With Customize, The Spoon’s daylong NYC summit, just around the corner, we’re talking all things food personalization these days. And with personalization comes personal data, which you, me, and a growing number of consumers endlessly hand over these days to CPGs, grocery services, nutritionists, and, of course, restaurants.
I was reminded of the data portion of personalization earlier this week when I came across a new report from Technomic that noted just over half of U.S. consumers want to know more about how restaurants use their personal information. To be honest, I was surprised the exact number, 56 percent, wasn’t higher, though it probably will be by the end of this year.
Restaurants now have a growing number of ways to find out more about their customers, and since food preferences aren’t the most high-stakes form of personal data, we’re more willing to part with that information. As one survey respondent noted, “The benefits of using technology to order/pay for food and beverages from restaurants outweigh the risks to my personal data.”
Still, as more kiosks land in the front of house and more brands implement AI to better understand their customers, proving themselves trustworthy with customer data is crucial. So what does that look like?
There are the obvious steps around safety, of course: staying PCI-compliant, vetting third-party vendors, etc. Those are all back-end policies and procedures consumers neither see nor probably care about unless something like a data breach occurs.
What consumers do care about is getting a consistently good experience with a food or brand. I don’t just mean having an easy-to-use mobile app or quick drive-thru times. Restaurants must also be able to show customers that the personal data they hand over is what creates that consistently good experience. If a chain has my birthday stored in its system, it should automatically be able to offer some kind of reward (e.g., dessert) on that day. If a coffee chain already knows I can’t have sugary syrups in espresso drinks, its system should stop offering me those upsells when I order. Use the digital real estate to try selling me something I would actually buy, like a bagel.
Many restaurants, multi-national chains and indies alike, are already working to offer these kinds of experiences. Many more will follow as personalization becomes as common in restaurants as mobile apps have. Right now, however, it’s no sure bet your personal data is going to create your most optimal experience from one restaurant to the next, or even from one chain’s store to its next. Figuring out how to standardize some of these processes will be the next step in restaurant personalization.
Can Customization Lead to More Food as Medicine?
Food customization and personalization are happening outside the restaurant, too. Some of it involves using your DNA to tell you exactly what foods you should be eating.
My colleague Catherine Lamb explored that this week when she wrote about her experience with GenoPalate, a service that uses information gleaned from a user’s DNA to create a personalized nutrition plan for them.
As Catherine rightly points out, a tool like GenoPalate isn’t yet terribly useful to the average person, other than telling them to eat a healthy diet. However, for those who suffer from chronic illness or other issues, the service could offer an easier way for people to adjust their diets in order to live healthier, more comfortable lives.
I wonder about the food-as-medicine angle here. If GenoPalate can recommend certain foods and recipes for someone with, say major digestive issues, could a more personalized diet keep that person from having to heavily rely on over-the-counter pills and prescription meds. And to take things a step further, can personalization tech eventually help consumers make the needed behavioral changes necessary to eat better instead of simply swallowing another pill?
There’s tech that simply informs us and there’s tech that can actually help us alter our lifestyles for the better. When it comes to personalization, companies that can accomplish the latter will be the ones who stand out.
Last Chance for Customize Tickets
Since we’re talking food personalization today, now’s the point when I shamelessly plug The Spoon’s NYC event next week. If you want to know more about how your DNA could create a better diet or simply when The Cheesecake Factory will start offering you a free birthday dessert, head up to Manhattan on February 27 to join us for the event. Use code SPOON15 to get 15 percent off tickets.
Keep on truckin’,