Guest experience has always been - and remains - the single greatest differentiator for restaurants. Danny Meyer likes to say there are two parts to delivering an authentic guest experience: the heart and the mind. Said differently, Hospitality = Empathy + Action.
Technology can't do much to make FOH staff more empathetic, but it can help them take action. What would it look like if all FOH staff could plug into a shared brain - an institutional memory?
The Core Premise: Hospitality
Those who are in the hospitality industry take pride in serving food and drink to guests, with the goal of pleasing them, hopefully eliciting a smile, and enticing them to want to come back. Guests come back when they feel welcome, taken care of, and delighted. This is how restaurants build authentic loyalty - through an experience that leaves the guest feeling appreciated. Many call this "Hospitality".
Some restaurants employ an array of complex processes and systems to meet and hopefully exceed guest expectations - from researching guests online, to keeping detailed notes in OpenTable, to hiring and training their staff to listen and empathize with guests.
As time has passed, technology has made it easier for all types of restaurants to personalize their guest experience. Almost every guest has a smartphone in their pocket. Beacons can detect the arrival of repeat customers, providing their name, picture, and preferences. Algorithms can store and learn a guest's tastes and predict their new favorite dish or a wine they might love. All automatic and real-time, without human intervention.
Technology and Authenticity
Rightly, many restaurateurs wonder, “does technology make the guest experience less authentic?” A valid question, and in our view the answer is, “it depends.”
Danny Meyer says there are two parts to delivering an authentic guest experience: the heart and the mind. Both need to be engaged, and it’s easy to tell if they’re not. It’s obvious when someone’s heart is engaged: they’re empathetic, they ask good questions, they listen, they observe. Even if the server has no background on you, the experience feels like you could be meeting a new friend for the first time. Someone with their mind engaged has the history on you, they know a guest’s likes / dislikes, and they know how you want to be treated.
Technology can only do so much to enhance the heart, but does wonders to enhance the mind. Context of a relationship matters, and technology facilitates context. Carrying context across boundaries of staff members, human memory, and the four-walls of a restaurant location is invaluable.
In addition to authenticity at the employee level, there’s another level of authenticity that customers now expect from companies. Customers today expect that companies communicate internally. How would you feel if you called an airline’s customer service department, told them your story of how your bags were lost, and then they passed you on to a new department to whom you had to retell the whole situation. Frustrated, right? Who would you fault in that situation? The second customer service rep? No. You’d fault the company for not investing in systems that enable their reps to communicate. In the restaurant business, we see this manifest through questions such as, “Have you dined with us before?” Statements like these make the guest feel like a number.
Wisely’s tying the restaurant and technology threads together. So, what could an authentic, empathetic, technology enabled guest experience look like - before, during, and after the dining experience?
Check out our 3-part guide:
In The End
Dining is an undeniably human experience. Families, friends, and colleagues deepen their bonds over meals. Everything in a restaurant should revolve around awareness of that fact.
Here’s to thinking that technology can abstract away the noise, and allow staff and guests alike to focus on delivering and enjoying a more delightfully human experience.
Wisely empowers restaurant groups to grow and sustain profitability by acquiring valuable new guests, converting them into regulars, and keeping them happy for life. Our software is easy-to-use and enhances productivity, so staff can focus on what really matters. For more information or media inquiries, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.