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What’s Next for the QSR Sector? [Part 1]

Author: Smoothie King
Smoothies King smoothies and locations

Over the past decade, the quick-service restaurant sector has undergone multiple transformations. Myriad factors, including demographic and psychographic shifts and technology, have motivated QSR concepts to innovate their products, services, and operations to stay on-trend.

Smoothie King is a brand that has been around since 1973 and has evolved into a growing franchise system that has been ahead of several QSR trends. Among these are:

  • Customizable menus

  • Transparency of ingredients

  • Convenience

  • Technology

The growth of the millennial generation and its unique set of preferences, attitudes, and behaviors has contributed to the growth of the QSR sector. As of April 2016, this group overtook Baby Boomers to become the largest generation, at 75.4 million. These consumers look for concepts that have customizable menus in which they can look at a base recipe and build on it to make it their own. For Smoothie King, millennials are a key demographic because this group is more ethnically diverse than previous generations. Smoothie consumers also tend to skew younger.

One trend that Smoothie King has in common with some of the most highly successful and growing brands is being laser-focused on a core product, while still offering customizable menu items. For example, Chipotle is focused on Mexican food and Starbucks still largely concentrates on coffee; however, both brands offer guests the ability to customize their meals and beverages to suit individual tastes and preferences.

What You See Is What You Get

Greek Yogurt SmoothiesIn addition to customization, many brands have seen a pointed demand among consumers for transparency. This is reflected in the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s menu labeling rules that continue to be finalized. A brand like Smoothie King, which has been providing a list of all the caloric quantities in its smoothies since 2012, has been way ahead of the curve.

Food transparency accompanies a broader demographic shift toward mindful dining, a concept that millennials tend to gravitate toward. They’re interested in knowing not just the types of foods and additives they put in their bodies, but the sources as well. As part of the larger, growing movement in the nutrition and wellness segment, transparency on Smoothie King’s menu also ties into the brand’s commitment to inspiring people to live a healthy and active lifestyle.

Convenience Meets Quality

For the majority of the QSR sector’s history, fast-food has been equated with deep-fried and largely unhealthy. However, this perception is quickly changing. First, convenience no longer means a bunch of stale burgers sitting under a heat lamp. Instead, QSR operators are looking at better-for-you products that can be quickly and accurately produced and delivered to on-the-go guests.

From the operator’s standpoint, this is also a significant advantage—meaning if you want to own a QSR concept, you’re not trapped in a hot and greasy environment. And, with smoothies, in particular, you can focus on a single product that is part of a balanced lifestyle and still tastes great.

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Taking this a step further, the demand for convenience and better-for-you options has manifested in-store design and site selection. It’s an evolution that has helped shape the way Smoothie King approaches site selection and store format, as well. We’re seeing a growing number of fast-casual concepts with drive-thrus to cater to on-the-go consumers who place a high priority on speed and convenience. An increasing number of Starbucks have added drive-thrus, which is something you wouldn’t have seen very much just 10 years ago.

In Part 2, we’ll focus on the changes in technology that are influencing the QSR sector and Smoothie King alike. In the meantime, check out our Franchise Kit to learn more about investing in a smoothie brand with a purpose.