Running a restaurant? How to give a personalized customer experience

It is time to wave goodbye to the long-serving model of standardization and embrace the power of personalization, in 2018. The potential is such that touch of personalization can go a long way in pocketing your customers’ loyalty. Without it, your customers are sure to present their loyalty to competitors, who understand the need for a customized restaurant experience. In a world where ‘custom-this’ and ‘custom-that’ are as customary as energizing morning coffee, it is befitting to cast the spell of “personalization” on restaurants to stimulate trust, growth, popularity and in due time, legacy.

Often, people turn a blind eye to the importance of personalization because, in all truth, it is impossible to create a unique experience for every customer, who steps into a restaurant. And what if the customer is accompanied by a friend or colleague? How then, can one create a personalized experience? It is honestly quite daunting at the outset. However, what one fails to realize is that most customers appreciate the smallest step taken towards creating a personalized experience.

The time is here for restaurants to cater to the needs and demands of next-generation restaurant goers – the millennials. And millennials love customization! While catering to the need of this high spending demographic, ‘knowing your customer’ can be the difference between stellar and mediocre service. People appreciate restaurants that offer memorable experiences. With the rapid evolution of technology, understanding one’s customer has become significantly easier. Using this technology to engage people in meaningful and personal ways is the challenge of the 21st century. Over 80% of restaurants are already on the path to a digitalized future, having adopted technology to improve their business.

Self-ordering kiosks and digital menus are the latest in personalized dining. It simplifies the process of ordering a meal while personalizing the menu to suit customers who are grouped under pre-set personas. McDonalds is a firm believer in the idea of personalized service. Their idea to introduce the concept – “experience of the future,” in all U.S. outlets by 2020 has opened the gates for innovative progress. The campaign is already gaining momentum, with the presence of self-ordering kiosks in almost 1/6th of stores in America.

The process is simple, the experience is hassle-free, and the logistics have improved significantly, resulting in increased profits. Though some have stated that this is a strategy to replace labour, McDonalds has rejected this claim. Labour is now being utilized to add value to service, while the self-ordering kiosks tend to receive and transmit orders. Customers benefit from the personalized experience of a digital menu and enjoy better service from staff who are now less tied up.

This advancement in POS software has unleashed the latent potential of the hospitality industry as a whole. The average expenditure of a customer has increased 15-20% in restaurants with self-ordering kiosks. Though this set-up may not seem very feasible for smaller players, there are other less expensive ways to win the approval of your customers:

Season your dishes with a story:

Next generation customers are always on the hunt for interesting titbits. An exotic dish, based on an appetizing story, can add flavour, and value to your service. For millennials, dining out is an experience of new food, taste and culture. They like to read about their food and its origin, to discuss with their friends. This, not only creates brand awareness through word of mouth, but nurtures trust in the minds of your customers. Brand loyalty is conceived when trust is pledged. To ensure that this process is nudged into action, one needs a novel idea to grab the attention of a customer.

Personalized links provide the best way to reach out to an audience. Not only do these links fall in line with the concept of personalization, but they talk to your customers and tell them what to expect on clicking a link. E.g., is more likely to get clicked than a link that contains a string of alphanumeric gibberish. These links also let you measure analytics, which is a wise way to measure ROI.

The more, the merrier:

Millennials are extremely outgoing. They are more open to newer ideas, philosophies, and cultures – most of which were barriers in times gone by. A quiet dinner is the very definition of dull. Ergo, restaurants have begun adopting a more communal setting for their dining rooms to encourage socializing.

Convenience over luxury:

Though the occasional lavish meal is always welcome, millennials do not have time for such indulgence. They prefer to have their meals on the go, which is good news for fast foods and delis. However, millennials are not ones to pick quick meals at the cost of their health. In fact, 30% of millennials eat products that are labeled organic, and at least 70% of restaurant guests are looking for healthy options on menus. Restaurants have already taken steps to promote healthy food at their establishment. 81% of people surveyed by the ‘National Restaurant Association’ said they noticed more healthy options on menus at restaurants over the past two years.

Personalize to popularize:

Ever wondered why Chipotle is such a popular outlet in the U.S.? It is because they provide the most customized meals that a person can get conveniently, affordably and speedily. Without this touch of personalization, it is very challenging for restaurants to stand out in the 21st century.

Tasty appetizers and snacks:

Millennials like to ingest their food in the form of smaller bites, rather than large meals. However, no restaurant can get away with food that isn’t up to the mark. 60% of millennials believe that great food is the most important differentiator when choosing a restaurant. They also care about the environment because their birth is at a time when the deterioration of the planet is showing very visible symptoms. Initiatives such as the use of organic cutlery can go a long way in convincing customers that you are a good global citizen. Don’t disregard the impact that this can have on your business!

Food from the backyard:

Though millennials love the experience of foreign dishes, they care a great deal about their own delicacies. However, to be the best in town is quite a challenge. Only the best restaurants are known for their food and service. The inclusion of live traditional music, ethnic attire for staff, and such, are distinctions that can make a restaurant stand out.

Personalization is undoubtedly the way forward. In days to come, its impact will bring about a drastic change in the operations and management of restaurants. The future is bright, and I, personally, cannot wait to feel the surge of personalization, which is hovering over the world of business.