • Continue with the current digital roadmap, which had various limitations 
  • Build a custom app on their current tech stack, which offered more capabilities but still had operational challenges like operators pressing a slew of buttons to complete one task 
  • Create a new roadmap that focused on getting the fundamentals right and then build on those capabilities 

Option three was the clear winner.

“By presenting it this way, it was easy to get alignment. We weren’t just changing an app. We were looking at making things simpler overall, like training,” said Ryan. “From an operations standpoint, we wanted to find a solution where an operator could scan an item and not even think about it.”

#3 Focus on the Customer

All the technology in the world means very little if your customers don’t see the value or if your operators don’t understand the system. When pursuing a digital transformation strategy, QSRs must take their teams, customers, and processes into account.

Taking an iterative approach proved successful for Bojangles. The first step was started with basic ordering and serving customers faster. From there, they could start going deeper into their digital strategy and use data to better understand their customers and their preferences.

“If you don’t deliver on a great digital experience or if customers aren’t ready for your tech investment, they may not give you another shot,” Sergio said. “That’s why we build based on the needs of our business, learn from the data, and focus on what our operations can tackle at a specific point and what our customers want in terms of features and functionality.”

Ryan echoed this sentiment saying, “Customers will be excited by the change if you get it right from the beginning. You have to get the fundamentals right and choose technology that can scale with your innovation and your team.”

Fundamentals could include ensuring your menu is easy to navigate or that your location finder is well built. Once those essential functionalities are working well, you can focus on rewards and offers, like providing your loyal customers with a personalized discount via your mobile app.

Customer behavior is changing—and successful QSRs know how essential it is to offer an excellent experience across the entire customer lifecycle.

“Customers used to walk in, get their food, and walk out. That was the extent of their experience. Now, they’re engaging with us on social media and with our app. We want to ensure we’re offering a consistent Bojangles experience across every interaction,” said Sergio. “That’s a huge reason we went with best-in-class versus an all-in-one. We wanted accessibility to express our brand via an omnichannel tool.”

With an integrated platform, QSRs’  customer experience gets that much stronger . Learn more about how your restaurant can remove data silos and connect with customers through every funnel stage, from acquisition to engagement to retention.