Burger King UK has “embraced being a follower, with an ambition to be a fast one” Tim Love, the brand’s digital marketing manager told delegates at MCA’s Hostech event this week.

When BK UK, as the master franchisee, took over the company almost two years ago, it inherited a “very neglected entity both from a brand and technological perspective,” Love explained.

It had over ten POS providers and 20 different versions within those systems, thousands of different product number identifiers across different software, and an array of neglected franchisee relationships.

“We’re having to get our house in order and lay the foundations for things to be easier in the future. That’s why, right now, we are a follower,” he said.

Recognising that the innovative work of McDonalds and other competitors is “exceptional,” Love discussed the benefits of being a follower when infrastructure, resources or funding don’t allow you to implement a first mover try-and-fail approach.

“Every sector needs pioneers, the foresight and the wallet to enable solutions to be rolled out to the masses. But even when you have the resources you can be ahead of your time and misfire. Whilst it’s a luxury to do that, often innovations are made with great intention but without being able to fulfil customer need or desire,” he said.

“Whilst being a fast mover in our sector might make some short-term gains, being a later entrant allows followers to make sure that the solutions that we offer have the possibility of better functionality out of the box.

“In our case, it gives us time to prove concepts to franchisees which is an absolute requirement given the fact that our position, as a master franchisee, means we need some successes so we can prove that what we’re advising them to do will be beneficial to their bottom line.”

In collaboration with US colleagues, some of the concepts the brand has underway include credit card loyalty schemes, table service, re-imagined and improved kiosks and mobile app and a limited license plate recognition trial.

“What all of these solutions have in common is the fact that they’ve all been trialled and launched successfully in other QSR or retail spaces. And we’ll make use of the feedback given by consumers to ensure that when we release our versions, they’ll be the best they can possibly be.”

With the pace of tech innovation often ahead of industry demand, Love emphasised the value of embracing the follower position, of “having a simple vision and a set of questions which have to be answered before starting any kind of development.”

“For many of us working with difficult set-ups we have to embrace what others are doing and make the most of the learnings we take. In the end, that’s how we’ll offer the consumers the best possible experiences and see a return on our investments.”