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Bridging the Digital Divide with Data to Improve Operations & Experience


As online ordering and off-premise dining increase restaurant business and shift traffic flows, what steps should restaurants take to ensure that operational needs are covered? 

The past decade has seen a wave of consumer engagement across many omnichannel experiences, however, the wake has created gaps in workforce tools, techniques and processes that cannot support the demands and variety of the modern-day consumer. It’s only getting worse as new fulfillment methods emerge and ordering channels evolve beyond traditional in-store traffic and transactions. Brands must understand the bi-directional effect of customer and workforce evolution. 

As workforces are more informed, the marriage of the two creates operational efficiencies as well as higher customer satisfaction and increased lifetime value. This can be achieved by applying human-centered design principles. Experiential research, persona definition/analysis and operational journey mapping (i.e., especially for new fulfillment methods such as catering and grab & go) are tools to better understand back-of-the-house pain points and how technology can help alleviate them.

What are ways to win loyalty? 

SEBEK: Customers expect that loyalty and rewards are an omni-channel experience. In fact, restaurants experience higher acquisition and retention rates when they define channel-specific loyalty strategies across mobile, web, digital signage, social media, email, and any other platforms that touch a consumer. This variety enables valuable insight through the power of both online and offline customer data (e.g., customer preferences, time of purchases, basket size, repeatability, etc.).

Leveraging data to personalize offers and promos is a current customer expectation. In fact, when used to its potential, restaurant brands can create dynamic loyalty programs that offer different rewards altogether, depending on the customer and which market segment they fall into. For instance, some customers may experience a discount/offer-based loyalty system, based on purchase history and behavior. However, another group may experience a tiered loyalty system where earning points unlocks new brand experiences in addition to product discounts. 

Gamification is also maturing. Restaurants are observing favorable brand outcomes and shifts in consumer behavior by creating fun digital experiences that can be unlocked. A few examples are scavenger hunts in-store, scratch-offs, and loyalty status level-ups. 

What do you think is going to have the most significant impact on how restaurants conduct business?  

SEBEK: The technology that will have the biggest impact on restaurants has no tangible, user-facing component at all: artificial intelligence and machine learning. By harnessing the power of integrated data sets and underlying data models that can self-learn and evolve over time, restaurants will get much smarter about operations and efficiencies – providing a lift to bottom line profitability. For instance, combining point of sale transactions with data from traffic/weather reports and local sporting events can better predict the upcoming day-part. As restaurants prepare for advanced operational challenges such as dynamic product pricing and hourly-waged employees, they’re going to need data to work for them – not against them.

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