If you work in foodservice and are looking for ways to rise above the competition, invest in personalized guest experiences. One of the latest buzz words in the biz, savvy restaurant owners, catering service operators, bakery and bar owners are pulling out all the stops to customize their menus for consumers and make them feel like they matter.
Otherwise known as ‘restaurant personalization,’ industry wide competition to deliver a better customer experience has never been higher. With statistics indicating that over 65% of diners will return and pay extra for venues that put their needs first, now is the time for you to develop a top-notch staff that can deliver. We already know that providing great food is essential to thrive in the world of foodservice and that customers will be loyal to establishments that cater to their menu preferences and special dietary needs. However, the modern-day concept of a personalized guest experience goes way beyond traditional norms.
So how can you make every one of your customers feel at home and important? Fortunately, there are multiple ways to cut through the competitive clutter and create a dining experience like no other. From catering to a particular demographic; to staff-driven efforts to make every guest feel welcome; to tech-driven strategies that collect key consumer data; to self-service tools that directly involve and excite diners – the menu of options abounds.
So let’s get a taste for the ways in which your eatery can enhance how customers feel from the moment they walk through the door all the way to payment, checkout, and what will hopefully be their many return visits to your esteemed establishment.
Greet and Meet
Begin by training your staff to greet customers with a warm, welcoming attitude and when possible, call guests by their first or last name. Brain scan studies reveal that there is no word people love to hear more than their own name, and dropping diners’ name (once or twice throughout the meal is sufficient) is also a proven strategy in Customer Relationship Management.
In the same vein, be sure to add ‘table touches,’ wherein your manager approaches guests to ask how their experience has been and how it could be made better. Asking pointed questions such as “Was your soup spiced to your liking?” makes customers feel valued and engaged, while reporting directly to management sends a message that their opinion matters and that their concerns are being addressed at the highest level. This type of intimate customer service policy is a sure-fire recipe for keeping guests coming back for more.
Provide your customers with something delicious even before they open a menu, such as free breadsticks, a vegetable and dip platter, a cocktail, or a taste of the house wine. Your guests will be excited and may even Instagram your treats to millions of online viewers who are searching for the next-best-thing in foodservice.
Loyalty programs have a proven positive track record in the foodservice industry. The good news is that whether you offer discounts, freebies, advanced notice about upcoming menu changes and specials, or other rewards, you will simultaneously be enhancing customer engagement and earning a place not only in your customers’ palates but in their hearts as well.
Asking customers for their opinions regarding new product offerings and even posting their feedback on your website or social media page is another way to make diners feel involved and to strengthen their commitment to your biz.
Consumers Hungry for Technology
According to National Restaurant Association reports and customer interviews, restaurant goers are hungrier and thirstier than ever for technology. A whopping 73% say that technology improves their restaurant experience and that they seek venues that serve up the latest technology. So what are some current tech-savvy ways to sway consumers in the direction of your food-and-beverage biz?
Like in all areas of commerce, technology has transformed the food and beverage industry and its trajectory is not expected to slow down anytime soon. With the swell of tech-wizard consumers, and especially tech-ravenous Gen-Y and Gen-Z restaurant goers (aka millennials and the newest generation), if your operation is not yet leveraging all the benefits of technology, it’s time to get with the program and update your service with the latest.
And speaking of the latest: If WiFi capabilities, online ordering, and point-of-sale (POS) technology were yesterday’s food industry stars, today’s technological must-haves are game-changing self-service kiosks. Featuring tableside digital touch screens that allow customers to place their own orders instead of being waited upon or standing in line, restaurant industry kiosks boast a long list of savory benefits. Some of their most compelling attributes include:
- Faster Service: A longtime issue in the biz, as well as a consumer pet peeve, has been the long waiting times, especially at peak rush hours. After decades of hit-and-miss efforts, the kiosk phenomenon provides a comprehensive solution, benefitting both consumers and service providers and strengthening approval ratings. With customers in charge of their own ordering process, labor costs are lowered and front-line staff can focus on engagement versus service. Moreover, research shows that implementing kiosks can reduce total order time by up to 40%.
- Increased Order Size and Sales: Remarkably, industry reports reveal that kiosks actually change consumer behavior, resulting in increased order size and a boost in sales. For example, in a study that compared sales results between human-manned cashier terminals and self-service kiosks, the latter resulted in more traffic, a 21% increase in order size, and more items in the cart at checkout.
- Reduced Human Error: Thanks to precision technology and built-in security platforms, human error, verbal miscommunications, and other barriers typical of waiter-customer interactions are eliminated. From web-based ordering to online checkout and payment, consumers can rest easy knowing their transactions are accurate, safe, and secure.
- Ease of Use: Designed with ease of use in mind, today’s user-friendly self-service kiosks allow customers to view pictures for each menu item, to peruse the most popular menu items and add-ons, to select foods which are suitable for their particular diet, and to have fun personally crafting and customizing their own meals.
- Invaluable Insights: For restaurant operators, kiosks eliminate the need to move patrons through waiting lines, reduce the number of waiting staff, track the most popular menu selections and busiest times of day, check real-time inventory levels, produce analytic reports, and provide a trove of insights about each and every customer and their respective dining habits, food and drink preferences, and buying patterns.
- Upselling: The same technology is also being harnessed for upselling. For example, industry giant McDonald’s uses their kiosks not only to speed up service and streamline daily operations, but on hot days, customers’ screens might recommend a refreshing slushy or ice cream sundae, followed by a list of options on the menu. And in another move clearly heralding the use of consumer behavior and predictive analytics to improve profits, McDonald’s recently announced its $300 million-dollar acquisition of Dynamic Yield, a startup company specializing in interpreting personal preferences-based algorithms that drive purchasing decisions.
- Kiosks Work: As always in the food industry, the proof is in the pudding. Consumers have made their approval for the avante-garde tools abundantly clear: Kiosks work and they are clamoring for more!
If you’re looking to up your foodservice game, the use of consumer data gleaned from restaurant tablets may be just the ticket you need to create personalized restaurant experiences for your guests and gain a competitive age. With the majority of millennials (today’s largest eating-out demographic) pledging their loyalty to businesses that allow them to ‘create something unique to me,’ now is your chance to invest in your customers and cash in on the lucrative opportunity.