Welcome Daniel! Here’s your favorite appetizer and a sample of something new.
As the saying goes, sooner or later, everything old is new again. Being welcomed to a restaurant as a “regular”—whose preferences and habits are well known—used to be the norm for many diners. I still remember the times when being greeted by name at your neighborhood diner was the norm. Then, with the advent of large casual chains and annual staff turnover rates of up to 150%, it became close to impossible for restaurants to personalize guest experience. But some emerging technology trends may enable restaurateurs to provide a personalized experience, once again!
Using technology to customize a customer’s experience is a well proven concept in the online sphere. For example, when Amazon analyzes customers’ order history to recommend the next book they should read. My wife and I grew to depend on Netflix’s personalized recommendations when deciding which TV series we should binge on next. In the brick-and-mortar sphere, department stores have begun equipping associates with tablets, allowing them to look up—while on the floor—information on the loyalty club member they are serving, providing her with personalized recommendations based on her purchase history.
But what about our own industry? Surprisingly, while a lot of efforts are being invested to personalize marketing messages to guests, or to improve their online ordering experience, little has been done to date to personalize the in-restaurant experience when guests actually dine in. Technology is often seen as a tool to optimize efficiency and increase sales—not as a means to improve guest experience.
Leading full-service casual restaurants have been deploying tabletop tablets for guests to order food, play games, and pay their checks. They also equip their servers with handheld tablets to enter orders efficiently at the table, rather than having to run back to a remote POS terminal. While originally touted for their operational efficiency, it turns out tablets also provide an excellent foundation for in-store personalization.
With new technology, customized menus based on a guest’s past orders and their dietary preferences or restrictions can be deployed both to tabletop tablets and handheld devices. Such personalization enhances the guest’s experience. Guests no longer feel like they are anonymous; they are recognized. A personalized ordering process further enhances the guest’s experience by hiding dishes to which a guest might be allergic, and highlighting items that are likely to be appealing. And how convenient is it to quickly order old favorites? Do I really need to specify that I like my burger medium, with swiss cheese, extra pickles, and no caramelized onions, every single time I go to my local diner?
Beyond the increase in guest satisfaction, personalization yields additional benefits to restaurateurs. Servers love it too: information on a guest’s preferences and past meals helps create a personal connection with the guest, and allow servers to provide a more efficient service. Personalization is a great tool for generating upsells, resulting in larger check sizes, increased tips, and reduced FOH employee turnover. Empowered staff is less likely to look for other opportunities, and last but not least: data.
Much like loyalty programs, the availability of personalization encourages guests to identify themselves at the restaurant, in turn helping restaurateurs to collect actionable data to guide their operations and marketing efforts. So, everything old is new again, with a twist: technology enables restaurateurs to do what they enjoy doing the most—providing a great guest experience—but this time: at scale!
CPO of Presto