The Internal and External Factors Affecting Quick Service Restaurant Management

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A smiling woman in line at a cafeteria
A smiling woman in line at a cafeteria (Image: CandyBoxImages/iStock/Getty Images)

Managing a quick-service restaurant successfully requires paying as much attention to what’s going on outside the restaurant as to what's going on inside. While both affect the business, external factors can make internal management decisions and duties easier or more difficult for both independent and franchise restaurant owners.

Consumer Preferences

Ever-evolving preferences involving what consumers want to eat and when they want to eat it pose significant challenges for quick-serve restaurant managers. Trends such as healthier eating habits and a move away from traditional meal times impact aspects of management such as menu choices, hours of operation and staffing requirements. For example, managers that used to schedule minimal staff during mid-afternoon hours might need to keep more staff on hand to accommodate customers who eat late lunches or early dinners. In addition, a bigger emphasis on snacking has forced many quick-serve restaurants to offer more bite-size items to remain competitive.

Health Issues

Increasing pressure from the federal government and advocacy groups to provide consumers with ingredient, nutrition and calorie-count information means managers must spend more time considering how their food is prepared. For example, addressing concerns about obesity or genetically-modified foods may require managers to change menu items and ingredients to satisfy health-conscious customers. A specific example is Chipotle Mexican Grill's 2013 decision to identify menu items containing genetically modified organisms and commit to replacing these with organic and locally grown foods.

Managing Employees

Personnel factors pose a variety of ongoing challenges and issues for quick-service restaurant managers. The low wages typical of the quick-service industry usually translate into high turnover rates and unmotivated employees. Reducing attrition and helping employees get excited about their jobs often requires a flexible and creative approach. For example, a manager might work around a student-athlete’s practice schedule or a parent's childcare constraints when making scheduling decisions. To keep workers motivated and make them feel valued, a manager must also come up with different levels of advancement opportunities such as shift manager or crew chief.

Internal Pressures

Quick-service restaurant managers often face customer traffic, cost control and profitability concerns that many full-service restaurants don’t face. Because the flow of customers often doesn't follow the normal script for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it can be difficult to determine how much staff should be on hand during different times of the day. In addition, the limited menu offerings characteristic of quick-service restaurants provide fewer options for modifying the menu. Finally, the low prices typically charged by quick-service restaurants mean they must operate with narrow profit margins, making it vital that managers be exacting in terms of controlling food and labor costs.

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