Mitra QSR, a franchised restaurant operator with more than 200 KFC and Taco Bell locations, has leveraged artificial intelligence (AI) from Hypersonix to achieve exceptional sales growth despite challenges facing Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the onset of COVID-19, many consumers have altered their food consumption behaviors dramatically, preparing more meals at home while avoiding table service in restaurants and ordering more meals for take-out and delivery. For QSRs, this has been a decidedly mixed blessing as altered demand patterns have made planning more challenging.
“Nobody could have predicted these new behaviors and business pressures would persist as long as they have,” said Pushpak Patel, CEO of Mitra QSR. “Early on we recognized a need to make adjustments across several key areas of our business to remain safe, relevant, and competitive in our markets.”
Mitra QSR had recently deployed an advanced AI solution from Hypersonix to improve analytics and decision support across its store network, which spans 15 states from Texas to northern Michigan and Washington, D.C. As organizations in almost every industry have been forced to adapt their business processes to the “new normal,” the timing of this partnership could not have been better.
Patel went on to say, “Like many Quick Service Restaurant operators this year, we have grappled with unfamiliar decisions around a host of issues, such as ensuring a safe work environment for our employees and our customers, shifting consumer habits, drive-through operations, personnel management, and promotions. These are certainly challenging in normal times, but the pandemic required us to re-think and recalibrate some of our tried-and-true business practices.”
Among the challenges affecting Mitra QSR’s business decisions this year:
- The company shifted entirely to take-out in most geographies, which placed a premium on efficiency in the drive-through lanes.
- An increase in demand for bigger bundle meals versus individual orders as well as the uptick in drive-through and digital sales put a greater emphasis on speed and ensuring product availability as well as productivity.
- A shift in consumer behavior affected labor deployment decisions as stores saw a decrease in both lunchtime and dinner/late night and shifted to more mid-day business.
- New, more stringent cleanliness and safety protocols were needed in the stores, adding new supply costs.
- Increased demand for meal delivery has intensified interactions with third-party delivery services like Door Dash, Postmates Uber Eats and Grub Hub, with new challenges and opportunities for operations.
These circumstances have forced an array of decisions around store operating hours, shift management, supply chain planning, menu optimization and price and promotion management, all of which has an impact on operating margins. For example, based on intel gleaned from Hypersonix, certain Mitra QSR franchisee locations decided to streamline menu options to increase drive-thru speed after evaluating time to cook versus the popularity of specific items. Additionally, Hypersonix provided location-by-location data for the busiest and slowest hours of business throughout the day. The data confirmed a shift in consumer behavior during the pandemic, highlighting a decreased lunch demand, but busier and earlier dinner rush. Franchisee locations leveraged this insight to better deploy staffing and adjust business hours.
Mitra QSR credits Hypersonix with helping the company achieve better operational efficiency and menu optimization, which helped to deliver a better customer experience with faster speed, as well as overall labor deployment. It has also helped store managers maintain efficient drive-through speed of service, despite operational changes. Additionally, Hypersonix has been able to measure the key KPIs that really matter to satisfy customer needs, drive growth, and optimize sales per labor hour.
“Addressing these issues in a proactive manner helped Mitra QSR turn a tough situation into a growth situation,” Patel added. “Through the end of last year Hypersonix helped us achieve increased year-over-year growth by delivering timely and smart data, which is a substantial accomplishment given the current state of industry.”
He described Hypersonix’s AI solution as its “backbone intelligence system,” adding, “It is a must-have to run our business effectively. What we like most about Hypersonix’s AI solution is that it is very actionable, and it boils down an ocean of data into very tangible sales and profit drivers.”
Patel concluded, “Hypersonix’s AI automation capabilities deliver immediate value to our business. We leverage the platform to identify key sales drivers that have helped us to optimize operations and profitability. We don’t need more data; we need better and actionable information that Hypersonix provides.”
Currently Hypersonix’s technology is used by the KFC and Taco Bell locations owned by MitraQSR. The platform sits and operates independently outside the restaurant locations, which makes it easy to implement and put to use.