Jamie Oliver wants to take the concept of customer feedback to a new level in restaurants—dish level, to be exact. Through a recently announced partnership with restaurant-feedback platform Yumpingo, the celebrity chef and his company are remodeling the menu and other operations at their Jamie’s Italian restaurants in the UK, basing the changes on real-time customer-feedback data.
Yumpingo bills itself a “food intelligence” company and “menu-development platform,” and it’s a little of both. Using data from surveys customers take at the end of their meal, the technology gives restaurant owners and executive chefs a numbers-driven overview of their business, all the way down to individual menu items. It promises to help restaurants develop better menus based on what is and isn’t working, to show off top-performing items, and turn recurring customers into brand evangelists, to use the term loosely. The platform was beta-tested across various Jamie’s Italian locations this past summer. Mexican-style food chain Wahaca is also trying it out.
So far, there hasn’t been a platform that digs quite this deep, which means Yumpingo could play a big part in using numbers to tell restaurants accurate stories about their food. There’s clearly a need for it. In a survey last year from Toast, 60 percent of respondents said “delicious food” was the most important factor at a restaurant (compared to 22 percent who chose good service as the top priority).
And many believe the feedback loop in the restaurant industry is just plain broken. It at least needs an upgrade from the ubiquitous customer comment card that arrives with the bill. There’s no guarantee those 4×6 bits of paper will make it to the manager’s desk. (Sometimes they go straight to the trash.) When they do, the next right action for owners, managers, and chefs isn’t always clear.
The system isn’t much more reliable on social media, where the commenters tend to be either really happy or really pissed off. As Toast pointed out, “If you want insightful feedback using the old model, you’ll have to ask a lot of questions on that card.” Which becomes expensive, not to mention, cumbersome.
Which brings us back to Yumpingo. Instead of a paper comment card at the end of the meal, guests get a Yumpingo tablet enclosed in a restaurant-branded bill presenter:
The survey takes about a minute to fill out. Yumpingo then gathers that data and can tell restaurant operators things like top-performing dishes, ones that are consistently rated low, when to adjust margins, and even when to rename a dish. During summer beta testing, Jamie’s Italian reportedly gathered over 3,000 reviews from guests, and apparently 40 times more feedback than before.
Other platforms are also busy testing and improving the concept of data-driven customer feedback. HowYa is another such company, also based in the UK. While it doesn’t drill down into individual dish performance, its list of promised benefits is nonetheless pretty comprehensive of the overall restaurant experience. In the States, Chilli’s—the daddy of all chain restaurants—has been using its tabletop service Ziosk for a few years now. In their case, the data, or “proof points,” influences “national-scale decisions” across the company.
But not every restaurant has the resources enjoyed by Chilli’s or Jamie Oliver, and it will be interesting to see the kind of data smaller chains and independent businesses will gather from in the coming years, and what actions they’re able to take based on it. Should more celebrity chefs implement Yumpino-like technology in their restaurants, the concept of dish-level feedback could become the next top seller in the restaurant biz.