Succeeding in Food Service by Getting Personal

Millennials understandably eat up much of the attention in the foodservice industry – but it’s the wise restauranteur who looks past generational generalities and thinks about how to reach the individual.

One research study after another confirms that the millennial “me society” (an evolution of its parents’ “me generation”) increasingly demands – and rewards – tailored-to-fit experiences. Forty-four percent of this age group says that being able to customize a menu or portion size is a key factor in deciding where to eat. It’s no wonder, then, that some of the most creative thinking about reaching millennials (or any other group) centers around “customerization,” or custom-tailoring a food and brand experience to the individual customer.

Customized dining

New technology is driving much of the innovation in customization. Today’s customers get to “have it their way” like never before, with table-top kiosks and menu apps that provide easy personalization of food, flavor and even portions. Restaurant operations also benefit, whether in the flexibility to offer a menu based on daypart or customer profile, or in the capability to personalize in-store promotions and increase upsell (patrons ordering on touchscreens are reported to spend 15-20% more than they otherwise would).

Glitzy new tech is not, however, the sole route to effective customization. Sandwich chain Which Wich uses a decidedly low-tech approach – menu items and options pre-printed on sandwich bags. It’s simple, quick, and it gives customers the opportunity to select a wide range of cheese, meats, breads and spreads to get exactly the sandwich they want.

Customized branding and communication

bbc-foodservice-062018-thumbThe restaurant experience is much more than a menu or even a meal. How you project your restaurant’s brand – its visual impression, “voice,” and overall personality – has tremendous impact on a customer’s initial impressions and eagerness to return. For instance, you can try to save money on blank, generic napkins – and leave a blank, generic impression. Or you can custom print your napkins, not only with your logo but, for instance, with special messages that could relate to your community involvement… or just with fun thoughts that vary periodically. This may seem like a small touch, but it can have big impact, with 75% of customers saying it shows that a restaurant “cares more” about them and the kind of experience they have.

Custom-made to boost your business

The upshot? Customization isn’t just a good idea – it’s a prerequisite for a new era.
In fact, it may be the only way to satisfy the 40% of millennials who are looking for new and innovative flavors like Sriracha, gochujang and harissa, while also appealing to long-time customers who’ve never even heard of those spices, let alone thought about including them in a special order.

Are you ready? If you’re in foodservice, it’s time to get personal.

Why touchscreens are changing how we order at restaurants (Washington Post)
4 Foodservice trends driven by millennials (Restaurant Business magazine)
Understanding the Value of Custom-Printed Napkins (Essity)
Mass Customization (QSR magazine)