Food For Thought: New Year. New customer expectations.

Our Sales and Partnership Manager, Paul Berryman brings us another 'Food for Thought' blog. This month he considers the importance of the customer experience and how operators can really personalise their customer service by adopting tech solutions to keep customers coming back. This includes an opportunity to attend one of our pointOne Integration Clinics at this years HRC show on 3-5 March in Excel, London, to see firsthand how you can integrate personalisation tech into your EPoS solution.

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What should we be focusing on?

The start of a New Year is always exciting with thoughts and ideas of what we should be doing over the next twelve months to drive our business forward. And the big question often boils down to, how can we improve our customer experience and go beyond expectations to win more business?

We continually hear about consumer change, the great rise of the tech consumed Millennial guest and the urgent need for us all to change how we do things, how we source things and how we enable our customers to order and engage with us in the way they want.

But what do customers really expect and what steps on the technological ladder should we be taking to keep pace with new consumer and competitor trends?

Across all demographics, with the exception of maybe some of the baby boomers, today’s guests are well-connected, tech savvy, and expect a high-quality customer experience, whether they are visiting a premium restaurant, fast-casual or take away outlet.

As a past restaurateur myself, in 2020 restaurants need to make a conscious shift toward offering a perfect blend of the right technology for their specific needs that will enable them to meet the growing expectation of convenience, personalisation and customisation.

One thing is for certain, over the next decade, technology and data will become a greater focus for every restaurant, as they adapt to growing consumer expectations in the on-demand world. Guests will expect a seamless digital experience and want their preferences known at each interaction with a restaurant, just as they do in the “new norm” of omni-channel retail.

The demand for personalised menus and marketing

The modern 2020 guest doesn’t just expect excellent service and a token generic marketing message. They expect a personalised experience at every touch point from online ordering, email, texts and in-store greetings. The days where personalisation meant “Hi John….” are over.

Thanks to the information EPoS platforms, Mobile Apps and online ordering continually feed us, delivering this new customer expectation is possible and affordable for nearly all operators.

In 2020, personalisation means personalised menus and promotions driven through intelligent data, something that is no longer the preserve of the big brands. It no longer means simply sending out a generic 20% off voucher for your birthday or celebrate your anniversary with a steak and glass of champagne for two for £35.99. In fact, it no longer is just about marketing and promotions.

It’s all about collecting data at every point into your central EPoS hub and having the right CRM tools and integrations to know past buying habits, likes, allergens and much more to transform your entire customer experience and marketing into a one powerful personalised approach.

In 2020, getting this right is critical to keep and win customers. The Economist described 2019 as “The Year of the Vegan” and my guess is, that 2020 will likely go much further to enable restaurateurs to tune into individual personalised dietary tastes and requirements.

One area of the restaurant customer experience we should be looking at is how we enable personalisation of our menus and recommendations. In a recent survey by Kurve, in the next three years, personalisation was cited as the most promising technology (54%), with predictive analytics cited as the second most promising (50%) and AI the third most promising (45%).  Here’s why.

Imagine having insightful data and the right technology to tell you what each of your guests is likely to order. This enables you to make the perfect in-store menu suggestion or promotional special offer to your customers, all of which helps create the feeling you really “know them” and propels their attraction to you.  

And for diners, especially those with special dietary requirements or preferences such as allergies and veganism, there’s nothing more frustrating than having to plough through a largely irrelevant menu to find a dish to order.

Just as online retailers already leverage customer data to only display products that consumers will be interested in, we too can start making use of customer data to tailor menu recommendations to individual customers.

Customers crave customisation. Can you cater for it?

Just as the young generation cannot get enough of customising everything down to their Nike trainers, its time restaurateurs joined the trend that is fast becoming an expectation.

Consumers today like to feel in control and not many like to be dictated to by retailers or hospitality operators. Today’s guests wants to be able to select, customise and control their own dining experience and at the same time, be able to research in their own time product information.

According to a consumer study by Deloitte, the number one factor that influences consumers when selecting a restaurant is menu options and order customisation.

Self-service kiosks for example, engage customers and make them part of their experience giving them freedom to easily customise their own orders. In doing so, the opportunity to fast upsell and cross promote increases with all the menu options at their fingertips.

And it’s not just self-serve tech that enables customisation, intelligent menus and tablet order taking enable us to serve up this type of flexible ordering, whilst enabling our EPoS platforms to gather more and more data. This in turn, will fuel up the information you need to gain true personalisation to mirror that of the “Amazon” customer experience which so many of our customers are coming to expect when dining out.

The smart phone rules. Convenience is king.

Combine the rise of the cashless society and our new found passion for our smart phones, mobile food and drink ordering along with fingertip access to menu ingredients, it is no surprise that research by Wi5 and Kanta revealed that more than two-thirds (69%) of those aged 18 to 34 expect restaurants to offer a mobile ordering solution.

This isn’t a preference or “nice to have”, it’s an expectation – especially with the average customer considering a queue of more than seven people too long to place an order at a coffee shop or QSR.

The customer’s own smart phone is the very technology that gives restaurateurs an easy and affordable window to not only order quickly and easily from anywhere from the home, bus or even table itself, but it also provides the largest segment of online booking. In fact, 60% of consumers book a restaurant online via their phone according to Big Hospitality magazine. 

It’s only around five years ago that many UK restaurants didn’t even have a customer database. Yet today, not having a CRM built into your PoS seems like the dark ages. With these new integrated and advanced CRM systems such as Como and Yoyo, comes the all-important Loyalty App.  These feature key services that today’s customers crave such as click and collect, pre-order, personalised incentives and offers, push notification and the opportunity to deliver detailed product ingredients, nutritional and allergen information.

It’s time to steal back our markets from third party Apps such as Just Eat and Uber Eats, and start ensuring our businesses “go-mobile” with our own branded Mobile Apps – it’s what our customers want.

So, when it comes to tapping into the smart phone opportunity, here are three simple mobile rules:

  1. Make sure your website is fully mobile optimised. The majority of bookings and online orders are done on smart phones.
  2. Invest in a good CRM platform which offers a mobile app to feature delivery, loyalty, click and collect, delivery, payment and product information functionality.
  3. Ensure your EPoS can accommodate all the mobile app integrations and required real-time data flow.

Wrapping up

I’m not suggesting that everything is going to proliferate overnight or that investing in every aspect of tech mentioned is right for every operator. It depends on your own unique customer base and their expectations. But it is important to think about what is happening and what your competition might be planning and doing.

If you would like to chat through your own ideas, why not visit me at stand H140 at HRC, ExCel on the 3-5 March 2020.

The team and I will also be running Integration Clinics at the show as we know how important integrating your EPoS with third-party ‘best of breed’ software is to building your bespoke EPoS solution. Click here to book a slot while at HRC and we can discuss what is best for your business needs.