Industry Trends

Why Agile Insights Will Become the Secret Sauce of QSR Success

The ability to quickly capture and act on data has become one of the foremost attributes of successful brands in the Digital Age. This trend has been especially pervasive in the quick-service restaurant space, where marketers are increasingly combining established research practices with new means for capturing actionable consumer insights.

One clear factor driving these changes: young people. Millennials and Gen Z-ers hold an entirely new set of expectations and requirements when it comes to their food purchases. Couple this with their growing spending power – Millennials alone command $200 billion annually in the U.S. alone – and it becomes clear why today’s teens and young adults will shape the future of QSR.


Here are a few specific examples of how agile research tools that align with millennials’ digital consumption habits can help QSR and fast casual brands get (and stay) ahead of the competition.

Agile insights allow marketers to drive menu innovation without breaking the bank. Menu innovation has become an important page in the playbook for quick-serve and fast casual restaurants, as consumers are increasingly eating up out-of-the-box product offerings. Whether it’s Pizza Hut debuting sriracha and pretzel-themed pizzas or Taco Bell expanding its breakfast spread, QSRs are changing up their menu options at an unprecedented clip.

Menu changes can be a pricey investment for QSRs when you consider the costs of developing and then testing the ideas and products, but companies can safe-guard against menu fails by testing concepts early on via online communities and social media-based tools. Agile insights methodologies allow marketers to quickly gather consumer feedback on a variety of inputs – ingredients, nomenclature, packaging – to validate decisions before significant product development and implementation dollars are put to work. Factor in millennials’ preference for “adventures over products” and it’s easy to see how R&D dollars could add up when testing new menu items and restaurant experiences.

Agile insights can inform marketing decisions before creative concepts go live. Testing advertising concepts is nothing new – brands have been relying on traditional ad tests to verify creative for years – yet with the increased demands for content, the ability to get fast feedback will become a need-to-have instead of a nice-to-have. From creative ideation all the way through to pre-launch validation, marketers can use agile insights tactics to guide and validate creative decisions before investing in content development and amplifying via paid media. This has become increasingly important as companies make bold moves to bring classic mascots and menu items back into the fray. McDonald’s recently caused a social media frenzy when it reintroduced the Hamburglar, albeit in an upgraded, hipsterized form, as part of a May ad campaign.

But what if the references in your throwback campaign predate your younger customers? This was the case for KFC, which recently enlisted SNL alum Darrell Hammond to play the role of Colonel Sanders in a new ad campaign. Research indicated that many Millennials and Gen-Zers have no idea that the Colonel was a real person, which ultimately influenced the way he was positioned in the new spots. Agile insights tools can be a great gut-check on these kinds of cultural references early on in the creative process, saving brands and their agency partners both time and money.

Agile insights help brands keep up with fast-changing consumer preferences. Why is Taco Bell winning over Millennials? Because younger consumers feel like the brand “gets” them. Between quirky ad spots and innovative menu additions (like Cap’n Crunch Delights), Taco Bell is proving that it understands what customers are looking for in a QSR experience. Similarly, Chipotle has seen success by offering increased transparency into the origin of its ingredients. The brand even made it the focal point of a Cannes-winning ad campaign, which took aim at the origin of mass food manufacturing.

Millennials spend some five hours per day with digital media, and a sizeable portion of this time is spent within mobile-social platforms. Taking an approach to insights that is always-on and rooted in Millennials’ natural digital behaviors allows marketers to build more authentic partnerships with their customers over time. This collaborative approach not only yields faster, richer insights – but it also builds loyalty and advocacy along the way.


As Taco Bell VP of Marketing, Melissa Friebe recently told Ad Age, Millennials and Gen Z-ers live in world where people are “constantly trying something, seeing if it works and making small changes.” They are motivated by discovering what’s fresh and new – and once they find it, they’re apt to talk about it. Marketers who use agile insights to make small, yet consistent, tweaks to their marketing, menu and in-store experiences will help their brands align with the Millennial mindset and position themselves for future success.

By Rachel Schwartz, Director of Client Success, Insights & Innovation, Crowdtap

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