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  • Leigh de Klerk

Dining to Digital: It’s restaurants’ time to shine

The hospitality industry has faced some difficult and unfortunate challenges as a result of the pandemic, forcing restaurant owners to rapidly change the way they operate. In order to survive, many businesses have raced to establish a digital infrastructure, ensuring that they can continue to reach and support their customers safely.

During the pandemic, restaurants needed to implement mobile apps to continue business through take-outs, deliveries or curb-side pick-up. Instead of a luxury gimmick or experiment, these apps very quickly became essential vehicles to offer safe ways for restaurants to communicate and provide services to their customers.

As the dust begins to settle, the industry is now realising that the rise of mobile adoption has created some great opportunities. This sudden wave of digital adoption within the industry is enabling many restaurants to tap into customer data and create immersive, personalised experiences that will excite diners, increase loyalty, improve service and ultimately boost revenue.

This chart from Statista, demonstrates the rapid increase in UK Food Delivery App Users as much as 24.6% from 2019 to 2020.

By using data and technology, businesses can provide experiences that revolutionise hospitality. Early adoption of such digital transformation will help restaurants capitalise on increased consumer data to learn more about their customers behaviours and preferences, allowing them to differentiate themselves amongst competitors.

Diners are now much more comfortable with mobile ordering and contactless payments, with this transition becoming the expectation. Restaurants need to be quick off the mark to satisfy expectation but also use this change to re-define a new normal digital dining experience that everyone will be talking about.

As a restaurant business, here are some of the opportunities not to be missed:

/ Data

With more customers interacting with restaurant apps and QR codes, this provides access to valuable first-party data that most businesses have never really had the opportunity to explore before. This data can provide insight into where customers are coming from, how frequently they visit, how much they spend, what they order, meal preferences, allergies and so much more. Some mobile platforms provide access to app interaction data, for example how often the app is opened and what content customers are engaging with.

Activating this data will enable in-app real-time content decisioning that supports each individual customer personalised meal selection suggestions, wine pairing recommendations and can even give customers access to experiential story telling of dish origins or information on how produce is sourced. Online chat can be implemented to support diners with questions driving further efficiencies in service.

When the meal is finished, apps are the perfect environment for interactive feedback, encouraging diners to share their experience by uploading photos and comments which is invaluable to support advocacy and influencer activity. Finally, app technology can continue the seamless experience through contactless payment and even include functionality to split the bill.

The journey continues beyond the dine as Marketing teams can leverage the data to optimise service and design exceptional digital customer journeys that are highly tailored to each and every one of their customers.

/ Automated Customer Lifecycle Strategy

Combining digital channels including email, app push notifications, social media or SMS, restaurants can use the customer behaviour data to create advanced multichannel CRM strategies. Businesses can develop automated messaging experiences that can support the customer beyond the meal, increasing customer reach, growing customer loyalty and reducing the number of customers who move on to the competition.

Restaurants finally have the opportunity to talk to their customers at every stage of the dining journey with the goal of improving customer experience and perception. Designing specific messaging strategies that increase booking frequency, these may include push notifications about specials, SMS about special VIP events, or use email as a vehicle to deliver engaging content intended to drive bookings.

/ Marketing Reach

Gone are the days when staff need to stand outside your restaurant wearing advertising boards to drive customers inside. Geo-targeting is a hot topic and a great way to use mobile technology to reach out to nearby customers. Push notifications can be used to send alerts to users who may be passing by and are also an excellent way to connect to customers by alerting them to special menus and events to bring the restaurant front of mind.

/ Loyalty

Digital platforms can also provide an excellent way to manage loyalty initiatives where customers can access their personalised offers or receive rewards for booking frequency, spend value or even benefits for social participation and recommending friends. Apps can also provide a platform for customers to submit feedback, which can be used to make improvements where necessary, but positive reviews can provide powerful content to share and use within marketing.

/ Customer Experience

Mobile technology can allow diners to easily interact with menus and engage with content about specials, popular dishes and ingredients. As customers become more accustom to this digital experience across the hospitality industry and other areas, they are coming to expect a slick and interactive experience when dining. Apps also offer a great way to offer immersive storytelling about the history of your restaurant or provide tips on food and wine pairing. Furthermore, ordering via an app will benefit your restaurant by creating efficiencies and reduce mistakes during service.

/ One Click from Google and Facebook

Restaurants are able to boost this seamless experience even further by connecting with other platforms like ‘Reserve with Google’. This integration allows customers to reserve a table through Google Search, Maps or the Google Assistant, taking away any barriers to making a booking. Similarly, Facebook now offers functionality that means its users can make a table reservation from a single call to action on your page.

/ Facial Recognition Technology

Platforms such as FaceMe are becoming increasingly popular in the restaurant industry, helping to streamline the end-to-end process and eliminating the need for customers to carry around loyalty cards. The dining experience can be even more exceptional by immediately recognising when VIPs arrive and rewarding them instantly.

/ Augmented and Virtual Reality

An AR-based app could elevate the dining experience by bringing your menu to life. Customers are looking to restaurants to enhance their visit and technology such as augmented and virtual reality has great potential to transform the industry.

How Shaw/Scott can help you

Our support offering is designed to help brands fast track their digital transformation strategy and keep up with the rapid pace of change in a competitive environment. Most importantly, we show brands how to realise the huge opportunities for restaurants to achieve exceptional dining experiences for their customers.

Our digital acceleration strategy will provide you with a 2-year digital marketing plan with defined objectives, KPIs and a prioritised roadmap of strategic initiatives.

The engagement is made up of a number of milestones:

About Shaw/Scott

Over the past 10 years, our team of experts have helped leading brands understand and execute industry-leading CRM strategies. From independent technology evaluations to implementation and strategy, our specialists are committed to helping clients achieve dynamic, engaging, customer-first experiences.

Contact us at to learn more about how we can help your business to shine in this new era of digital dining.

You can also download a copy of this article to share with your team here.


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