QSR restaurants

How to Open a Quick Service Restaurant: Lessons from the Top 14 Brands

Sahana Ananth
May 26, 2024
1 mins

Table of Content

Today’s modern consumers demand modern solutions. Having them sit in a traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant and make them wait for two hours for their meal is not an experience they are looking for. They crave experiences that cater to their busy lifestyles- fast, pocket-friendly, and convenient. 

That’s where QSR appears to be a promising solution. Regardless of your customer's needs, QSRs fit busy lifestyles without making a hole in the pocket. It’s a win-win solution for both the customers and restaurant owners. 

Today, we'll walk you through the essential steps and strategies to get your QSR up and running.

What is a QSR Restaurant?

Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) are hugely popular, making up nearly 50% of all restaurant sales. These spots, known for fast food, focus on getting meals out quickly and keeping costs low. They typically offer limited table service, aiming to provide a quick, affordable dining option for people on the go who need a fast and convenient meal.

Customers typically place their orders at a counter or kiosk and receive their meals within minutes. The menus are straightforward to prepare, which helps maintain quick turnaround times. 

QSRs thrive on their ability to offer affordable meals without compromising on speed. This efficiency attracts a broad customer base and makes them a dominant force in the restaurant industry.

Types of QSR Restaurants

There are three main types of Quick Service Restaurants. Knowing these types helps you pick the right dining experience or plan your restaurant effectively. The key differences are in the service style, menu options, and how they engage with customers. Let's explore the different QSR categories and what sets them apart

1. Self-Service Restaurants

Self-service restaurants streamline the dining process by letting customers take charge of ordering, paying, and sometimes even picking up their food. Big names like McDonald's and Burger King have successfully adopted self-service technologies.

2. Assisted Self-Service Restaurants

Assisted self-service restaurants offer a mix of self-service and traditional service features. Customers can place their orders at a counter or through a kiosk, but staff members are available to assist with specific tasks. Panera Bread and Chipotle are examples of brands that use this approach.

3. Full-Service QSRs

Some quick-service restaurants blend the traditional dining feel with the speed of QSRs. These places offer table service, where staff take orders, bring food, and manage payments. Well-known examples are IHOP and Denny's.

Why Open a QSR Restaurant?

The QSR sector's impressive growth highlights its strong appeal and significant economic potential. Understanding the reasons behind this trend can help you recognize the opportunities and advantages of opening a QSR.

1. Lower Initial Investment Requirements

Opening a QSR requires a lower initial investment than opening a full-service restaurant. The costs are minimized due to more straightforward menus, smaller spaces, and less need for extensive kitchen equipment. This is why it's the most feasible option for new entrepreneurs. 

2. Streamlined Operations for Efficiency

QSRs focus on streamlined operations to maximize efficiency. Standardized processes, automated systems, and simplified menus enable faster food preparation and service. This efficiency reduces labor costs and minimizes wait times, enhancing customer satisfaction. 

3. Ease of Scalability

QSRs offer ease of scalability due to their standardized operations and simple menus. This standardization allows for easy replication of the business model across multiple locations. Franchising opportunities make expansion straightforward, with established training, marketing, and supply chain management systems. This scalability helps maximize profitability and market reach.

4. Adaptability to Market Trends

QSRs can quickly introduce trending menu items, leverage technology for personalized experiences, and adjust marketing strategies to align with current consumer preferences. This flexibility keeps them relevant and competitive. For restaurant operators, staying adaptable means meeting customer demands and staying ahead of industry trends.

5. Potential for High Volume Sales

QSRs benefit from high-volume sales due to their quick service and lower price points. The average profit margin for a QSR in the United States is between 6% to 9%. High customer turnover and efficient service contribute to these margins. This potential for volume sales makes QSRs a lucrative business model.

6. Robust Supply Chain Networks

QSRs rely on robust supply chain networks to maintain consistent quality and cost control. These networks enable restaurants to source ingredients efficiently and handle large inventory volumes. Strong supplier relationships and streamlined logistics ensure QSRs can meet demand without disruptions. This reliability is crucial for maintaining operations and customer satisfaction.

Top 14 QSR Restaurants 

  1. McDonald's: McDonald's is an iconic fast-food brand with 13,444 locations in 54 U.S. states. In 2023, McDonald's generated a revenue of $25.49 billion, showcasing its massive success and widespread popularity.
  1. Starbucks: Starbucks is renowned for its quick-service coffee and creative menu. Known for customizable drinks, Starbucks has something for everyone. With 15,873 locations across 52 states and territories, it's a go-to spot for a caffeine fix.
  1. Chick-fil-A: Chick-fil-A offers the best juicy chicken sandwiches, waffle fries, and a unique Sunday closing practice. With revenue of $21 billion in 2023 and generating $6.7 million per location, Chick-fil-A now operates over 2,800 locations across the U.S.
  1. Taco Bell: Taco Bell is renowned for its budget-friendly, Mexican-inspired menu and signature hot sauce. It has 7,198 locations across 51 U.S. states.
  1. Wendy's: Wendy's is a well-known QSR with 6,900 locations worldwide. Famous for its fresh, never-frozen beef burgers and unique square patties, Wendy's generated $2.18 billion in revenue in 2023.
  1. Dunkin' Donuts: Dunkin' Donuts owns 12,700 stores across 40 countries. Known for its coffee and donuts, it generated $1.37 billion in revenue in 2019.
  1. Burger King: Burger king operates over 7,200 locations in the U.S. and serves approximately 15.7 million customers daily. The chain is also present in over 100 countries and is loved for its flame-grilled burgers.
  1. Subway: Founded in 1965, Subway is renowned for its customizable sandwiches and healthier alternatives to traditional fast food. With 20,576 locations across 54 U.S. states and territories, Subway offers a diverse menu that caters to various tastes and dietary preferences.
  1. Domino's: Domino's Pizza is a pizza delivery and take-out chain with over 19,000 locations worldwide. Its diverse menu includes pizza, pasta, and sandwiches. In 2022, Domino's brand value reached nearly $14 billion.
  1. Chipotle: Chipotle Mexican Grill is a well-known QSR in the U.S. that serves fresh, high-quality ingredients and customizable Mexican dishes. With over 3,000 locations, it recorded nearly $9.9 billion in revenue in 2023.
  1. Panera Bread: Panera Bread is a popular quick-service restaurant known for its fresh, artisan bread and healthy menu options. It has 2,164 locations in the U.S. and 11 in Canada.
  1. Pizza Hut: Pizza Hut offers a wide variety of pizzas and innovative menu options. It became a global sensation by pioneering the dine-in pizza restaurant concept and has around 18,000 locations worldwide.
  1. KFC: KFC, renowned for its signature fried chicken, generated approximately $2.83 billion in revenue in 2023. Founded by Colonel Sanders, KFC became famous through its secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices, expanding globally with over 24,000 outlets.
  1. Popeye's Louisiana Chicken: Popeyes is a famous QSR that serves Louisiana-style fried chicken, known for its crispy texture and spicy flavor. Founded in 1972, it quickly gained popularity and now boasts 2,921 U.S. locations and impressive sales of $5.001 billion. 

9-Step Strategy to Open a QSR Restaurant

The following 8-step strategy provides a comprehensive guide to launching a QSR;

1. Develop a Comprehensive Business Plan

To kickstart your QSR, begin with a solid business plan. This blueprint ensures you're prepared for opening and running your restaurant.

  • Start with a company overview: define your QSR type and menu items. 
  • Detail your operations, including suppliers, staffing models, and service methods. 
  • Get a clear picture of the technology you’d like to add, such as kiosks or a POS system

2. Finance Your Venture

The hardest part about running a business is sustaining it. For a smooth journey, you need to have proper funding for your operations at hand. It covers essential costs like leasing space, buying equipment, and initial inventory. 

To get started, get a picture of how much you need for your basic needs. Then, explore funding options in the market such as bank loans or investors. You can also reach out to financial advisors or other restaurant owners for guidance on funding process.

3. Legal and Regulatory Compliance

Likewise any industry, there are some mandatory legal regulations restaurants must met. Doing so protects you from fines and closures and pictures you as a committed restaurant. 

To navigate this, consult local business regulations, particularly those related to health and food safety. Next, apply for the required permits and licenses before opening your doors. 

4. Location and Equipment Setup

The location of your QSR is one of the most critical factors you can't overlook. Enlist a commercial real estate agent to find high-traffic areas with solid visibility. If you have industry connections, stay informed about recently closed restaurants that might offer prime locations. 

Once you secure your spot, focus on setting up your equipment. 

Based on your budget and needs, decide between new or used equipment. Ensure your kitchen and dining areas are fully equipped to handle peak hours efficiently. This step sets the stage for smooth and efficient service.

5. Menu Design and Cost Management

Pricing your menu correctly is crucial because it influences customer choices, controls food costs, and enhances operational efficiency. A well-crafted menu can guide customers toward profitable items, optimize kitchen workflow, and reflect your restaurant's brand and quality. 

Consider a build-your-own model to enhance customization and simplify processes. 

Monitor ingredient costs regularly and adjust pricing to maintain profitability. Use a clear, appealing layout to guide customer choices and boost sales. 

6. Assemble a Dedicated Team

A strong team acts as a backbone for your restaurant. When choosing your team, look for people with a strong work ethic, multitasking abilities, and great customer service skills. During interview sessions, gauge their ability to work under stress and interact with others.

Make sure they share your restaurant's values and standards for serving customers. After hiring, keep your team engaged by providing ongoing training, fair pay, and opportunities for development. This will maintain their motivation and commitment to your restaurant.

7. Marketing and Brand Launch

Creating a standout QSR requires a robust marketing strategy. Start by clearly defining your goals. Determine the best methods to reach these objectives. Plan your marketing actions and allocate your budget for the first year to ensure you stay focused and organized.

Balance a mix of social media, local advertising, and partnerships to increase your visibility in the community. This approach will attract customers and effectively establish your QSR in the market.

8. Plan and Execute a Memorable Opening

A memorable grand opening attracts initial customers and generates early buzz for your QSR. Plan promotional events and special offers to draw attention.

9. Incorporate Tech to Improve your QSR

You can now forget the hassle of daily QSR operations when technology can streamline them for you. Tech solutions make running and managing a QSR a breeze. They bring everything under one roof, from centralized management capabilities to real-time insights- all from one login.

With OneHubPOS's smart solutions, you can automate orders, payments, and inventory management. Our system also supports online ordering and includes a consumer app to make it easier for you to meet customer demands effectively.

For just $1 for three months, you can streamline your operations and boost profitability. Explore our range of solutions and optimize your QSR!

Conclusion

If you're considering opening a QSR, the changing consumer habits towards convenience and efficiency suggest it could be a profitable venture. With the right approach, the current market is favors you to easily get started and see your restaurant thrive.

Stay compliant with all legal standards to keep your operations smooth. Choosing an appealing location is vital as it helps attract a continuous flow of patrons. By concentrating on these foundational steps, you can set up a QSR that not only delights customers but also stands strong in a competitive marketplace.

Ready to start your QSR journey? Cotact OneHubPOS and get a POS for $1 for three months! Improve your profit margins with OneHubPOS, an all-in-one Android POS solution designed to drive efficiency and enhance customer experience.

How do I figure out how much to charge for food?

Pricing is a balancing act! You need to cover your costs (including the food cost per portion) while offering a price point that feels valuable to your customers. Consider factors like competition, target audience, and the overall dining experience you create.

What tools are available for tracking food costs?

Food cost calculators are great for initial estimates, but consider restaurant management software for ongoing success. This software tracks inventory, automates cost calculations, and generates reports to identify cost-saving opportunities.

Can I use a food cost calculator for different types of cuisine?

Absolutely! Many online food cost calculators can handle various cuisines. Look for tools that consider ingredient types, portion sizes, and even regional pricing variations.

How often should I calculate food cost percentage?

Consider your food cost percentage your restaurant's financial fitness tracker. It's the total cost of recipe ingredients divided by your total menu sales. Ideally, calculate this regularly, like weekly or bi-weekly, to monitor profitability and adjust pricing or portions as needed.

What is the standard costing model?

The standard costing model is like a recipe for consistent pricing. It uses historical data and market trends to predict ingredient costs, allowing you to budget, purchase, and maintain profit margins even when prices fluctuate.

What is food cost per portion?

Food cost per portion is the actual cost of creating a single serving of a dish. It considers all ingredients, including spices, garnishes, and even waste!  This number helps you understand your profitability and set menu prices effectively.

AUTHOR
Sahana Ananth
Director, GTM - OneHubPOS

Sahana is a seasoned GTM leader with a passion for building startups. She excels in crafting GTM strategies for tech products, driving revenue growth.

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