Despite the year-on-year decrease in the overall rankings, Restaurants and Fast Food came second in the Czech sector rankings. In global terms, restaurant CEE is stagnating; conversely, in the Philippines, Romania and Thailand, they are battling for the number one spot in the sectors. In the Czech Republic, the Empathy and Resolution pillars kept them on the imaginary podium. They increased year-on-year this year. Customers increasingly value the willingness and helpfulness of the staff and like that brands are moving towards sustainability. And customers like being surprised, whether by a change in assortment or gifts for purchase.
The metrics indicate that this sector still has room for growth in the Time and Effort and Integrity pillars. This is also reflected in the winners’ podiums, where solid and unique brands dominate. Starbucks leads again, attracting customers with a personal approach (such as the Parking Pickup service and enabling clients to pay just part of the order and later the remainder), quality and sustainability. Next comes UGO, whose success reflects the growing popularity of healthy alternatives to fast food. Close behind is Ovocný Světozor, a Czech institution with a history going back more than 30 years.
Speed is critical to the sector’s success, as are convenience and, increasingly, a personal approach and a pleasant environment. At bricks and mortar establishments, customers value professional staff and attractive design. However, restaurants often lack staff because employees are offered jobs elsewhere that offer a similar salary for easier work. This could be one of the reasons for the deterioration in customer service over the last year, which was also reflected in the customer experience rating. The current influx of foreign nationals could offer hope for the hospitality industry. In online sales, brands that can guarantee easy ordering, fast delivery, and personalization lead the way. Wolt, which shot up the list this year, is an example. Mobile applications and logistic services are primarily responsible for this sector’s increase in sales overall.
Many orders with such tight deadlines also have their inevitable downside – most often substituted or incomplete orders. Conversely, such problems offer excellent potential for customer retention – a solution that is as “fast” as the food under preparation. Clients value staff empathy, acknowledgement of mistakes, and apologies. Compensation through a gift or the addition of points to the customer’s account comes as a pleasant surprise, resulting in the client ultimately remembering the problem as a positive experience.
Sustainability is playing an increasingly important role across all sectors. Starbucks is banking on this feature the most, this year defending its sector position for the third time. The company included paper straws in its strategy of limiting disposable cups. Besides, Starbucks is gradually introducing a new type of lid that allows drinking even without a straw. Customers also welcome the Nesnězeno [Uneaten] application. It enables them to “save” products from expiry while enjoying quality food at a reasonable price.
In this regard, the number two in the sector, the UGO chain of salad bars and juice bars, is not far behind. It clearly shows that a healthy diet is not just about fruit and vegetables but also the product quality, freshness, and sustainability. UGO developed this strategy in cooperation with Velké Němčice farm, which supplies the firm with vegetables that fail to meet aesthetic criteria. UGO uses these “ugly” but quality raw materials to produce soft drinks using pascalization technology, i.e., applying high pressure to preserve fresh fruits and vegetables.
For many customers today, simply waiting for their meal is not enough. They want to choose and order food online, track the preparation process, and pick it up on time. Or, they want the food to be delivered to their home or work. And the winners and climbers clearly show that faster service wins. The delivery service Wolt, which was the biggest climber in the sector, wins customers through lightning speed and a well-thought-out loyalty programme.
Wolt clients praise the easy-to-navigate application, the option to track orders in real time, and the speed and reliability of the couriers. With these in mind, the firm also devised a new service: the Wolt Market bricks and mortar shop, with express delivery of food and household items. Competing with Rohlík and Košík, so far this service has been operating in Prague only, but it is very popular and has doubled its sales since the beginning of the year.
And neither are industry leaders lagging behind in improving and speeding up online ordering systems. Besides its partnership with delivery services, Starbucks offers its own Starbucks Delivers service and has quickly responded to the increasingly frequent requests for express collection of orders. Thanks to the Parking Pickup service, the order can be picked up at a predetermined location, and customers do not need to get out of their car.
UGO also offers its own delivery service. Conversely, Ovocný Světozor operates an online shop enabling the selection and combination of cakes and snacks from the comfort of the customer’s home.
„Excellent food, although they got my order wrong a couple of times. Everything was sorted out in the end, and what’s more, they gave me something for free, so I was really pleased. I’ll definitely stop by again. The only issue is the lack of branches.“
Man, 24, UGO
„I first used Wolt a couple of weeks ago as it started operating where I live. I had a very positive experience, the delivery was smooth, and the quality was good too. I needed to sort out a mistake with them when points should have been included as part of a special offer. But it wasn’t a problem to add them. And I actually got more points as an apology.“
Woman, 23, Wolt
„I ordered cakes in a box through the Nesnězeno mobile application. It was great. I feel like I helped them not to waste food. Plus, it was a good deal.“
Woman, 48, Starbucks
„I have been a customer at their store (restaurant) several times. The food was tasty and fresh, and the prices reasonable. I would say that this is quite rare when it comes to healthy food at fast food joints, so I would come here again.“
Woman, 21, UGO
„I always buy cakes here if I can. They’re superb, and you can choose them online, so you can select what you need for a special occasion. If only they operated in the Vysočina region – during the summer, it’s difficult to transport cakes from Prague without them melting.“
Woman, 28, Ovocný Světozor
„A quiet and relaxing cup of coffee, excellent desserts, helpful employees – I’ve never had bad experiences. On one occasion we went to a coffee brewing demonstration, which was great. Then we bought a French press and some ground coffee.“
Woman, 73, Starbucks
„Shopping at Ovocné Světozor was very nice. I was most impressed by the shop assistants there, who were very pleasant and attentive. They had an overview of the product range, could advise what was in the cakes and desserts, and which one they would recommend for themselves. Their suggestion was perfect, and we really enjoyed it. And it was great that this sweet shop paid great attention to cleanliness.“
Man, 34, Ovocný Světozor
It is no longer enough for customers pay a reasonable price and leave the restaurant or fast-food outlet satisfied. They now also expect an experience, comfort, a standard of service, a stylish and pleasant environment, and values with which they can identify. In other words – order quickly, but then sit back and relax in your favourite establishment.
Ovocný Světozor has long understood what its patrons are looking for, why they visit the establishment, and how to please them. It is regularly involved in charity events (e.g., it provides refreshments to care homes), competitions, and attractive offers for customers. Valentine’s Day events and the annual free ice cream for report cards for schoolchildren are traditional favourites. But the company also excels in professionalism and empathy.
In response to current energy prices, we expect that some restaurants, particularly in villages and small towns, will face an existential crisis; some will even be forced to close. People will cook at home more often, which could boost supermarket sales and online grocery delivery services.
„I went to Ugo recently and had a fresh smoothie and lunch. We filled out the feedback form and got an iced tea for less. We enjoyed the tea and our visit.“
Woman, 29, UGO
„Satisfactory selection. Sometimes the quality varies at different branches... On one of the most recent visits, we sent back cold food.“
Man, 44, X Company