What does it mean to personalize the guest experience in the restaurant? At last week’s Customize event in NYC, I had a conversation with Scott Wu of Compass Digital and Joel Montaniel of Sevenrooms to find out what “personalization” means in the context of the restaurant business and how brands — especially the smaller, independent ones — can do more of it.
In the restaurant biz, tech-driven personalization often has to do with making a guest feel like a regular patron even when they’re a casual visitor. There are tech tools out there now that can tell servers and managers a guest’s dietary preferences (“Lisa hates pickles”), special occasions (“It’s John’s birthday”) and even if they’re new to the neighborhood.
To get those things, you need data, which means you need customers to in some way or form opt-in to programs and hand over the kinds of personal information restaurants can use to create a more personable experience for guests.
You’d think the aforementioned loyalty programs would be the obvious answer, but Montaniel suggested otherwise “I think historically loyalty programs for hospitality has been a band-aid,” he said on the panel, adding that the reason these programs don’t work is because “they’re one size fits all.”
So if loyalty programs aren’t, in fact, the magic potion that will convince all customers to hand over personal data, what is? It could be a rethinking of the loyalty program itself, or it could be something completely behind the scenes customers don’t ever see. On the panel we chatted about possible solutions, the types of data restaurant owners and operators should be seeking, and how the personalization movement will impact smaller businesses.