How Restaurants Use Technology to Focus and Connect

March 2, 2018 Charlie Cowan


Appirio, Salesforce, and Session M proudly hosted leaders from the UK’s restaurant industry at a dedicated event in the Salesforce Tower in London. Attendees represented many of the leading brand names from the world of pubs, casual dining restaurants, and sandwich chains.

Over the course of the afternoon, we covered three key areas of focus for an industry that is under pressure from rising costs, high competition, and increasingly savvy customers who know what they want and where to get it.

Connected Customers

A common challenge for organisations in the hospitality space is how to develop and maintain a personal relationship with the individual customer. Over the past twenty years, we’ve seen the rise of the Clubcard, or Nectar, as a way for retailers to buy your data and loyalty in exchange for customer points and discounts.   

These schemes range from low-tech stamp cards (encouraging you to buy one more coffee in exchange for a freebie), up to the more advanced applications (like the Starbucks app) that conducts the entire ordering, payment, and loyalty process for you.

But is a discount or free item really what drives a customer to visit more, buy larger, or advocate louder?  

Brett Gascoine, from Session M, explains that there are four areas that drive loyalty in customers under his acronym, PASS:

  • Power: Give customers power to control, such as Wikipedia moderators.
  • Access: Give customers access to behind-the-scenes areas, or an airline lounge.
  • Status: Publicly provide status to your customers — early boarding, acknowledgment online, kudos.
  • Stuff: And of course goodies — a free coffee, a free upgrade, or discounts to future purchases.

Brett says loyalty is an exchange — so don’t just think about what you want — more data, more purchases. Consider what your customer wants in exchange, and a free drink is unlikely to be the only answer.

Connected Stores

The second dimension for restaurants is managing the back office systems across multiple stores, especially where you have multiple brands that have come in through acquisition.  Head office is trying to make decisions on which menu items are selling best, in which outlets, and why. Marketers need to make decisions on which promotions to run and when.

The Salesforce team walked the attendees through Salesforce Einstein Analytics, which helps organisations to pull data from multiple systems across the property estate, and provide visualisations that help the business to make decisions.  

Many organisations are talking about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its importance in the future of decision-making. Additionally, attendees were walked through the next stage of data analytics — from reporting on what has happened in the past, to helping guide decisions on what might happen in the future with Einstein Discovery. Some key decisions come off of questions, like:

  • How much of this menu item do we think we will sell if the weather is hot next week?
  • What effect do we think our new promotion will have on sales in city centre outlets?

The challenge with most AI solutions is that they are aimed at the data scientist in your company. Don’t have one? You’re out of luck.

The Einstein Analytics offering is aimed at your business users, those working in a Marketing or Operations Team who know the questions they want to answer and need a quick way of getting to the answers without code.

Connected Workers

The third dimension for restaurants to look at is the relationship between head office and their workers. This can be tough in owned outlets, but is even more critical when you have a franchise model and don’t actually own that employer-employee relationship.

Within the UK hospitality industry, more than 50 percent of workers are seasonal or fractional, more than 35 percent are under the age of 25, and most organisations have over 40 percent annual attrition. In discussions with attendees, this in itself is not an issue — after all, the trade by its nature attracts university students, or those looking for short-term work.  

So whilst technology itself isn’t going to dramatically reduce attrition, what it can do is rapidly increase the productivity of those workers during their time with you. This can be through early onboarding — providing access and coaching to workers before day one. It can ensure that they have the learning and coaching access they need from an outlet or at home.

For those that are transitioning from university to home for the holidays, technology can provide workers with easy access to jobs in associated group brand outlets that they might not otherwise have considered — keeping workers in the organisation for longer and maintaining their career progression.

The Appirio team walked the attendees through our Employee Community Lightning Bolt, the top-rated Bolt on the AppExchange. This template, already in use at other Appirio clients, helps Head Office to maintain a direct connection with workers in either owned or franchised stores, through a highly-customised, branded experience. Workers are provided with collaboration tools, the ability to manage and monitor promotions, and complete Head Office assessments to ensure everyone is projecting the same brand messages.

It’s not just food and drink — It’s an Experience

Connected Customers, Stores, and Workers — in discussion with attendees after the meeting, it’s clear that organisations across the industry are highly-focused on delivering a differentiated experience to their customers, and are looking at how technology can help them to do that in a structured and scalable way.

Appirio offered our Virtuous Cycle Diagnostic to the attendees — a methodology that helps organisations to understand where they are on the scale for delivering a strong Customer and Worker Experience, and helps businesses to define a roadmap, focusing on the most important items first.

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