This post includes all the sessions from our Food Personalization Summit and is available only to Spoon Plus subscribers.
If you’d like to watch all of the sessions from Customize, you can subscribe to Spoon Plus here.
This post includes all the sessions from our Food Personalization Summit and is available only to Spoon Plus subscribers.
If you’d like to watch all of the sessions from Customize, you can subscribe to Spoon Plus here.
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.
Yesterday, The Spoon held its first-ever summit around food personalization in NYC. Customize, as we dubbed the event, brought together startups, researchers, investors, and innovators across the food industry to discuss the concept of personalization in the food industry and how companies can strategically apply it to their businesses.
With 12 sessions and dozens of panelists, way more was discussed than I could reasonably fit into a single post. So to start, here’s a high-level view of some of the major takeaways from the event, and a hint of what businesses should be considering when it comes to making food more personal for their users.
1. “Personalization” means many things in many contexts.
The repeat theme of the day was that personalization has no set definition — nor will it ever. In a restaurant, it means using tech to make a person feel like a regular, even when they’re a brand-new customer. When it comes to grocery shopping, it might be getting a food prescription from a doctor, then getting help planning your weekly meals from an in-store nutritionist, as Kroger is currently doing in Cincinnati. And if we’re talking about fighting or preventing chronic disease, personalization is about understanding the microbiome in your gut and using that information to make healthier food choices unique to you.
Panelists and attendees agreed that we won’t see a rigid definition of the word “personalization” any time soon. Rather, it will remain fluid. In response, tech companies must make their products and services flexible enough to be useful in many different personalization contexts.
2. Data is key. But so are valuable customer experiences.
You don’t get personalization without data, and the key to building more personalized products and services lies in getting users to part with their personal information. That’s not too tall an order when it comes to restaurants, where customers happily fork over their names, addresses, and hatred of cilantro in exchange for faster service and more accurate orders. When it comes to more sensitive information — say, health conditions — the idea of personalization gets a little more controversial.
In her keynote at the event, Mintel Analyst Melanie Bartelme pointed out that customers will be more willing to share their data if the product, service, or experience they get in return has real value for them. Other panelists echoed her words throughout the day. That value could come in the form of actionable diet and cooking advice, food products that noticeably improve our health, or simply a faster, more seamless experience with a piece of technology. Providing that “transaction of value,” as Bartelme called it, is what will separate the winners from the losers when it comes to personalization.
3. Personalization must have empathy for the entire food system.
At the end of the day, Mike Lee pointed out that personalization is the ultimate example of human-centered design, where making the user happy is the driving force behind every step of business and product development.
That may or may not be a good thing, depending on the context. Lee pointed out that sometimes this user-centric approach can actually negatively impact other areas of the food system. Food delivery is a prime example. Customers crave speed and convenience, and restaurants have responded by offering on demand meals at the touch of a button. Those meals, however, come packaged in plastics and other non-biodegradable materials accompanied by disposable cutlery and other waste items that go straight to the landfill. Convenience has social impacts as well. The model for food delivery, whether it’s restaurant meals or grocery orders, rarely factors in the conditions of couriers shuttling the food to customers’ doorsteps.
As Lee suggested, successful personalization in the future needs to be “empathetic” to the entire food system. On the same panel, Food-X’s Peter Bodenheimer agreed with Lee, adding that part of creating this empathy will rest with VCs, who ideally should invest in companies that are prioritizing social and environmental responsibility alongside growth and profitability.
These takeaways are just a tiny sample of the topics, ideas, and advice covered yesterday at the event. Over the next few days, we’ll be posting more recaps and lessons on what it takes to offer true personalization in the digital age. Stay tuned, and check back often for more.
If you’ve ever searched for a recipe online, odds are you’ve perused at least a few offerings on Yummly. This massive database started out with a focus on personalizing recipe discovery. Then, almost three years ago, appliance giant Whirlpool bought the company and the stakes changed. In the words of Greg Druck, Chief Data Scientist at Yummly, the company has now expanded from “personalizing recipe discovery to personalizing the entire digital kitchen.”
Curious? So were we, which is why we invited Druck to speak at Customize, our food personalization event happening next week in NYC. (Hot tip: There are still a few tickets left, and you can get 15 percent off with code SPOON15.)
To ramp up to the main event we asked Druck a few questions on what exactly a personalized kitchen might look like and what tools it’ll feature (hint: digital assistants and something called a “virtual pantry.”). And yes, the kitchen of the future should be able to perfectly cook a steak to your personal definition of doneness, every single time.
Check out the Q&A below. We’ll see you in New York!
Tell us a little bit about what Yummly does.
Yummly is the most advanced AI-powered digital kitchen platform with over 25 million users. Yummly started out as a personalized platform for discovering online recipes. We are now expanding our offering to support the future of the kitchen. We want to help our users achieve their cooking-related goals with smart appliance integrations, premium guided recipes, and tools for meal planning and shopping.
Yummly places strong emphasis on personalized recommendations for the consumer. How do you optimize those suggestions?
The Yummly recipe ingestion pipeline (pun intended) builds comprehensive representations of over 2 million recipes by inferring latent structure. Machine learning models parse the recipe and map it onto our food knowledge graph, inferring nutrition information, cuisine, techniques, difficulty, and more. This provides a foundation for content-based recommendation algorithms.
Yummly also learns taste profiles for 25 million users by combining explicit and implicit feedback based on behavior and usage. Machine learning systems synthesize this data along with other contextual and ambient signals including day of the week, season, and location to create dynamic personalized feeds for each of our users.
Has Yummly’s acquisition by Whirlpool changed its approach to personalization (by gathering data from home appliance usage, etc)?
Whirlpool’s acquisition of Yummly has allowed us to expand from personalizing recipe discovery to personalizing the entire digital kitchen. We believe personalization is the key to helping people achieve their goals, such as eating healthy, saving money, and reducing stress. Combining Whirlpool appliances as the hardware with Yummly software and machine learning systems allows us to personalize the experience to each home cook.
For example, Yummly will recommend personalized meal plans and shopping lists — in addition to individual recipes — based on a user’s tastes, goals, and appliances. We’ll keep track of the ingredients they have on hand and incorporate information from their “virtual pantry” into recommendations that will help them save money by reducing food waste.
Integrations with the Yummly Smart Thermometer and Whirlpool ovens will allow Yummly to adapt cooking algorithms to each user’s needs: for example, cooking a steak to a user’s personal definition of doneness. Combining these ideas into one seamless experience will substantially reduce friction in the kitchen.
How do you envision recipes (and the recipe recommendation process) getting even more personalized over the next 5 years?
Conversational digital kitchen assistant AIs will help people create plans and recommend custom recipes that are much more personalized to specific needs and more useful for achieving goals in the kitchen. AI will guide you through the week, providing ongoing personalized advice, as well as gamifying and tracking progress against goals over time.
Your AI services will personalize a weekly meal plan and schedule for your household and then have the ingredients delivered to your home. Your plan may include a custom stir-fry recipe that uses up the carrots and chicken that were going bad (recognized using in-kitchen cameras) to save money and reduce food waste. It may avoid pasta or adjust ingredients according to your personalized nutrition plan to help you maintain a low-carb diet (because your assistant knows you’re not tracking well against your weight-loss goal). It might include a cheesy broccoli recipe to help you achieve your goal of getting the kids to eat more vegetables. It may even suggest cooking the chicken dish on Sunday to have an easy meal ready for Monday, reducing the stress of meal planning. Lastly AI may automatically adjust the bake time and temperature to make the dish extra crispy for you, and monitor cooking using a smart thermometer, notifying you when it is done.
This is just the tip of the iceberg — get your tickets to Customize to hear Druck’s fireside chat, where we’ll discuss how personalization will reshape the consumer kitchen. Get 15 percent off tickets with code SPOON15.
What should you eat tonight? That question can be tricky to answer, especially if you’re trying to use up leftovers while feeding folks with diverse eating preferences and dietary restrictions.
It’s also the exact question that Erik Andrejko is trying to solve. Andrejko is the CTO of Meal Hero (formerly wellio), a personalized meal planning app that’s part of Kraft-Heinz’s Evolv group. At The Spoon’s Customize event in NYC next week, he’ll be speaking about how AI is the secret sauce that will shape the food personalization revolution.
So how exactly will AI reinvent data, discovery, public policy and more within the food ecosystem? You can learn some of the answers by reading Andrejko’s Q&A below, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you want the full story you’ll have to see Andrejko speak at Customize next week! Use code SPOON15 to save 15 percent on your tickets.
Tell us a little bit about what Meal Hero does, and how it fits within Kraft Heinz.
At Meal Hero, we are empowering people to improve their lives by eating well. The consumer relationship with food is evolving, and we see supporting personalized food experiences, in particular supporting home cooked meals, as an essential part of a broader strategy of nourishing a growing world.
To that end, we have developed a personalized meal planning application that connects seamlessly to digital grocery fulfillment. It solves the problem of “what’s for dinner tonight?” for the 89 million US households that cook dinner 5+ times a week, making those occasions tasty, nourishing, convenient, and personalized to each household’s needs.
What are some opportunities to bring customized dining into the consumer kitchen?
Dining at home is a complex challenge with multiple participants. One household we studied led by Susan, a working mom of three, exemplifies this complexity. Susan’s decision-making process starts in the morning as she glances at her fridge while cooking breakfast to determine what to use up for dinner. She then revisits the decision at the end of her workday, going through a complex decision tree that takes into consideration the ingredients she has available, one kid’s tree nut allergy, two kids’ distaste for spicy food, and her own desire to make something pescatarian at a reasonable cost before deciding that she can make fish tacos. As shopping for the missing ingredients and cooking take longer than expected, she’s forced to give the kids some snacks, and by the time the meal is ready, the kids are no longer hungry. We can reduce or eliminate the obstacles that people like Susan face in realizing their aspirations to nourish their households through software technology that embodies the expertise of a personal chef, a personal nutritionist, and a personal shopper.
What’s the biggest challenge facing companies trying to tap into consumer demand for personalization?
The biggest challenge centers around data: gathering it, organizing it, and sharing it. The cold-start problem is well noted in the field of data science and continues to be a hurdle for food personalization as companies struggle to initially gather or generate useful data. Once sufficient data is gathered, a system must be devised that is comfortable working with natural inputs and outputs to derive domain intelligence, which we have done with our Food Intelligence Platform. For the system to improve, it must continuously ingest data from users, whose app fatigue can impede the learning process if the system cannot yet generate sufficient value to combat abandonment. Finally, no firm operates in a vacuum with only its consumers, so the whole value chain must mobilize to adopt standardization, transparency, and accessibility of data.
What do you think personalized food or drink will look like 5 years down the road?
Personalization will evolve to hyper-personalization as consumers’ expectations in the food domain increase over time to match those in other, more digitally mature domains (e.g. entertainment). We see that evolution occurring in the following sequence:
1. Convenience – How do we bridge the gap from the 80 percent of consumers who use digital tools for grocery planning and discovery to the 3 percent of grocery transactions that occur online? As consumer adoption of digital grocery grows, the connectivity from planning & discovery to commerce must become seamless.
2. Lifestyle – Diet and lifestyle-based digital shopping journeys are increasingly becoming available, but none close the loop on going from what to eat to getting access to them conveniently and at a reasonable cost.
3. Health – Food as medicine is just beginning to kick into gear. In about 5 years, we see food tech and health tech converging to create new and powerful consumer experiences. While we see this beginning to happen in pockets, it is not at scale.
In order for the food ecosystem to deliver on those personalized consumer values, a complete evolution is necessary across the value chain (ie: in data, discovery, public policy, standards, etc.). AI will be critical in accelerating the solutions to these challenges.
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’,
For all of us trying to eat healthier — especially those who are battling a chronic disease — figuring out exactly how certain foods will affect your body is critical. That’s what Viome is trying to help people determine. The startup examines your microbiome to create personalized dining recommendations (and recipes) featuring foods that are an ideal fit for your biology.
We’re pretty fascinated by the whole concept of microbiome-based eating, so invited Guru Banavar, the CTO of Viome, to speak at The Spoon’s Customize event in New York on February 27. If you want to join us (you should!) there are only a few tickets left, so get on it! (Use code SPOON15 to get 15 percent off.)
To give you a taste of what’s to come, we asked Banavar a few questions about microbiome-driven eating, his time learning about AI with IBM Watson, and the biggest challenges for selling personal nutrition.
This interview has been edited for grammar and clarity,
Tell us a little bit about what Viome does.
Viome is on a mission to help people take control of their health and ultimately prevent and reverse chronic disease. We do this by understanding people’s biology on a molecular level, especially in their gut microbiome, using our proprietary metatranscriptomics technology combined with powerful AI-driven analysis to deliver them personalized insights and recommendations.
What’s the difference between personalized nutrition based on your microbiome (gut bacteria), and personalized nutrition based on your DNA?
Our microbial genome is between 2 to 20 million microbial genes, making our genetic material 99% microbial. This means that to fully understand the human body we must start by collecting data and analyzing the gut microbiome – the richest source of our microbes.
Therefore, the first difference is that DNA tests only look at DNA (your genes), which never change throughout your life — even if you develop a chronic disease. We at Viome look at RNA (gene expression, or what your genes are actually doing within your body) which is dynamic and changes all the time. It’s a better indicator of overall wellness and chronic disease. Since any two humans share [more than] 99 percent the same DNA, but only about 5 percent of the same microbial DNA, each person’s microbiome is incredibly unique — what works for you may not work for me.
In the past you’ve worked for a long time at IBM Watson. How do you think your AI experience has helped in the personalized nutrition field?
I was involved in solving a wide variety of problems from different industries at IBM Watson, so I quickly learned that AI is not one thing but really a toolbox of many techniques that you need to put together depending on the problem you’re solving. Personalized nutrition based on molecular data is a very challenging field, and I brought my experience with the full range of AI tools & techniques to get the fastest and the most effective solution.
Viome currently recommends diets and recipes. Do you see it ever working in tandem with foodservice or grocery?
We already see many of our customers reporting that they use their Viome app in the grocery store, when they are choosing foods and supplements online or when they are selecting from restaurant menus. As we build new services within our app we are looking to make this frictionless, and we are in early stage discussions with a number of large grocery retailers and international food companies…. watch this space!
What do you think is the biggest challenge for personalized nutrition?
We have actually found that once people understand the technology, take the test, they see amazing results, so our job is less about acceptance and more about awareness and inspiration.
The science around personalized nutrition is advancing rapidly with multiple new papers published every day, especially connecting the microbiome and chronic diseases like Diabetes, Obesity, IBS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimers and Cancer. Our world class science team is working with partners like the Mayo Clinic, Kaiser, United Healthcare and GSK, among others, to not only keep on top of the science but advance it through clinical studies and trials. Not all companies who give personalized nutrition recommendations with the same depth of scientific rigor and understanding, so education is important.
Banavar will be speaking about microbiome-driven personalized nutrition along with the CEO of Sun Genomics at Customize! Don’t miss out — use code SPOON15 to get 15 percent off your ticket now, before they’re gone.
A few weeks ago I rubbed my cheek with a swab, slipped it a vial of liquid, and sent my DNA off to be tested. This was part of a service from GenoPalate, a startup that uses information gleaned from DNA to create personalized nutrition plans for users. Having never done any sort of DNA test before, I was surprised at how simple it was: the entire process took maybe three minutes, including creating an online account.
Cut to 10 days later and I got an alert that my GenoPalate report was ready. I downloaded the GenoPalate app, logged in with my email and password, and prepared to get new insights into my ideal diet.
What I found was surprisingly . . . unsurprising. I was told I should eat a diet that’s moderately high in carbohydrates, high in fiber, and has low levels of sugar and saturated fat (but is high in “healthy” fats). I’m likely lactose intolerant (can confirm: yep) and likely not sensitive to gluten. I’m a fast caffeine metabolizer and a normal alcohol metabolizer. I have gene variants that indicate I might need to consume higher levels of Vitamin A, E, and D, among others.
I also got a list of my recommended fruits, vegetables, starches, proteins, and cheeses. These included raspberries, squash, and lettuce, as well as bagels, spaghetti, gruyere cheese, eel, and chicken liver.
Is it fun to discover that my “best” fruits include kiwis? Sure. But after reading through my GenoPalate results, I realized that I didn’t really discover anything I didn’t already know. Basically, the test told me I should be eating a pretty basic healthy diet.
That said, I’m not necessarily GenoPalate’s target audience. I’m already quite conscientious about what I eat and have done a good bit of trial and error to determine what foods make me feel healthy and energized. For someone with a chronic illness, or who suffers from low energy or persistent digestion issues with an unknown cause, GenoPalate’s reports could be more revelatory.
I also didn’t get to try GenoPalate’s recommended recipe service, which, for an additional $30 ($199 as opposed to $169), will give you five recipes based off of your genetic profile. In retrospect, that would have been helpful insight to have. Five recipes aren’t a lot, but they could provide some building blocks for future meal plans and guidance on how to turn the barrage of information in the nutrition analysis (e.g., eat raspberries, not blueberries) into something actionable.
In fact, that’s really the problem with GenoPalate. You can see its potential — discovering which foods to eat to make you feel your best — but right now the technology is too early-stage to be all that helpful for the average person (i.e. me). I haven’t tried them yet, but I imagine services like Viome (which does include recipe recommendations) and Sun Genomics, which also give personalized nutrition reports, are at a similar place. One of the more useful services is DNANudge, which also uses your DNA to guide your grocery shopping outings and push you towards brands that are a better fit for your biology.
Overall these services can give you some high-level information, but they’re not quite ready to be a granular guide. That said, I still think there’s huge potential in the space. As the technology evolves I imagine these services will be able to become more helpful, possibly even linking up with recipe recommendation services as well as health trackers to create a super-curated, all-in-one dietary guide. With these added capabilities, services like GenoPalate could create personalized, shoppable meal plans, and even tweak recipes to meet your health goals (losing weight, training for a marathon, etc.)
If you’re curious about the potential for personalized food and nutrition, then you’ve got to join us at our Customize event on February 27th (next week!) in NYC. GenoPalate’s CEO Dr. Sherry Zhang will be there speaking about biology-driven dining. If you want to come, you can use code SPOON15 to get 15 percent off tickets.
When it comes to food, I suffer from a devastating condition called choice paralysis. What do I want for dinner? Kale or spinach salad for lunch today? This ice cream shop has how many flavors?
First world problems, I know. But choice paralysis is one thing that personalization could help: by looking at data from past purchases and nutritional predispositions, we can more easily get high-quality recommendations for what to cook and eat, both in and out of our home.
In search of this type of future-focused perspective, we asked Peter Bodenheimer, partner at food business accelerator Food-X, to share his thoughts onstage at Customize. He’ll join us on February 27th to give a birds-eye view of the personalization trend, share how startups are trying to tap into the trend, and give a vision for the future of individualized dining. He’ll also give some insight into what challenges are ahead for companies trying to make personalized food (cough, consistency, cough).
Check out the Q&A below to get an idea of what Bodenheimer will be talking about at Customize — then get your tickets to hear him live in NYC! (Use code SPOON15 for that sweet 15 percent off).
Food-X is an accelerator for cutting-edge food tech startups. Have you seen an increase in interest in food personalization recently?
Absolutely. The number of companies that we see who are making personalization a core part of their business differentiation is through the roof. Of course, that makes it harder to lean on it as a key point of differentiation, but at the same time, there are so many different ways to approach it that every time I look at a new company there seem to be unique wrinkles to their specific product.
What are some interesting approaches you’ve observed companies taking to capitalize off this trend?
We’ve seen people using big data, personal preference, genetic data, the latest medical literature combined with personal data, and so many other ways to provide product offerings that are designed to give each user their own optimal experience. In my opinion, the most interesting ones are those that are combining different sources of data to provide better context and products that match better with consumer demands. For example, we’ve seen products where the end goal is to layer genetic data, with specific types of consumer preference data to provide highly tailored recommendations that are focused on both health and taste.
What do you foresee as some of the main challenges for companies looking to capitalize on food personalization and/or food as medicine?
There is a fine line between saying you are going to deliver something, whether that is an experience or a health benefit, and being able to deliver it consistently. The challenge with keeping every unique consumer happy is just that — they are all unique. What works well for me, may or may not work well for you. This coupled with the ever changing scientific literature can be more challenging as companies scale and need to have a supply chain that is reliable and flexible.
How do you envision the future of personalized dining evolving over the next five years?
More choices around both the food products and the delivery mechanism for those products. This means more services that allow people to better understand their unique physiology, genetic predisposition, and then for companies to provide more products that help them easily optimize their nutrition. What forms that will take is going to be interesting to guess at, but I’m confident that in 5 years we’ll have more choices while at the same time having to make fewer choices without data.
Use code SPOON15 to get 15 percent off your tickets for Customize — they’re going fast! We’ll see you in NYC.
There’s a lot to be said about becoming a restaurant regular: it usually means better service, personal touches, and an overall sense of community (ya know, if you tip well).
But what if you could effectively be a “regular” at every restaurant you step foot in, whether it’s around the corner from your house or on the opposite coast? That’s what BoH restaurant tech SevenRooms is trying to make a reality. The company lets restaurants track customer data to access guest information for more personalized service.
SevenRooms has its eye squarely on the future of dining, which is why we’re so excited to have its CEO, Joel Montaniel, speak at Customize at the end of this month. As a little amuse bouche we asked Montaniel a few questions about how he thinks the rise of personalization will change the way we eat out. Hint: Get ready for servers to remember your dietary restrictions, birthday, and favorite dessert.
Check out the Q&A below, then grab your tickets (discount code SPOON15 for 15 percent off!) to hear him speak in person on February 27th.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Tell us a little bit about what SevenRooms does.
From neighborhood restaurants to international, multi-concept hospitality groups, SevenRooms is a hospitality platform that helps operators unlock the full revenue potential of guest data. Combining operations, marketing and guest engagement tools into one front-of-house solution, the platform helps operators to maximize profits, build brand loyalty and enable personalized guest experiences.
As restaurants become more automated, how do you think foodservice can maintain a personalized touch to keep customer loyalty?
In a recent study, SevenRooms found that 1 in 5 diners (20 percent) want to book a reservation at a restaurant that could create a personalized menu for them – clearly showcasing that the foodservice industry must take advantage of automated personalization to help deliver these expectations and build loyalty.
At SevenRooms, we see the operations arm of restaurants continuously becoming more intertwined as technology is integrated, making processes more seamless as the power of guest data is unleashed. Through direct integrations with POS systems and other technology partners, we can create complete guest profiles including dining preferences, allergies, order history and more. The restaurant industry is centered on human interaction; and by helping restaurants use technology to understand who their guest is and what they want, we can empower operators to have the most personalized customer interactions possible.
In addition to enabling these seamless, memorable experiences, technology can also help personalize guest marketing to draw them back in. Robust historical data helps restaurants more accurately market to diners, ensuring they’re able to reach the right guests, at the right time, with the right message. For example, if a diner has never ordered wine at a restaurant, it likely wouldn’t make sense to invite them to an exclusive vineyard tasting event.
Embracing technology provides restaurants with the ability to elevate experiences by creating and promoting specific events and perks that speak to their guests’ interests, solely by tapping into data collected across the guest journey.
Why do you think that the personalization trend has been on the rise lately? What about this particular time has given it opportunity to grow?
With the advancement of technology, consumers now expect more from their daily interactions, whether it’s suggested shoes for purchase on Amazon, songs to listen to on Spotify or shows to watch on Netflix. Hospitality is no different. According to recent research, when staying at a hotel with multiple properties, 29 percent of Americans expect their preferences and guest profile to be easily communicated between properties.
This clearly showcases that in the hospitality industry, it’s paramount to personalize the guest experience, exceeding expectations and ensuring the guest feels special in the process. For example, when a regular who happens to be vegetarian is seated, the waiter should have the new vegetarian pasta special on hand to recommend with the diner’s favorite white wine. If it’s a guest’s birthday, a complimentary glass of champagne can really go the extra mile to turn a casual dinner into a loyal guest.
From hotels to restaurants and nightlife venues, guests appreciate and desire personalization, especially at places they’ve visited before, with over half of Americans saying that a waiter/waitress simply remembering them from a previous visit would make their experience more memorable. The data, now available through technology, has afforded venues the opportunity to create these personalized experiences and fine tune their service based on customer preferences, in turn giving the trend more room to grow.
How do you see personalization evolving with shifting restaurant setups, new technology, and an increased consumer demand on convenience?
We’ve seen significant disruption in the restaurant industry in the last few years — especially when it comes to increased delivery options and a rise in consumer expectations both inside and outside the restaurant. Convenience is king — and consumers want faster, more seamless choices. But as consumers increasingly demand this convenience, we are also seeing them expect much more personalization out of their experiences when they choose to dine-in a restaurant.
A quarter of Americans admit they wouldn’t return to a restaurant if their dining experience wasn’t memorable or special, so restaurants must continue to evolve how they deliver personalized experiences.
The future of this will come with new voice and wearable technology. Today, operators use tablet and computer interfaces to access guest information — from reservation times, to whether or not they’re celebrating a special occasion or an allergy. However, by harnessing new voice technology, SevenRooms users will, instead, be able to voice queries like “Alexa, who’s at Table 12?” to find out robust data on the guest — learning that it’s a birthday party for a regular diner whose favorite dessert is the vegan chocolate mousse.
This enables the in-service team to create a new guest touchpoint that will boost loyalty — having the GM touch the table to deliver birthday wishes, and offering a complimentary dessert — all without having to visit the host stand to find out the information. This seamless personalization experience will only continue to grow as the status quo for guests across the hospitality industry.
It’s February 14, which means there’s a good chance you’ll give or receive chocolate at some point today. The chances that that chocolate will be 3D printed? Slim to nil.
But all that could soon change thanks to Barry Callebaut AG, a company that makes roughly one-fourth of all the world’s chocolate, including that used by well-known brands like Hershey’s and Nestlé. According to a press release from the Swiss corporation, it will work with gourmet clients to let them print personalized chocolate designs en masse through Mona Lisa, its chocolate decoration brand. In short — Barry Callebaut will help brands print customized chocolate creations.
Business partners can develop their own custom designs and specify size parameters for their chocolate. They’ll then share those with Barry Callebaut, which will print the custom chocolates in large quantities at its Mona Lisa 3D Studio. Barry Callebaut can print thousands of a particular design succession thanks to its new 3D printing tech, which keeps melted chocolate at the perfect temperature for speedy printing.
Chocoholics will have to wait a while before they can buy these 3D printed creations in stores, though. Barry Callebaut will first work with high-end clients, like hotels, pastry chefs and coffee chains. Its first customer will be Dutch hotel chain Van der Valk. Down the road, Barry Callebaut will open up its tech to use with manufacturers such as Nestlé and Hershey.
For aspiring chocolatiers who don’t want to wait, there are some home options. Mycusini is a countertop chocolate printer (though it’s only available in Europe). The Mayku Formbox lets you print DIY chocolate molds at home. And while it’s not available yet, but the Cocoterra lets you make bean-to-bar chocolate right in your kitchen.
Barry Callebaut’s tech is perfectly situated to tap into a trend we at the Spoon have been seeing everywhere lately: personalization. The chocolate-maker can’t produce individualized chocolates for every person, obviously — the Mona Lisa 3D Studio will be printing chocolates on a large scale. But with this new 3D printing service, businesses can get more creative with their sugary marketing and branding efforts. For example, Starbucks could make a line of hot chocolate sticks (it’s a thing!) in the shape of their signature coffee cups. Or your favorite hotel line could make pillow chocolates shaped like pillows!
As consumer demand for personalization grows, CPG companies are hustling to figure out how to tap into the trend — even when manufacturing in massive quantities. In fact, that’s one of the questions we’ll be tackling at Customize, our food personalization summit happening in NYC on February 27th! If you want to come, use code SPOON15 to grab 15 percent off your tickets.
Ever wonder how a company as huge as Kroger can possibly tap into a trend as focused on the individual as personalization? The short answer: lots and lots of data.
That’s why we’re so glad to have Brian Kathmann, Director of Commercial Platforms, Healthcare for Kroger’s data arm 84.51°, on board to speak at our food personalization summit Customize later this month. He and Bridget Wojciak, a nutrition expert for Kroger Health, will do a deep-dive into how the grocery giant is analyzing data to help consumers eat to meet their specific health goals using nutrition scores, food recommendations and more.
It’ll be a fascinating discussion into how big corporations are starting take concrete steps to capitalize on personalization, specifically within the food-as-medicine realm. (Hot tip: Use code SPOON15 to get 15 percent off your tickets.)
If you want a taste of what’s in store, check out our Q&A with Kathmann. Enjoy, and we’ll see you in New York!
Tell us a little bit about 84.51° (which is part of Kroger)
Our interesting name, 84.51°, represents the longitude of our headquarters in Cincinnati, but it’s also a nod to our longitudinal approach to understanding our customers and personalizing their experiences.
We excel at challenging convention and pushing beyond the limits of what’s comfortable with fearless hearts and limitless minds. Our goal is a relentless customer-first commitment; we put customers first in everything we do.
At 84.51° you guys are all about data. How do you collect and leverage consumer data to better optimize product offerings?
We look for ways to serve up unique and amazing customer experiences using cutting-edge science and technology. We gather and analyze data from more than 60 million U.S households across 35 states, resulting in meaningful insights and executions that drive business results.
Using a proprietary suite of tools and technology, we deliver unparalleled data science and predictive analytics to transform customer data into actionable knowledge. And we deliver personalized marketing strategies for our Kroger customers and more than 1,400 consumer-packaged-goods companies.
Food as medicine is a growing trend in the grocery space. How are you working to tap into that at 84.51° and, by extension, at Kroger?
A great example of how we’re (Kroger and 84.51) enabling customers to bring “Food as Medicine” to life is through the OptUp score and App. We know with nearly endless food options; it can be challenging for our customers to make healthy choices.
The science and personalization behind OptUp is to solve that customer problem and make it easier for our customers to shop. OptUp simplifies healthy shopping, by providing easy to use nutrition scoring and food recommendations based on what YOU buy.
OptUp enables users to also track their nutritional progress overtime, offer healthier coupons and incentives, and allow users to make wholesome choices for the entire family, right through the app, and soon – through our APIs to other partner platforms and Apps.
What do you think personalized food or drink will look like 5 years down the road?
A great question… if only I had a crystal ball! We know it will continuously evolve and must be unique to the individual, and personalized to their choices, their goals, on their time, and through their preferred channel. We will remain relentlessly customer first focused and utilize our science to meet them where they’re at AND make it easier for them to live healthier!
Kathmann will join Bridget Wojciak of Kroger Health on the Customize stage to do a case study on how the grocery giant is tapping into personalization. Get your ticket to join us (use code SPOON15 for 15 percent off).