It used to be that customers went to a restaurant for dinner, enjoyed their meal, and left without a second thought. Now, digital technology is changing how restaurants connect with customers and opening the door for big advances in customer experience.
Using digital communications to improve the online and in-restaurant experience gives brands more opportunities to get to know their customers and to provide a more personalized experience.
Stephanie Perdue, CMO at TGI Fridays, compares it to fine dining restaurants that know their guests and why they are in the restaurant and then caters to the occasion, whether it’s a birthday dinner with friends or a romantic date. With the wealth of data available to restaurants today, brands can know why customers are dining and what they are looking for in an experience. Innovation is in the DNA at Fridays, and the restaurant is constantly looking for ways to evolve the brand to match customer trends and technology.
Much of the digital improvement comes from connecting disparate data points. Fridays has a wealth of data from customers, both online and in-store, but the challenge is connecting the data and providing it to servers to create real-time, tailored experiences. Imagine if the data could show that a certain customer always purchases a certain type of cocktail, was celebrating a friend’s birthday and prefers to be seated in a booth. The server could take the information and deliver an amazing experience to help Fridays stand out from other restaurants. The company is currently testing a variety of technology to turn that dream into a reality.
Data also extends to rewards programs. Fridays was a pioneer for restaurant loyalty programs and is constantly evolving its approach to meet customers needs. By using data and digital technology, Fridays is able to connect customer data for its rewards customers to provide personalized offers and recommendations. Instead of the traditional “earn and burn” program, Perdue says the company is looking to use the rewards program to provide more opportunities to engage with customers. Even something as simple as giving a rewards customer offers for items they already buy can be incredibly effective. If a customer always buys appetizers but never dessert, offering a deal on appetizers is much more effective than a once-size-fits-all offer on dessert.
A big trend for TGI Fridays has been using digital to grow its to-go and at-home dining options. Data has shown that customers want great food from their favorite restaurants without actually having to go sit and wait in the restaurant. TGI Fridays invested heavily in its delivery and to-go ordering business and doubled it in the last six months. Digital is a communication point that makes traditionally brick-and-mortar restaurants accessible for at-home customers.
Expanding the to-go service not only opens the door to a wave of new guests, but it also allows the restaurant to understand the needs of its customers and track their trends and purchases. Perdue says it is important to be where the customers are. Fridays allows customers to place orders via Facebook, GM OnStar or Amazon Alexa, which makes it convenient to order great food from wherever they are.
Going forward, the biggest trends in the constantly evolving restaurant industry will be using data to connect the online and in-restaurant experiences and engaging customers after they dine. Taking advantage of digital trends and technology can help restaurants like TGI Fridays stay ahead of the curve.
Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, keynote speaker and author of “More Is More.” Sign up for her weekly newsletter here.