RESEARCH | Staff Reporter, Australia

What are the top priorities of food and beverage operators?

Analytics, loyalty and payment will be top focuses for restaurant technology in 2017.

That is, according to a group of restaurant and technology leaders that gathered at Hospitality Technology’s 2016 Restaurant Executive Summit. During an interactive workshop titled, “Customer Engagement Strategies of Today and Tomorrow to Grow Market Share & Drive Loyalty,” attendees had the opportunity to share struggles, solutions and potential strategies for how to better engage guests and improve customer experience and satisfaction.

Following presentations of data from HT’s 2016 Customer Engagement Technology Study and insights from an Oracle study into consumer loyalty program habits, attendees split into small groups to work through issues that were impacting them.

Big data, big benefits

A common theme that emerged was the fact that an engaged customer is a satisfied, loyal customer. In order to win deeper engagement, however, deeper data and analytics are needed in order to create the personalized experiences that guests are demanding.

Customer experience management strategies are a top priority for restaurants. One attendee admitted to struggling with how to integrate customer-facing technology into his casual dining model without sacrificing personal interaction with staff. As full-service restaurants are losing traffic to fast casual and QSR models, the executive recognized the importance of finding ways to leverage technology to increase great service.

Dr. Dan Connolly, Professor of Business Administration, Portland University and co-author of the 2016 Customer Engagement Technology Study, noted in response. “Often you need to give customers a choice and let them define the service they want. You need to discern what fits their persona and their needs at that moment. It’s not one size fits all.”

Compiling guest data to make those smart technology decisions will be key, but while restaurants have lots of touchpoints from which to glean data, analyzing that data to make it actionable, is often a struggle. Operators agreed that they did not have the infrastructure in place in terms of personnel to consistently do data analytics. Charles Banks, Senior Director of Business Intelligence, for Uncle Julio’s Corporation, admitted that he will do some analytics on his own, but a more sustainable method of analyzing data and communicating it to the proper parties is needed.

Restaurateurs concurred that great programs are available and they all have data in them, but they struggled to find ways to do anything with that data to identify ideal customers or who to target for repeat or new business. “People are looking at historical data to establish baselines, but nothing predictive,” one executive noted. “We are collecting data but not analyzing it.”

There was a general consensus among the operators that unless companies hired analysts to scrutinize data, nothing is being done with it because most restaurants don’t have the bandwidth.

Click here to read the full report from Oracle Hospitality.

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