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MURTEC 2019: A Digitally-Driven and Hyper-Personal Guest Journey is Everything

With a few days to reflect on the conference sessions and my many conversations with restaurant operators and industry technology vendors at this year’s edition of MURTEC in Las Vegas, the disruptive effect of digital and mobile on the dining guest experience has shifted.  No longer are the impacts of these technologies on the extended guest journey a point of competitive differentiation.

They are, in fact, 100% table stakes for not just success, but survival – pure and simple.

According BRP’s previous restaurant consumer research, and we feel was confirmed by the themes in Vegas at MURTEC, the dining spend of restaurant guests is being increasingly directed to those restaurants providing the most flexible and frictionless experience possible.  We still expect that as much as 30% of total restaurant sales (or $300 billion if you are keeping track) could be generated via digital ordering methods as early as 2023.

And it’s not just the guest-facing, front-of-house improvements being driven by digital and mobile technologies, significant improvements in restaurant operations are also being delivered across areas like kitchen production, training, labor, and reporting and analytics.

Along with the strategic “call to action” themes we confirmed at MURTEC, we continue to see many areas of critical priority for restaurant chains and operators as we move through 2019, including:

Allowing the customer to order from you any way they want– This includes not only the methods by which customers order (traditional, phone, web, mobile) but also providing the same flexibility when fulfilling that order. Recognizing that a customer one day may want to order from their phone and eat-in when they arrive, while the next day they might want to order on the web and pick their order up in the drive-thru shows that you have the flexibility to adapt to any ordering scenario. And while we are thinking about flexibility, remember that different dining customers want to pay for their meals different ways so providing agile and secure payment systems are also key.

The Growth in Off-Premises Dining (OPD)– Operators are excited about the revenue growth opportunities presented by the dining consumer who wants to order food from their restaurant for either pick up or delivery.  The ability to natively support the plethora of 3rdparty delivery companies is key, as is considering the value of providing your own branded OPD capabilities.

Guest Engagement Innovation is Coming to Restaurants– As certain advanced technologies mature and dining guest acceptance becomes more commonplace, don’t be surprised to see a more rapid adoption of technologies like voice-assisted ordering, ordering via auto infotainment systems, augmented reality (AR) for both guest and staff immersion, and the broad acceptance of restaurant-oriented Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity and insight that will help further improve the automation and efficiency of key components of the restaurant.

Capitalizing on Customer Data– Managing a guest journey is one thing, being able to provide a true personalized experience at each stage of the guest journey is another.  While incenting guests to participate in your marketing and loyalty programs is important, the ability to effective leverage that customer insight during each stage of guest engagement (from reservation to arrival to ordering to pay) is what will create the right combination of customer satisfaction and financial value (through higher guest checks and increased frequency of visits).

The Shift to Next-Generation POS platforms – Many restaurants require increased flexibility and scale from their most important operational technology platform.   Often this means looking at shifting to a cloud-based platform and in some cases includes more native mobile tools.  In either case, continued reliance on a long-standing legacy POS system will make the shift to digital much more difficult.

Agile-oriented Thinking is an Imperative– With the rapid increase in guest expectations, restaurants need to adopt agile approaches to everything: strategy, development, processes, and system implementations.

We can’t stress enough how clear the message is from all parts of our industry – guests, vendors, and operators – that digital enablement is mission-critical to not just continued success in your restaurant operation, but to your survival.  If you aren’t moving fast toward this revolution, then now is the time to step up.

As always, I appreciate your thoughts on this topic. Please share your comments and opinions below.

Scott

Who Controls Diners’ Data? OpenTable Moves to Assert Control

The Wall Street Journal – Some restaurateurs say booking service is trying to squeeze rival SevenRooms; OpenTable says it is protecting user privacy.

The value of diner data is rising as restaurant groups look to target customers with individualized products and services. OpenTable is barring restaurants from sharing data with rival booking services without its permission, intensifying a fight for control of the information diners disclose when they make reservations online. The table-booking service will block restaurants from giving competitors access to diner data acquired through OpenTable unless they pay new fees, according to its updated client agreement and a copy of a new pricing plan viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Data about diners is becoming increasingly valuable, as restaurant groups look to mine information about customers and their preferences to target them with individualized products and services. Chains are using the information to tweak menus, flag diners’ allergies and track spending patterns. “To do that level of personalization, that level of engagement, you need to know more,” said Scott Langdoc, who leads the restaurant consulting practice at BRP Consulting.

Read full article (subscription required): Who Controls Diners’ Data? OpenTable Moves to Assert Control

OpenTable Tightens Control Over Diners’ Data

PYMNTS – In a move that strengthens the battle for control of information that diners provide online, OpenTable is preventing restaurants from providing competitors with access to data from its platform. With the updated agreement, restaurant operators cannot access and copy data without the consent of the platform, The Wall Street Journal reported.

While some restauranteurs believe OpenTable “is trying to freeze out SevenRooms,” according to the paper, OpenTable’s Steve Hafner claims the move is an effort to protect the privacy of diners as well as the platform’s control of the information. “That information is absolutely not the restaurants’,” Hafner said, according to WSJ.
OpenTable is currently the largest platform for booking tables at restaurants in the U.S.

Diner information has taken on more value, as restaurant groups look to serve customers with personalized products and services. Chains, for instance, are tapping into data to take note of allergies, monitor spending patterns and adjust menus. Scott Langdoc, who heads up BRP’s restaurant consulting practice, told the paper, “To do that level of personalization, that level of engagement, you need to know more.”

Read Full Article: OpenTable Tightens Control Over Diners’ Data

Ready When I Get There: Mobile Takeout Is A Rising Restaurant Trend

Forbes – On a bitterly cold or snowy winter night, it’s understandable that many diners may want to order their dinners delivered. But a new study of restaurant guests and executives has found that an increasing number of people want another option: the ability to order food in advance via mobile apps and have it waiting for them when they arrive.

Now, you might say that’s the same as takeout, which restaurants have offered for generations. But instead of calling in an order and risk being placed on hold or talking to a busy place, pre-ordering via mobile app can be done with a few key strokes. And, it allows for much easier customization than might take place during a conversation.

At the moment, about 20% of diners are using a pre-order option, according to a study from BRP, retail consulting firm, and Windstream Enterprise. But mobile pre-ordering is used by about 32% of millennials, the study found. “They are less likely than older generations to dine out and more inclined to order their food for off-site consumption,” it said.

Pre-ordering can save money, since many delivery apps charge a fee to bring food to your door. There’s often a service charge, too, and the diner is generally expected to tip on top of those costs.

Plus, delivery times can be unpredictable, and food may not be in optimum shape once it arrives.

Read Full Article: Ready When I Get There: Mobile Takeout Is A Rising Restaurant Trend

After public stumbles, Chipotle changes tactics to address food safety

Restaurant Dive – The burrito chain’s varied reactions to its string of foodborne outbreaks can serve as lessons to other restaurants in how to respond when disaster — and bacteria — strikes.

Although media attention can stir up hype, the rise in food contamination is real. For many customers, the Chipotle scare in 2015 still stands out as a major incident, one that has made many wary of eating at the chain. But Scott Langdoc, senior vice president and practice lead at restaurant consulting firm BRP, says the frequency in food safety issues goes well beyond Chipotle.

“What Chipotle represents is a visibility issue and that chains need to be more proactive in maintaining consistency of measurement and monitoring,” Langdoc said. He added that brands today need to go beyond having methods in place to find and deal with food safety issues. Instead, he argues that restaurants need to create protocols to supervise staff and monitor work to ensure that employees carry out their training consistently.

One food safety process that restaurants can employ is an advanced system for monitoring food temperature. If a restaurant automates this process, an out-of-range temperature can be determined faster, giving management an opportunity to respond to the issue faster, says Langdoc.

He admits though that points of failure in the food safety process can exist anywhere and are bound to happen when you run a large-scale chain. But it’s how a company responds to those isolated incidents that can help the business rebound faster.
“Chipotle has done a great thing in this last incident. They were visible and transparent to the issues and announced immediately that they were isolated to the specific stores in Ohio,” Langdoc said. “And use of promotions to make sure customers would keep coming back worked, at least Wall Street thought it was effective.”

Read Full Article: After public stumbles, Chipotle changes tactics to address food safety

 

Offering a Digital Dining Experience is Now Table Stakes for Restaurants

It certainly is no secret that people across all demographic categories have transformed their day-to-day activities through the use of digital technologies, especially via the smartphone.  For those of us keeping tabs on the restaurant industry, we have further validation of just how impactful this digitalization, especially the mobile-centric variety, is on the consumer and their overall dining journey.

According to our most recent survey-based research report, Restaurant Digital Crossroads: The Race to Meet Guest Expectations, an ever increasing number of restaurant guests, especially Millennials, are using their mobile devices at each and every point of their dining experience.

Similar to our friends in the broader retail industry, restaurant operators are witnessing rapid growth in the digital expectations of their customers, who don’t just want, but expect, a broad range of digital-driven capabilities as part of their guest experience.  As guest expectations for digital-driven dining continue to rise, all those responsible for delivering a successful guest experience – whether they are a restaurant brand, a franchisee, or independent operator – must rapidly adopt new digital technologies to enhance the entire dining journey.

The ENTIRE digital journey?  Absolutely. The role of digital engagement is now firmly implanted in every single step of that journey, starting well before and ending well after the actual restaurant visit.  Pre-meal research is a habit across all generations and demographics, especially for discovering new restaurant choices and selecting fine dining options. Digital ordering (whether from home, by app or at the restaurant) is a growing expectation while sharing results of dining experiences with friends via social media is a new form of entertainment. These expanded engagement areas shine a light on how restaurant operators need to think about the entire lifecycle of a guest’s dining experience – including how the intersection of restaurant operations, existing processes and legacy IT platforms need to quickly transform to support these new data-driven demands and influence needs.

As we noted (and not unexpectedly), Millennials are leading and driving this charge by using digital devices to enhance their dining experience over half the time (53%).  Specific measures of their digital activities include:

  • 60% research where and what to eat
  • 51% check ratings/reviews while in a restaurant
  • 23% share pictures and content during and after the visit.

It’s not a secret that the dining journey has radically changed, as have guest expectations of what makes a great dining experience. Digital-driven influences are no longer at the periphery of the dining experience, as they influence 40% of all dining visits.

Simply said, they are required tickets to entry.

Therefore, embedding a wide array of full digital dining capabilities – everything from social engagement to guest WiFi to flexible ordering options, and real-time and personalized guest promotions – should be part of every restaurant’s strategic DNA.

To download the complete Restaurant Digital Crossroads: The Race to Meet Guest Expectationsreport, visit:

https://brpconsulting.com/download/2018-restaurant-research-report/.

As always, I appreciate your opinions – both on the insight from the report and across the broader restaurant and hospitality space.  Please share your thoughts and opinions below.

Scott

 

53% of Millennials use Digital to Augment Dining Experience: Study

Hospitality Technology – According to a report from BRP (restaurant consulting firm) and Windstream Enterprise, restaurant guests, especially millennials, use mobile devices to enhance their dining experiences.

Digital is becoming deeply embedded into the entire dining journey. Pre-meal research is a habit across all generations and demographics, especially for discovering new restaurant choices and selecting fine dining options. Digital ordering (whether from home, by app or at restaurant) is a growing expectation while sharing results of dining experiences with friends via social media has become a form of entertainment in itself.

Millennials use digital devices to enhance their dining experience over half the time (53%). Their digital activities range from researching where and what to eat (60%) to checking ratings/reviews while in a restaurant (51%) to sharing pictures and content (23%) during and after the visit.

Read Full Article: 53% of Millennials use Digital to Augment Dining Experience: Study

Chicago has a new e-commerce rock star

Crain’s Chicago Business – Grubhub is now the top performer among local publicly traded companies over the past 12 months as it expands its restaurant delivery business and beats financial forecasts.

It helps that Grubhub is beating Wall Street’s forecasts, showing record growth in the second quarter, for instance, in what traditionally are its slowest months of the year. To underscore the point, the company raised its financial targets for the year.

A big driver is delivery. Maloney was happy to handle online orders, but he resisted getting into the delivery business, a low-margin hassle. That changed three years ago, when Grubhub acquired several early players and has built out its own network.

Grubhub also got deeper into restaurant technology, another messy business, integrating its mobile app directly into point-of-sale systems. It’s a key reason for the LevelUp acquisition. “If we’re going to grow the business, we have to go to where our customers are and relieve them of their burdens,” Maloney says. “I’m able to do delivery at scale more efficiently than 80,000 individual restaurants can. The same is true of POS integration.”

One risk is technology. “Grubhub has grown in terms of locations and geography. With that growth have come these land mines of complexity, integration and execution,” says Scott Langdoc, a San Francisco-based senior vice president of BRP Consulting, which advises restaurants on strategy and technology.

Read Full Article: Chicago has a new e-commerce rock star

Food Customers’ Expectations Rise as Technology Evolves

Convenience Store Decisions – Digital technology continues to shape customers’ expectations when dining out. According to a new report from Boston Retail Partners (BRP) and Windstream Enterprise, rapidly evolving guest expectations and digital technologies are driving a major transformation in the restaurant industry.

“The Restaurant Digital Crossroads: The Race to Meet Guest Expectations” report, based on research conducted by Incisiv and sponsored by BRP and Windstream Enterprise, combines findings from surveys of 1,225 restaurant guests and 60 restaurant executives.

“As guest expectations continue to rise, restaurants must transform their business with new technologies to make the dining experience more seamless and frictionless,” said Scott Langdoc, senior vice president and practice lead at BRP. “Unfortunately, many restaurant brands and franchisees have a long way to go to catch up to guest expectations. The good news is that restaurants are aware of the gap and their future plans include enhancements to key areas that guests deem important for a great experience: ease of ordering and payment, WiFi availability, and mobile POS.”

Ease in Payments And Ordering Are Central to Restaurant Success, a Survey Finds

Digital Transactions – What do diners want most when they go out to eat? Apparently, easy ordering and payment. That’s the big takeaway in the “Restaurant Digital Crossroads: The Race to Meet Guest Expectations” report released Thursday.

Hassle-free ordering and payment are especially important to younger consumers, defined as those between 18 and 37 years old. Seventy-four percent of them said ease of ordering and payment is extremely important to them, yet only 45% of restaurants meet that expectation, found the report from Boston-based BRP Consulting, which specializes in retail and restaurants.

“For Millennials, digital is shorthand for taking friction out of the order and payment process, allowing them to shop the way they want wherever they want,” the report said. “They, along with Gen Z, also value interactive technology and digital content (music, movies, games, digital shorts) more so than older generations.”

While restaurants whose primary guests may not have the same expectation now, BRP says such demands will become “table stakes in two years.”

Read full article: Ease in Payments And Ordering Are Central to Restaurant Success, a Survey Finds