Why Restaurants Must Embrace Personalisation and Serve up the ‘Guest Experience’

January 2, 202010min

Over the past few years, personalisation has emerged as one of the most dominant and prolonged trends in marketing, favoured by both big brands and small brands alike.

In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a marketing team that doesn’t employ some kind of data-led personalisation. One of the reasons personalisation tactics have become so commonplace is because they provide impressive ROI and enable brands to tailor their service or offering to their customers, driving loyalty and increased spend.

But while personalisation is the bread and butter of every online marketer and retailer, the hospitality industry has been slower to adopt this valuable practice – and operators are losing out on the bottom-line benefits personalisation can bring about. To stand out from the crowd, hospitality venues need to learn from marketers and embrace personalisation across all areas of their business.

Perfecting guest experiences

The entire online experience is now personalised for each individual user.

Whenever someone logs onto a website they’ve visited before, marketing algorithms kick into action and begin leveraging an array of data points – such as purchase and browser history, psychographics, and social activity – to tailor every element of the page to their particular likes and dislikes.

Online retailers like Amazon are particularly adept at this; consumers are shown the most relevant products at the times they’re most likely to buy. Provided with so many signposts directing them to purchase, it’s no wonder that 86 percent of consumers say personalisation plays a role in their purchasing decisions.

Yet despite the fact that many of these same opportunities to personalise service and improve Customer Experience exist for hospitality operators, few have deployed the technology necessary to enable personalisation at scale.

One of the big barriers to entry for restaurants is the issue of data capture and storage. Currently, many operators rely on seasoned service staff using antiquated systems to capture notes and store guest data – which merely function as digital notebooks.

But these low-tech solutions are no longer viable for a business in 2020. What if staff turnover or simple human error lead to a valued, long-term customer not receiving the highly personalised experience they are accustomed to?

In this instance, hospitality operators need to begin leveraging the same personalisation tactics that are used online for offline, in-service experiences. For instance, online marketers typically use a platform that helps them capture, store, and leverage user data.

Likewise, data-driven operations, marketing and guest engagement hospitality platforms such as SevenRooms empower service staff to log, database, and then use guest data to personalise diners’ experiences on the fly.

Much like online marketers tailoring every element of a website to individual users, restaurants that use hospitality platforms with a strong focus on helping capture and activate guest data can ensure guests are always greeted by their first name, showed to their preferred table, and offered their favourite drinks – regardless of who waits on them.

By perfecting guest experiences in this way, restaurants can deliver the sort of memorable service that drives repeat business. And, given that regulars can account for up to 40 percent of a restaurants’ total revenue, leveraging personalisation tactics to boost guest loyalty should be a top concern for every hospitality venue.

Personalising menu recommendations

With this in mind, the need for restaurants to offer as personalised an experience as possible is clear. One area of the restaurant experience in particular that hospitality operators should look to personalise is their menus and menu recommendations.

For diners, especially those with special dietary requirements or preferences such as allergies and vegetarianism, there’s nothing more frustrating than having to wade through pages of irrelevant menu choices to find a dish to order. But just as online retailers already leverage customer data to only display products that consumers will be interested in, hospitality venues, too, can make use of guest data to tailor menu recommendations to particular diners.

Me-nu: Customer data can be used to personalise menus for regular customers

For example, when a returning guest arrives at the restaurant to eat, service staff can refer to their guest profile on their hospitality platform and check for any dietary requirements. If the guest is marked down as being vegetarian, staff can provide them with their vegetarian menu or point out vegetarian options on the standard menu.

Improving service standards by tailoring menu recommendations like this can help hospitality operators improve their guests’ overall dining experience.

Opportunities for menu personalisation extend beyond the in-service experience and into post-service email marketing, too. By tracking a guest’s order history, operators can gain an understanding of the types of dishes guests enjoy eating – and those they’re likely interested in hearing more about.

For instance, every time a guest visits the restaurant, they always order a pasta dish. If this restaurant then introduces a new pasta dish to their menu, operators can leverage the order history data and deliver a marketing email that invites these guests to try the new dish. This personalisation tactic can not only directly drive sales, but also demonstrate the kind of personalised understanding of guests that will boost customer loyalty.

Tailoring offers for special events

How many times in the week leading up to a special occasion, like a birthday, have you received an email from a brand inviting you to enjoy 10 percent off your next purchase?

Probably every year. How many times have you actually used this offer? Probably very few.

Now, how many times have you celebrated a special occasion with a meal out? Again, probably every year. But despite special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries presenting hospitality venues with a unique opportunity to boost revenue and build brand loyalty, operators have been slower to adopt the personalisation-led tactics used by marketers that are needed to make the most out of these opportunities.

Rather than waiting for guests to come to them on special occasions, operators should make use of guest data to invite them to their venues in the weeks prior to big events. For example, say a guest has an anniversary coming up in a couple of weeks.

Restaurants can leverage this information by emailing them about an offer for a complimentary bottle of champagne upon arrival as an incentive for them to book. In this way, hospitality operators can learn from marketers and embrace personalisation-led tactics to drive repeat business.

Whilst online marketers have long used personalisation to improve consumer experiences, build customer loyalty, and ultimately boost profits, hospitality venues have been comparatively slower at tailoring their offerings to individual diners.

But despite industry reticence, there are many untapped opportunities for hospitality venues willing to invest in operations platforms and begin leveraging guest data to personalise and perfect guests’ experiences.

Joel Montaniel

Joel Montaniel

Joel Montaniel is CEO and co-founder of SevenRooms.

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