The quick-service restaurant industry, or fast-food, has seen rapid development over the past two decades, particularly with the introduction of new quick-service restaurants, like Chipotle, and shifting consumer habits, such as the prioritization of healthier diets.
Now almost 20 years on from its launch in the early 90s, Chipotle and its counterparts, like Blaze Pizza and Panera Bread, have joined traditional power players like McDonald’s and Burger King in the struggle to keep up with shifting consumer preferences. Add in the proliferation of delivery platforms such as Uber Eats and Postmates, plus a global pandemic, and the QSR industry finds itself in an extraordinary inflection point.
To learn more about how the industry is adapting and what other industries can learn from QSR, I spoke with Hope Diaz, Chief Marketing Officer at Fiesta Restaurant Group, which boasts both Pollo Tropical and Taco Cabana in its portfolio.
Miami People: How did you get started in the QSR industry and how has the industry evolved over the years?
Hope Diaz: I entered the QSR industry back in 2007. Since college, I had been working at MTV Networks Latin America and was the Director of Research and Strategic Planning there when I got a call from Burger King Corporation. I decided to join them and began my career in the QSR industry.
Being in market research gave me a front seat to see how guest expectations and behaviors were changing throughout the years. Having worked for Burger King, Popeyes, and now Pollo Tropical, I have been part of dynamic brands that care about what their guests want from the brands they support. QSR brands have adjusted to meet those changing needs with more menu options, higher food quality, and better service and store design.
MP: How have you and your colleagues attempted to stay ahead of the curve to keep pace with the evolution?
HD: By always listening to guests, brands are able to respond to their wants and needs. The more you know your guests, the better you can serve them. I am a big believer in market research and the power it has to inform good business decisions that will make your brand as relevant as possible.
MP: What kind of impact does the rise of delivery apps like UberEats, Grubhub, Postmates, etc. have on how you view the customer journey?
HD: It’s clear that guests are using multiple channels in order to get what they want as conveniently as possible. Delivery services give guests one more way to get the food they want where they want it. Today, it’s even more important for brands to have a connection with their guests, so they can remain top of mind when guests are looking for options on the delivery sites.
The delivery service providers are also a great way to get exposure to people who may not frequent a brand. When these new guests try your brand, it’s vital that they have a good experience so you can convert them into loyalists.
MP: Has the way you measure success changed with how much the industry has changed?
HD: I think the way a QSR brand measures success should always start with guest satisfaction. I don’t think that has changed. However, what it takes to make a guest truly satisfied has definitely changed.
Guest expectations of QSR brands are definitely higher now, including food quality, service level, restaurant design and even technology. If guests are happy with their overall experience, they will keep coming back and that will be reflected in sales. A brand’s focus should always be on the guest, as that will lead to achieving business goals.
MP: What is your personal marketing philosophy and how has it evolved over the course of your career?
HD: My marketing philosophy is to always start with the needs you are trying to solve for. To do that, you must get to know the people who you are trying to market to. By knowing how their needs and wants, you can not only tailor products and services but also create relevant messages that resonate most with them.
This approach applies to any industry. In general, a marketer’s role is to show their target audience how their product or service solves a need for them. This need can be a functional or emotional one. No matter what industry you’re in, getting to know your audience is the best starting point, and the best way to improve your chances at success.
MP: What do you wish you had learned earlier in your career?
HD: One lesson I wish I had learned earlier is the importance of getting people across the organization involved in projects at the beginning. It’s important to get feedback from stakeholders and make them part of the process. This allows for better decision-making and easier alignment and implementation later. Getting people’s views builds trust and that goes a very long way in executing projects and strategy.