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Health-conscious consumers helping redefine the QSR industry

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Traditionally, the purpose of the QSR industry was to give customers a convenient, cheap meal option. However, the shift towards luxury, sleek dining seen across leading global brands over the last few years has not only improved consumer experience, but it has also firmly placed the QSR industry in the post-pandemic world.

QSR outlets available today have drastically improved upon their appeal to the modern, health-focused consumer. Here, Sigríður Steinunn Jónsdóttir, the Managing Director of innovative protein-rich snack bar concept, Ísey Skyr Bar, discusses how QSR franchises are changing the way they think to stay current and provide the experience consumers seek.

Speed, taste and health

The three primary elements that contribute to a successful QSR experience are speed of service, the nutritional value of the meal and the taste of the product. However, it is common for the well-established, leading QSR brands to only tick one or two of those three boxes when delivering their service to customers. If a consumer is looking for a speedy, tasty snack, they generally sacrifice nutritional value, taste and nutrition means it may take longer, and speed and health may be detrimental to the taste. As a result of this, consumers have begun actively seeking outlets that not only offer all three of those factors but exceed the expectations of what might have been delivered by a QSR outlet before the pandemic.

In the post-pandemic world, QSR brands are needing to appeal to consumers who have become significantly more health-focused, while providing a convenient service that suits their newly re-discovered active lifestyle. Ísey Skyr Bar is one such brand that has been built on the foundation of ticking all three boxes, with its super-healthy, protein-rich snack not only being nutritious, but easy to access and great tasting with menu expertly designed by a Michelin starred chef.

Heritage matters

Pre-pandemic, fast-food brands generated the largest share of market value. However, independent outlets almost matched the value of traditional fast-food restaurants1. This strongly suggests that, while fast-food outlets remain the go-to option for consumers, it is the independent, bespoke dining experience that consumers are not only prepared to pay more money for but are now actively requesting. One key element that contributes to the bespoke dining experience is heritage, and it has become more and more important to consumers to not only know where their meal has come from, but to learn the story of how it got there. In fact, brands with heritage have been found to signal quality and increase credibility with consumers. This drives a price premium, but it is one that customers are prepared to pay more for2.

Through this, heritage QSR brands have grown rapidly, with the fastest-growing outlets today telling a rich story to accompany a fine-dining experience. Heritage is becoming more widely discussed across the industry, with brands such as ísey Skyr Bar - the only concept on the market that pays tribute to 1,100 years of Icelandic heritage – regularly celebrating what makes them widely appealing to the modern consumer.

Style and substance are now one in the same

In 2021, 58% of consumers said healthy options on a menu were important, with millennials rating this factor at 71%3. With QSR menus across the industry undergoing a widespread scaling back of products available in order to maximise efficiency and reduce waiting times, brands have been able to focus not only on their styling and aesthetic appeal to consumers, but also the nutritional value of their meals. The UK has become significantly more health-conscious, with important steps being taken to ensure consumers are aware of the health implications in what they are eating, such as calorie counts being put on menus. As a result of this, there has been a huge increase in the availability of healthy alternatives on menus, most significantly in fast-food establishments. In a busy world that has only recently been reopened, the QSR industry has never been more in demand. But now, substance is style, and that substance must be healthy to drive consumer interest.

Social media

That is not to say aesthetic value does not still have a huge impact on the success of today’s modern QSR outlet. With the rise of social media and bite-size content now playing a huge role in the marketing practices of a brand, it is more important than ever to ensure the aesthetic value of a QSR outlet matches the theme and product. The Lumina Intelligence UK Restaurant Market Report 2021/2022 suggests that the UK restaurant market will grow by 59% in 20224. It is because of this that QSR outlets today not only have to make their product tick vital nutritional boxes for consumers, but their experience as a whole must make consumers want to get their phones out and take pictures.

Today, an aesthetically pleasing experience, from the moment a consumer enters a QSR outlet, is as important as the product and service itself. Ísey Skyr Bar concepts are specifically designed to have a place in the modern social media scape, with the brand’s progressive nature being as present in the Bar as it is in the Skyr itself.

Supporting local, thinking global

Regardless of the international footprint of a brand, consumers love to see that multi-national companies are supporting local produce and using it to deliver an experience that can be emulated around the globe. Consumers have more of a demand for transparency in ingredients, a desire to be more socially responsible and a commitment to source local food and drinks. Increasingly, they want to know where their food is coming from and the ethical impact it has on the environment and labour around the world. They are also looking to create environmentally conscious and ethical decisions when it comes to their food choices.

It is because of this that the QSR industry is seeing more brands extend their own local footprint by creating job opportunities that go far beyond a concept itself, with the manufacturing and sourcing of produce a vital element in delivering a tasteful and ethically conscious consumer experience.

Sigríður summarises, “It’s an incredibly exciting time for the QSR industry. Since the pandemic, consumers have become increasingly conscious of their experience with fast food from start to finish. And it’s because of progressive, forward-thinking brands such as Ísey Skyr Bar that the industry is being reinvented for the better. From the sourcing and manufacturing process to the moment a consumer posts a picture on social media, the QSR experience has never been more ahead of the curve, which is thanks to brands listening to and understanding what their customers want and need from fast-food outlets.”

1 S. Lock, 2021, Value of the fast-food restaurant market in the United Kingdom (UK) in 2018, by type

2 Anne Rindell & Fernando Pinto Santos, 2021, What makes a corporate heritage brand authentic for consumers? A semiotic approach

3 Danny Klein, 2021, 5 Fast-Food Trends That Will Shape 2022

4 Wave, 2022, UK restaurant market to grow by 59% in 2022

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