Each day, restaurants all over America serve tens of millions of guests. When they deliver great experiences, guests reward them with more frequent visits, larger orders, and positive word-of-mouth that drives revenue and growth.
However, while there are so many of these opportunities for restaurants, Technomic recently noted traffic ranges from flat to down year-over-year, restaurant growth is outpacing population growth, and on top of that, fewer consumers are spending money away from home—down 7% from 2000.
While these statistics may seem grim, focusing on guest experience can help to revitalize the numbers. It is more important than ever for brands to deliver a great experience to ensure that they keep (and hopefully grow) their share of the market and keep guests coming back visit after visit—even though they have countless dining options.
Recently, I attended the 2019 Restaurant Leadership Conference, where I had the opportunity to listen to industry leaders talk about what helps their brands to go beyond run-of-the-mill interactions to create extraordinary guest experience success. As the conference went on, I noticed four trending topics in their presentations:
Trend #1: The Influence of Frontline Employees
The first trend that stood out was how important frontline employees continue to be in the guest experience.
Despite all the advancements in technology—including developments in artificial intelligence—people are still central to an elevated guest experience and delivering on a restaurant’s brand promise.
Here’s the truth that all brands need to recognize and act on: successful brands invest in their employees.
A leader of a large Mississippi-based franchise group noted: “we have two businesses: people and pizza.”
This leader said his brand’s employees are empowered with standard operating procedures that are designed specifically to deliver an excellent guest experience.
Tech Tip: InMoment’s front-line coaching application allows brands to integrate their standard operating procedures and best practices into the platform, which applies predictive analytic models to create “focus areas” based on each restaurant location. The brand’s unique SOPs automatically populate the Action Plan section, encouraging restaurant managers to train and emphasize the brand’s best practices with the employees who are on the front lines of the guest experience.
Trend #2: The Importance of Engaged Employees
Another trending topic was the importance of having engaged front line employees.
The vice president of operations for a large franchisee with 330 restaurants across 10 states said: “We’re in a different climate of employee. They often ask, ‘What else are you going to do for me?’”
Another franchise leader chimed in: “The happier our employees are, the better they’re going to do at their job.”
This franchise said they don’t just provide restaurant-related training to keep employees happy, they also provide training on how to live a better life.
Tech Tip: In addition to capturing guest feedback, InMoment offers brands the chance to gather feedback from their employees about their own experience. The results are delivered through dashboards and reports alongside guest experience insights, providing a side-by-side view of the impact employees experience is having on the guest experience.
Trend #3: The Growth of Third Party Delivery
The third trend I noticed was the continued growth of third party delivery.
One main stage speaker joked they were required to mention delivery services at least once in every presentation.
Third party delivery is an $8 billion a year industry—which would make it among the top restaurant chains in the world.
With such growth, it’s imperative restaurateurs capture feedback from their guests in these delivery situations so they can continue to enhance the off-premise experience for their brand.
Another main stage speaker singled out Texas Roadhouse—a guest experience leader— has taken another approach, opting out of the third party delivery movement to ensure they are able to deliver on their brand promise of great food.
CEO Kent Taylor, famously stated: “We encourage all our competitors to do as much delivery as they can, so they can deliver lukewarm food to the people who order it. We’ll stick to our guns on this.”
Tech Tip: InMoment offers restaurants the ability to listen to their guests across all touchpoints, including online, in-store, and even delivery.
Trend #4: Personalizing for Success
The last theme that stood out to me was that of personalizing the guest experience.
One speaker defined personalization as simply: “Taking care of the guest.”
With so many ways to engage guests these days—whether through email, text, loyalty programs, mobile apps and so on—brands need to be able to give their guests only what they want to see, because as another speaker said, “the consumer has gotten really good at tuning things out.”
That being said, guests still want to engage with restaurants and know they are being listened to by the brands they love. It’s all about tailoring the right message through the right channel to the right person.
Tech Tip: InMoment allows restaurants to listen to their guests through a range of multimedia feedback channels, including surveys, social reviews, contact us forms, mobile app integrations, image and video feedback, and website intercepts.
I had a great time and learned so much about improving the guest experience during my three days at the 2019 Restaurant Leadership Conference. I can’t wait for next year!
Want to learn more about what’s next for Food Service brands and their guest experience? Check out this new eBook, “Three Steps for Future-Proofing the Guest Experience in Food Service: From Operational, Experiential, to a Truly Loyal Guest Relationship!”