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Deploying AI to Elevate the Restaurant Customer Experience

8/2/2023
Andrea Mulligan, Paytronix
Andrea Mulligan, Chief Customer Officer, Paytronix

How is artificial intelligence helping to streamline menu optimization and guest decisions?

People have become accustomed to personalized experiences in their digital shopping and that’s true not just for big brands like Amazon, but also for restaurants. In fact, 71% expect companies to personalize their experience, and 76% get frustrated when that doesn’t happen, according to a 2021 study by McKinsey & Company. Getting to that level of personalization means having access to the right data, and having the tools in place so that marketers can use that data to create a more relevant experience and through that, increase revenue. Showing a person their last order at the top of a custom menu is one thing but suggesting an add-on item or something that they’re likely to purchase next takes things to a different level. To do that, you need to understand the purchasing habits of that individual, as well as those of people who have made similar purchases. Artificial Intelligence (AI), plays a significant role here.

There are other places where AI can play a role that aren’t as obvious but still affect the guest’s decision process. One example within the Paytronix Online Ordering platform is our feedback tool that uses AI to help brands respond quickly to guest issues. When a customer lodges a complaint, AI takes that complaint and uses it to write a customized email for a manager to edit and send. As one restaurant executive said to me, “We didn’t hire managers for their ability to write email.” Writing that email is hard, AI makes it easier. 

When a guest receives a response to a complaint, they are 20% more likely to return. If you add an incentive like a coupon, the ROI is, on average, 4x the cost of that incentive. So just giving a simple AI-driven email writing tool to the front-line workers can have tremendous business impact. 

What are some critical considerations for restaurants seeking an effective loyalty program?

You want to make your loyalty program truly known for something. It’s about approaching the program as the foundational element in the brand’s broader marketing mix. Loyalty is not a campaign or a promotion, it is a long-term commitment to the customer relationship that is the most direct route to true connection of any of the marketing tools available. It considers the journey customers want to take with you and you want them to take with you. An effective loyalty program is part of a broader digital guest engagement strategy that keeps your guests active in that journey and coming back for more. That journey must include elements like online ordering, mobile apps, CRM tools, and messaging.  

Loyalty is about keeping guests coming back. If you’re just looking at rewards and discounts, you’re missing the bigger picture. Loyalty can do so much more and help raise customer lifetime value and, through that, long-term revenue. 

 

Our data suggests that online ordering may inspire larger orders than in-store. How can restaurants best capitalize on that trend?

That’s not just about online orders, but online orders through the brand’s native ordering platform. Our data finds that people who use the mobile app return more often, tip better, and spend more than those using third-party apps. What’s more, they also tend to be part of the loyalty program, which means it’s easier to understand their preferences and easier to communicate with them directly. As we talked about earlier, the ability to personalize the experience meets customer expectations and drives higher shopping carts and LTV. All this is to say, when you engage the guest fully across the whole platform, you can build those strong relationships that are at the core of the hospitality industry.

Andrea Mulligan helps customers realize the full benefits of the Paytronix Customer Experience Platform by ensuring that every customer receives world-class service. She has her MBA from The Carroll School of Management at Boston College. When Andrea is not working on customer success, she can be found hiking the great outdoors, completing triathlons, and traveling with her husband.

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