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Customer personalization is taking over the restaurant industry — diners are increasingly seeking out experiences that are tailored to their unique needs and preferences. If you own a restaurant, this trend in customer behavior creates an exciting business opportunity. By implementing strategies to personalize every meal and interaction, you can deliver a more engaging and satisfying customer experience that leads to stronger brand loyalty, more positive reviews, and increased customer retention.
What is customer personalization in the restaurant industry?
Customer personalization is the practice of tailoring the guest experience to the individual customer. This can be as simple as greeting a customer by name or as complex as using AI-powered personalization tools to recommend dishes that match guests’ preferred flavor profiles.
The ideal personalization strategy varies from restaurant to restaurant but usually addresses multiple aspects of the customer journey, including:
- Menu design and engineering
- In-person service
- Food and drink recommendations
- Marketing and advertising
- Customer segmentation
- Guest communication
- In-person customer interactions
- Personalized customer support
Panera Bread is one restaurant that’s going all in on customer personalization. The popular fast-casual brand is using an omnichannel personalization strategy powered by the Adobe Real-Time Customer Data Platform, which enables the company to create personalized customer experiences on the fly. For example, when the system sees that a guest is dining in a cold climate, it might recommend hot soups or suggest delivery.
Starbucks is also investing in personalized experiences with its branded app. Using existing customer data, the system can make product recommendations or personalized offers. It’s a profitable strategy — the company finds that when a customer is “digitally engaged,” they tend to buy two to three times more. The app can also help guests get in touch with customer service for personalized support if needed.
Adding a personal touch to your dining
As a small business, you may not have the resources to develop an app, but that doesn’t mean you can’t boost personalization and build a better customer experience. To start, look at the many accessible personalization tools and tactics on the market — they can streamline the process and help you improve everything from marketing to customer service.
Menu customization is one of the biggest customer personalization trends in the industry, especially in the digital space. Restaurants are investing in AI-driven systems that personalize online and app-based menus in real time according to customer data.
Want to bring this feature to your in-house diners? Develop specialized menus that speak to customers’ needs. You’ve probably seen it in action — most restaurants use a simple icon system to represent vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, and nut-free dishes. When a menu item meets the criteria, all you need to do is mark it with the correct graphic. That way, guests can quickly spot dishes that meet their dietary requirements. You can even color-code the icons for easier scanning.
Make sure to use your symbols when you’re crafting a seasonal menu or creating weekly specials, too. It’s a simple way to improve the customer experience and reduce the customer service burden for your servers.
Use guests’ names
Humans are hard-wired to respond to their names. In fact, researchers have found that when you hear your name, it leads to greater brain activity.
You can use this information to your advantage in customer service by greeting guests by name whenever possible. Check the order information for pickup meals, or ask your employees to refer to reservation data. It’s an easy, free way to create a more welcoming atmosphere and a personalized customer experience.
This tactic also works well across a range of communication channels. It’s particularly effective in personalized content, such as email marketing messages and online customer interactions. You can also use guests’ names to create other personalized experiences, including:
- Personalized customer service responses
- Advertising and marketing personalization
- E-commerce personalization
Celebrate customers’ special occasions
Does your business collect information about customers through a restaurant loyalty program, a mailing list, or an online account? Make sure you’re capturing the dates of birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions. Then, use that information to celebrate your guests’ big moments and create a better customer experience.
It doesn’t have to be intrusive — you can send a quick email with a special discount code, for example, or add a “free dessert” promotion to your delivery app or customer loyalty system. It’s a small gesture, but it makes the guest feel special early in the customer journey.
To set your restaurant apart, try to surprise guests or add value. Modern consumers are accustomed to standard personalized customer experiences, so it takes more effort to stand out. If a couple makes a reservation for an anniversary dinner, you could go above and beyond by decorating the table with a floral bouquet or a box of chocolates on the table.
Recommend meals for online ordering and delivery
Your restaurant’s online ordering and delivery systems contain a wealth of valuable data you can use to provide personalized customer service. The magic lies in guests’ order history — it helps you spot each person’s favorite dishes and most commonly ordered items.
Many ordering platforms, including Grubhub, are using AI to scan diners’ past order data and recommend dishes or add-on items they might like; it’s an automatic feature that instantly creates a better customer experience. You can do the same in-store with self-serve kiosks. Simply ask customers to log in with their loyalty program and the system can make recommendations on the fly.
Grubhub partners get access to a customer insights dashboard that displays comparative data based on a diners’ status. This gives restaurants a deeper understanding of their customers’ ordering habits to better utilize smart promotions.
While you’re at it, take a closer look at the standard customer journey through your ordering system. Is it easy for diners to modify items? Can they see how to request utensils? How convenient is it to provide customer feedback or report missing dishes? A clear, intuitive process helps you provide seamless, personalized customer service.
Personalized meal prep
If you’ve ever had dinner at a teppanyaki-style restaurant such as Benihana, you know how a chef-customer interaction can transform the customer experience. It’s the ultimate in personalized customer service — guests can choose their ingredients, watch their food being prepared, and chat with the chef in the process.
This personalization strategy might not be feasible for every restaurant, but you can integrate elements into your operations. Consider adding a chef’s table to the kitchen so guests can watch the crew prepare food and get personalized recommendations; you could also host an in-person cooking class with your kitchen staff.
Marketplaces like Grubhub make it easy for diners to customize their orders, providing drop down menus to build their own dish with just a few clicks. Grubhub keeps track of diners’ ordering histories to better recommend restaurants and dishes to prompt consistent usage.
No matter what option you choose, you’ll create an exciting way for loyal customers to build connections with back-of-house employees. This personalized experience can increase customer satisfaction, surpass customer expectations, and increase customer engagement.
The importance of creating a personalized dining experience
Personalization can create an unforgettable customer experience that turns casual diners into loyal guests. It doesn’t have to be complicated — even small customer service initiatives, such as personalized marketing emails or dietary indicators on your online menus, can have a significant impact.
Looking for ways to streamline customer experience personalization? Consider working with Grubhub for Restaurants; it’s an efficient way to boost customer acquisition and create a personalized delivery experience for existing customers. You’ll also get access to restaurant resources, tips for growing your business, and delivery and marketing assistance, all in one convenient service.Ready to take your customer service personalization efforts to the next level? Get started with Grubhub today.