Considering the level of automation technology has already brought to the restaurant sector, from app bookings and order-taking, through to pay-at-table programmes and now entirely cashless restaurants, we’d be forgiven for expecting the future of hospitality to be, well, a little less hospitable. However, with diners still reported to prefer something of the human touch, it doesn’t look as though man will entirely give way to machine.
What is changing is how the restaurant offer is presented and this time it’s personal as nutrition technology hits the shelves and indeed the tables. With product choice already in exponential growth and brands fighting for attention, forward-thinking operators are taking the food sector to new realms, using data-driven technology not just to understand customer demographics and social needs, but to base food choices on an individual’s DNA.
Habit, a US-based nutrition tech start-up, is helping the food world utilise this form of personalisation, capturing data from saliva to make personal food recommendations to consumers, based on each person’s unique metabolic system. Currently, the test is conducted via a kit designed for use at home, but it’s not a great leap to imagine this kind of data working itself onto the restaurant scene, with customers making detailed, DNA-based requests, fine-tuned and personalised to their specific requirements. Operators can then use this hugely powerful data for strategic marketing and promotions.
The rise in personalisation across the restaurant industry is nothing new, with customers willing to hand over their personal data to receive a more tailored experience. However, despite this understanding, operators still need to think smart. Using intelligent technology to personalise an experience for customers doesn’t mean bombarding them with irrelevant marketing – quite the opposite.
To manage expectations with customers, operators need to be tracking and collating data to tailor their offers accordingly. Put yourself into your customers shoes. Imagine receiving an email from your local restaurant advising you that your favourite bottle of wine or cut of steak will be the special of the month. At the very least, personalisation should be able to monitor every customers’ birthdays and anniversaries.
Staying afloat in this sea of data may seem a tough ask. But, operators are already harnessing technology to enable them to do this. Kitchen automation systems not only manage food order flow, but also log and categorise customer detail to feed the marketing strategy.
Picture this email: ‘Hi Eloise, you told us you wanted to include more plant-based nutrition in your diet, so why not come and celebrate our new Vegetarian Week with us!’, or ‘you said you wanted to up your protein intake so join us for steak night on Tuesday.” Restaurant marketing doesn’t get more personal than this.
Data will always be king. Technology will give restaurant operators the tools to deliver on this much desired expectation among consumers. For an operator, it’s a win, win, allowing them to better understand the needs of customers, while delivering an exceptional experience. It’s time for the food to get personal too.
Eloise Sheppard is managing director at Call Systems Technology and Restaurant magazine's guest technology editor