3 Takeaways for Improving Restaurant Customer Experience

As a customer success manager at InMoment, I’m always looking for new ways to help my clients optimize their customer experience. Luckily, I hit the insights jackpot when I was able to attend the Marketing Executives Group (MEG) conference earlier this month!

As a part of this conference, my colleagues and other restaurant marketing professionals were able to listen in on some of the latest and greatest industry research, thought leadership, and best practices for the food services industry

Here are my top three takeaways from the 2018 MEG conference that will help improve restaurant customer experience:

Food is more culturally relevant than ever.

One of the first sessions I attended was “Culture in the Digital Age” with author and food culture expert Eve Turow Paul of ETG Insights. This presentation discussed the millennial generation’s relationship with food and how it is influenced by social media. Millennials are especially invested in food, and by that I mean that they are spending more money on food than ever before. Yes, this is partially because they eat out, but they also care about the quality of food.

In the new age of social media, food has become identity and a part of self-branding. When millennials post pictures of their food online, they are trying to present a version of themselves that shows they are educated, well-traveled, and environmentally conscious. In short, the food they want to be seen consuming is food that helps them present an idealized version of themselves.

Off-premise dining is the new frontier.

Another session I attended, “New Dynamics of Off-Premise Dining” with Melissa Wilson and Donna Hood Crecca of Technomic Inc., discussed the incredible growth we’re seeing in off-premise dining. Here are just a few stats: Of the 519 billion dollars that restaurants make, off-premise restaurants account for 228 billion (44%) of those dollars. This huge percentage is understandable, especially considering that people are ordering delivery 28% more than they were just a year ago.

Food kits contribute to the off-premise trend, but the real game changer has been third-party delivery. This option is great for restaurants, but it also means that a few adjustments need to be made. Users blame the restaurant—not the third party—for negative experiences, meaning that restaurants need to take special care with takeaway packaging, creating dedicated systems for third-party pickup, and maintaining customer connection.

Employees MUST be empowered to solve problems.

I think we’ve all had an experience with a company where we have hit some sort of road block and the frontline employee who has been working with us says, “this is company policy; let me talk to my manager.” Turns out this is the worst possible thing to say according to Scott Stratten, President of Un-Marketing. His session “UnMarketing: Stop Marketing and Start Engaging,” addressed how you can build relationships with your target audience so they become loyal customers.

My favorite takeaway from this session is that your employees need to be able to make things right immediately; in other words they need to be empowered. Stratten suggested that today’s brands should attempt to improve the bottom line by improving the front line because branding isn’t about the logo, it’s about the guest’s last experience with you. If you want guest experiences to be positive so they create a positive perception of your brand, your employees need to be able to fix problems immediately wherever they are. This ensures that a customer leaves validated, knowing that their issue was important to your brand.

Hopefully these takeaways are as inspiring to you as they are to me. With restaurant customer experience advancing at what seems to be the speed of light, it is more important than ever to stay up-to-date with the latest best practices so you can differentiate your brand.

For more tips, check out this InMoment case study that highlights how our client, Pizza Hut, leverages employee stories to improve their guest experience!

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Chaylynn Laws Customer Success Manager

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