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The Future of QSR Franchising

future-franchise.jpgA recent story in QSR Magazine looks at what the year 2030 might have in store for the quick-service industry. Sadly, none of the more than 20 experts consulted for the article addressed how drive-thrus will accommodate flying cars. Some of the ideas they did bring up do sound pretty wild, though. Then again, we'd have probably thought the same thing if someone had predicted 20 years ago that our cars would give us directions to the nearest McDonald's or that we'd be able to order pizza with our computers. So, if you want some insight into what the future may hold for quick-service franchises, here are a few highlights:

  • Read enough science fiction and you'll probably develop a healthy distrust of nanotechnology. Nevertheless, that's where the future lies for quick-service uniforms, according to the experts. Nanotech uniforms could regulate the wearer's temperature, give off food scents to entice customers, and even release pheromones to keep workers feeling content.... Hmm, maybe those sci-fi folks are onto something
  • Jay Ward, a communications manager with Ford, envisions enhancements to the company's existing Sync technology wherein a person's car would tell them every time they were near one of their favorite restaurants and "suggestively sell". Franchisors will probably find that idea appealing on the surface, but maybe there's such a thing as too much exposure--and this feature could get pretty annoying if your favorite restaurant is as ubiquitous as, say, Subway.
  • Ward also thinks that if a method is developed to transfer electricity without the use of wires, electric car owners could opt to pay a little extra to give their car a jolt of electricity while they wait in line at a drive-thru. With news of the Chevy Volt's purported triple-digit mpg making waves this week, electric cars could become quite popular. And just as popular would be a way to fuel them as quickly and conveniently as you can feed yourself.
  • Just as cell phones nowadays are much more than just phones, paper cups and tray liners 20 years from now will do much more than just serve food and drinks. Nth Degree Technologies VP Anil Selby says restaurants will be able to affordably put mini TV screens on paper products to entertain (and no doubt advertise to) customers while they eat--and long after.
  • With people becoming as environmentally-conscious as they are health-conscious, the experts predict that restaurants will begin disclosing carbon-footprint information alongside nutritional information. And for customers who are really concerned with saving the earth, some chains may even develop edible food packaging to reduce waste.
  • The technology already exists to deliver food Jetsons-style, in pill or powder form, but whether people will embrace this mode of eating any time soon is unlikely. Still, there may be a niche market for this novel approach to eating--and perhaps some enterprising franchisors will capitalize on it.
  • With non-cash transactions rising every year, the experts predict that cash won't even be an option in the year 2030. On top of that, apparently even credit and debit cards will be old school. Instead, people will use their fingerprints, voice and facial recognition, or even DNA to confirm their identities and make payments automatically.

Be sure to read the entire article at qsrmagazine.com, then share your thoughts. What do you think of the future these experts envision for the quick-service industry? Are there any innovations they missed that you see on the horizon, or even just hope for (besides the flying cars, of course)? Will quick-service franchises embrace new technologies and lead the way into the future, or will they resist? And how do you think these changes will affect the franchise world if and when they do come to pass?

Tracy Stapp Herold is the special projects editor at Entrepreneur magazine. She works on franchise and business opportunity stories and listings, including the annual Franchise 500.
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