Being able to deliver exceptional customer experiences can make the difference between the success or failure of your restaurant.
“We live in an experience economy,” said famed restauranteur Danny Meyer during an episode of the ‘How Success Happens’ podcast. “There’s a reason we choose to pay $5 for a cup of coffee in Starbucks. See, the customers aren't paying for the coffee, they are paying for the experience. Experience is how success happens.”
Industry leaders are very aware of this. In a recent survey conducted for us by marketing agency Catalyst, most CIOs and high-level IT leaders within the retail and restaurant industries agreed that customers are at the very center of their strategy.
Almost half (46%) of the 200-person panel that Catalyst interviewed said that their core business goal this year is to improve the customer experience. Meanwhile, 31% said that their priorities were to anticipate and adjust based on customer trends, and to get insights on changes in needs, desires, and satisfaction in services. 32% said they were focusing on the quality of services they offer their customers.
Meeting customer expectations is difficult
Success doesn’t come without a challenge. Of the industry leaders we spoke to, 42% said their greatest challenge was understanding the customer. For many, this is because they don’t have access to meaningful information about their customers. In fact, over a third (39%) of respondents said their greatest challenge was an absence of customer data and then with some of those that had the data, they had difficulty in knowing the what or how to use it.
Without this information, it’s incredibly difficult for you to deliver the level of experience that todays’ customers expect. If you don’t know what's being bought at a particular time in a particular region, then how can you understand what customers want, suggest intelligent upsell or cross sold products, and ensure you can deliver on them?
Is your technology holding you back?
This lack of visibility is often a direct consequence of the type of technology businesses use to run their operations.
It’s incredibly common for restaurants to use multiple, separate software solutions – one for online pre-orders, another to manage orders in person, another for kitchen production and menus, and yet another one to manage inventory and replenishment. The loyalty program may be just one more disconnected app. When you have many systems, which work separately from each other, you can’t get a clear picture of what’s going on with the customer journey in your restaurant, and this hampers the customer experience.
The good news is that there is a solution, actually a unified software solution that can unite all your data into one platform, giving you the clarity you need to meet all your challenges
A unified platform for restaurants
When you use the same platform to manage all key areas of your business, you also get all your data in one place. No need to waste time putting information together from different sources, and trying to figure out how it matches and what it means. All your business and customer data – covering activity online, in store, and via your app – is saved in the same database in a consistent way, easy (and immediately ready) to analyze.
With this information, you can understand who your customers are, when each type of customer (or even single guest) visits your restaurant, what menu items they prefer, through which channel they tend to order and eat, and more. Essentially, it give you a 360-degree picture of your different customers.
This information is incredibly powerful. It can help you instantly adjust your offering based on customer needs and trends and, as a result, deliver the white glove experiences that make them feel special. When a server can see a customer’s purchase history, for example, they can personalize their welcome and make suggestions based on their preferences. They might see its their birthday and therefore deliver a dessert that is a little extra special. Or they might offer a promotion that they know the customer will find difficult to refuse because it is tailored to their particular buying habits.
And that’s not all. With more data available, you can use artificial intelligence (AI) powered analytics and reporting to find meaningful patterns across vast amounts of data. You can make accurate predictions about consumption, and automate replenishment. Reduce the risk of overbuying, and minimize out of stocks. And if out of stocks do happen, you can update the menu immediately, and put surplus items front and center to make them more appealing.
If you choose a unified solution where the point of sale (POS) is connected digitally to the kitchen display system (KDS), you’ll be able to give both servers and kitchen access to exactly the same information, in real time. Servers can see if a dish is coming and communicate it to the guests, and your kitchen staff can work faster and more confidently, as they get clear and timely information from the front of house. The result is a restaurant that runs far more efficiently, and customers who get the information they need – and their dishes to the table! – fast and without mistakes.
How Cracker Barrel is keeping the guest front and center
US restaurant chain Cracker Barrel is one of the leaders in the fast casual sector in the US. They are among the forward-thinking F&B brands that have invested in a unified platform to manage their operations smoothly, while keeping their guests front and center. Cracker Barrel selected LS First, which expands the Microsoft Dynamics 365 ERP platform with powerful restaurant functionality, for its 660 stores.
With this platform, Cracker Barrel can now operate its stores in a single, consistent environment. Because the POS is designed so that it mirrors the menu, orders can be taken in a conversational way. As a result, employees can handle order inquiries faster and with more accuracy, increasing efficiency, and have more time to interact with guests in a natural way, enhancing the guest experience.