Quarantine Creativity among QSRs

Quarantine Creativity among QSRs

A core trait of any restaurant is being hospitable. For quick-service restaurants (QSR) this is dependent on providing a consistent, reliable, and convenient experience accentuated through pleasant human interaction and technology. The question now is: "How are quick-service restaurants (QSR) going to maintain hospitality in a socially distant and digital world?"
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minute read
Dec 21, 2023

A core trait of any restaurant is being hospitable. For quick-service restaurants (QSR) this is dependent on providing a consistent, reliable, and convenient experience accentuated through pleasant human interaction and technology. The question now is: "How are quick-service restaurants (QSR) going to maintain hospitality in a socially distant and digital world?"

QSRs are addressing COVID-19 in various ways, depending on how adversely COVID-19 has affected their local markets and what their financial or market position is. This article will illustrate how some QSRs are creatively adapting to the changing landscape and highlight a strategy that will help QSRs come out stronger post-COVID-19.


  1. Popeyes has launched a campaign called #LoveThatJingle to financially aid musicians worldwide. Musicians can record an adaptation of Popeyes’s “Love That Chicken” song and share it on their social channels. The selected winners will get financially compensated and their tunes will air on TV and radio commercials. 
  2. John Brodersen, a Popeyes's Detroit franchisee owner, is providing all his employees with Essential Worker’s Bonus Pay which adds $5 on top of the current hourly wage. 
  3. For every $1 donated on delivery orders via the Popeyes’s app, the brand will match the donation 100% and the proceeds will go to No Kid Hungry, an American charitable organization.


  1. All KFC franchisees in the US, in partnership with the Yum! Foundation, have jointly contributed to the Grocery Assistance Fund and pledged to provide $500,000 worth of groceries. Any employee can recommend a co-worker in need of support and the money from the fund will be used to provide $100 grocery gift cards. 
  2. Some Franchisee owners have focused on employee benefits and offered a $2 per hour appreciation incentive on top of their existing wage, $20 Fill Ups to take home with them - enough to feed a family of four, or even coupons which can be shared with someone in need within the local community. 
  3. In the US, KFC has donated 1 million pieces of chicken to communities in need and $400,000 to Blessings in a Backpack to offer meals to children who might otherwise go hungry due to school closures. In the UK, KFC has donated thousands of meals to frontline workers, including those in the NHS. 


  1. Subway introduced a limited time nationwide offer to keep food costs down by providing 1 free footlong with a purchase of 2 footlong subs. They have also introduced contactless, free delivery for a limited time.
  2. Some Subway owners have launched Subway Marketplace to let customers enjoy bread or a variety of pre-packaged meats and vegetables from the comfort of their homes. 
  3. In terms of meal donations, in the US they have offered 15 million meals to Feeding America and pledged to donate a 6-inch sub for every order worth $15 or more, placed via Postmates through May 10. Similarly, they have donated more than a million meals to frontline workers and relevant organizations in the UK, Canada, New Zealand, and Latin America. 


  1. Chick-fil-A was one of the first QSRs to trial meal kits in 2018. After having more than 15,000 customers show an interest in it, Chick-fil-A has now decided to make the meal kits available at all participating restaurants, drive-through, app orders, or delivery. Starting May 4, 2020, participating stores will be selling Chicken Parmesan Meal Kits which will allow customers to make a delicious homemade meal for 2 in less than 30 minutes. 
  2. Chick-fil-A is also selling its own sauces for customers to enjoy from home. 
  3. They have launched a new Nightly Nuggets video cooking show, featuring easy to follow recipes based on Chick-fil-A menu favorites. 


  1. With almost 20 million app users, Starbucks can facilitate online orders, contactless payment through the app, and enable curbside pickup, drive-thru, or entryway handoff. 
  2. They are doubling down on A.I. to make accurate and data-based decisions regarding store reopenings. 
  3. Between March 25th and May 3rd, they have offered frontline workers in the US with a free tall brewed coffee. 
  4. The Starbucks Foundation has donated more than $3 million to support global COVID-19 initiatives. Starbucks has donated $500,000 to support efforts of US frontline responders and $10 million to support its partners worldwide via its Starbucks Global Partner Emergency Fund.

What QSR Strategy should you adopt?

In unprecedented times as this, different QSRs are taking various creative measures to continue staying engaged with customers and, frankly, remain in business. To help matters, Bottle Rocket has conducted a timely study on ‘QSRs in the age of COVID-19’ to reveal what type of communication customers expect to receive from their favorite QSRs and how.

Online communication via social media and mobile apps is most aligned with consumer behavior.

  • 47% of the customers prefer to be notified about new information by social media.
  • Customers 18-24 are 2x as likely to seek new information on social media than brand websites.
  • Customers in their 40s are 30% more likely to look for new information via QSR apps than the website. 

Purchase incentives offered via mobile devices resonate highly with consumers. 

  • 80% of the respondents would be more likely to order from a QSR if they were incentivized with offers for ordering digitally, via app or SMS. 

Armed with this information, it’s clear that social media + mobile device activations + incentives is the way to win over consumers for QSRs right now. And by default it may seem to be a no-brainer to lean on existing mobile app technology to facilitate it. Alternatively, if your QSR does not already have a mobile app, it can seem like too heavy of a lift to build that out simply for this activation. But here’s an interesting tidbit that might make you sing a different tune -- nearly 1 in 2 branded mobile apps are uninstalled within 30 days … Not exactly the long-lasting value proposition you may have had in mind to retain customer loyalty. 

The Cirqle’s platform can help skirt this issue. Mobile Wallet Card Technology is a direct-to-consumer, mobile-optimized communication channel that does not require consumers to download a branded mobile app. Instead, it uses the mobile wallet app that is inherent to the smart phone interface. Harnessing this technology, enables your brand to:

  • Share custom incentives regarding offers, loyalty programs, educational content, brand updates, etc.
  • Garner the attention of new and loyal customers through versatile distribution: Mobile Wallet Cards can be shared over social media, email, app, website, SMS, or more, allowing QSRs to target the different age groups most effectively. 
  • Remind consumers to leverage their offers at high moments of purchase intent: time and location-based personalized notifications remind customers about drive-through nearby, share an offer of the day, share company news regarding new store openings in hyper local regions, seating capacity at physical locations, etc. 
  • Activate a cost effective solution quickly and efficiently without the need for custom app: 99 cents per month/card download includes 4 direct-to-consumer push notifications per month and geo-targeted notifications once every 24 hours, if applicable. 

With such capabilities, QSRs can reach consumers directly on their phones, without consumers even having to think about browsing the app, website, or social channels that have higher barriers to entry based on the statistics surrounding their behavior. Are you a QSR brand and ready to get creative with your outreach? Get in touch with our team and let us help you stay connected with your customers, now and in the future. Reach out to to learn more. 

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