3 Restaurant Trends Redefining Customer Experience (CX) As We Know It

By: Allie Van Duyne

7 Minute Read

Sep 04, 2018

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Trends come and go quickly in the restaurant industry.

In 2018 alone, we’ve seen everything from Instagrammable eats and design to house-made condiments and street food-inspired dishes.

When evaluating which restaurant trends to adopt, smart restaurateurs focus on determining which ones will help support business goals and improve overall customer experience (CX) to help stand out in a competitive market.

Here are three trends in the restaurant industry that are helping redefine customer experience by better addressing guests’ wants and needs.

Restaurant Trend #1: Mobile Apps and Self-Service

People are increasingly expecting to be able to self-serve – especially millennials. According to Deloitte, 50% of patrons who want to pay by phone would prefer to do so via a mobile app.

consumer trends

Many restaurants are beginning to prioritize the implementation and use of self-ordering kiosks to simplify the guest ordering experience. For example, Honeygrow, a restaurant chain out of Philadelphia, uses self-order technology exclusively to personalize their guest experience.

Mobile ordering and self-serve kiosks offer many benefits including:

  • faster ordering.
  • reduced costs.
  • increased efficiency.

They have also given customers the flexibility to customize their experience and enjoy it on their terms.

Panera Bread is a well-known chain that is leading the way restaurants redefine customer experience through the use of technology. With more than 10% of their sales coming from their rapid pickup option through their mobile app and in-store kiosks, they have made ordering hassle-free by enabling customers to skip the line and place orders within a moment’s notice.

To introduce mobile and self-service options successfully, restaurateurs need a consistent CX strategy that can be easily implemented across all locations and service channels. Delivering a consistent experience to customers – whether they choose to order via mobile app or in-store – should be the first priority. Varying levels of service quality will not only affect the customer experience but can have a negative effect on your brand’s reputation. Customers should walk away delighted by each and every interaction, no matter the avenue they choose.

Restaurant Trend #2: Focusing on Voice of the Employee (VoE)

The link between customer experience and employee experience has become increasingly apparent for restaurant owners. According to the Temkin Group, companies that outpace their competitors in CX have 1.5 times as many engaged employees.

Happy and engaged employees are more likely to feel invested in their roles and deliver a great experience to customers, so finding ways to foster an environment of learning, sharing, and growth have become a top priority for restaurants.

Read More: How to Retain Restaurant Employees – 4 Proven Tips

The trend toward focusing on employee satisfaction has been sparked not only from the impact it has on CX, but because of the ongoing battle restaurants face with employee turnover. Disengaged employees not only contribute to poor customer experience, but also to an increase in turnover. Focusing on VoE is an essential part of creating the kind of environment that not only helps to retain employees but improves the overall employee and customer experience.

Pal’s Sudden Service, a fast food chain located in Tennessee and Virginia, is an excellent example of a small restaurant that has grown to be so successful because of the way they treat their employees. They are known for their commitment to hiring for attitude and training for skill. The end result is their extremely low turnover rate: in 33 years of operation, only seven managers have left the company voluntarily.

If you want to re-define customer experience at your restaurant, you’ll first need to focus on gathering VoE data to find new ways to ensure employees are engaged and happy in their roles. Treating your employees the way you want your employees to treat their customers is how many restaurants have made significant improvements to their CX strategies.

To begin gathering VoE data, use surveys to gather employee feedback on CX and identify ways you can empower them to delight customers. For example, empowering your staff with the ability to take action and resolve customer issues without fear of retribution from their managers gives employees an opportunity to make an impact on the business personally, and means customers aren’t jumping through hoops to get good service.

Restaurant Trend #3: Measuring and Managing Big Data

Big data is big business in the restaurant industry. A report from the SMB Group found that 18% of small businesses and 57% of mid-sized businesses are investing in big data, with restaurants investing more heavily than brands in other industries.

Menu changes, promotions, personalization, and even restaurant design are all being influenced by information mined from big data.

McDonald’s focuses on improving service quality by using big data to understand the performance of each of their locations, from customer preferences to how to optimize the drive-thru experience and menu design.

Restaurants naturally generate a high volume of data, but many times, they don’t know how to use all the information they have available. The right platforms and tools can help ensure that data can be turned into insights that can support your restaurant's business goals.

Many organizations provide customer experience software and services to help restaurants listen, interpret, and act on customer data to redefine the customer experience. With the right technology, you’ll be able to see how activities are hindering (or helping) your overall CX. And from there, you can develop action plans to refine and improve your processes and make operational changes.

Are you considering implementing any of these restaurant experience trends?

If you’re considering integrating a new industry trend into your restaurant operations, it’s important to look for ways to manage these changes in a way that will allow you to measure the impact on CX across your operations. Many trends come and go in the restaurant industry, but it’s important to watch for the ones that could have the biggest impact on your overall customer experience.

A CX platform offers a proven way for your organization to stay current with the latest industry trends, in a way that makes a positive impact on your customer and the bottom line. Implementing these trends in line with a solid CX plan is the first step to redefine customer experience in your organization.

Learn more about the future of the restaurant industry from 15+ restaurant leaders. Machine learning, big data, VR ordering; what's next? Peruse this interactive ebook to find out.  

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