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Executive Insight Q&A: The Importance of a Stack That Interacts With Guests

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Charles Gray, Chief Revenue Officer, Paytronix Systems, Inc.

Customer engagement is essential to restaurants. How can technology make it easier for guests to engage with a restaurant? 

At this point it's not just about making it easier for customers to engage through technology. The major shifts that have happened in the last year proved that the customer experience relies on technology.

Now every restaurant must have a technology stack to interact with their guests. Whether it's a huge multi-national brand or a small, one unit operation, customers look for restaurants online, order online, and pay online. Even if guests dine on-premises, they walk in expecting things like mobile payments, digital menus, and loyalty rewards available through an app. In truth, restaurants need two basic components in place: an online ordering platform and a loyalty program. 

A strong online ordering and delivery platform enables brands to offer guests a place from which to order other than the third-party aggregators. With the right system, the same technology can be used for contactless on-premises dining as well. This platform needs to be flexible, so that restaurants can take advantage of concepts like Google food ordering, which can integrate directly with the ordering platform and provide another guest touchpoint. 

Restaurants also need a loyalty platform that easily enables guests to join, earn, and use rewards. This gives brands the ability to maintain contact with guests, learn their preferences, and market to them accordingly.

All this works together. For example, when we surveyed guests, 25% of couples with children said they are ordering more food online and less on-premises since the start of the pandemic, and 39% of parents with kids said that loyalty programs would encourage them to spend more.

How can digital engagement help to gather and analyze critical customer data to provide insights? 

It all starts with zero-party data. A well-designed program will encourage this kind of voluntary sharing. For example, a loyalty program that includes a birthday reward encourages guests to share their age, while a program that offers free delivery through online ordering could encourage people to actively share their address. Then it's a matter of learning their preferences and carefully using that information in a way that is useful to the guest. Understanding a guest's visit cadence helps a brand know when that guest may need an incentive to come back, so that a person who visits twice a week gets a nudge when they've missed a visit at a different time than a guest whose visit cadence is twice a month. 

Mobility has become more important than ever, both for guests seeking to order food and for brands seeking to meet customer demand on property and off-prem. Can you speak to the rise of mobile solutions? 

Everything happens through the phone. For today's consumers the phone is how they get transportation how they share experiences, and even how they connect with loved ones. No guest experience can exist without a mobile front end, yet too many restaurant brands treat this as an afterthought, often putting out text-only menus or leaving their mobile ordering to third-party aggregators. In both cases the ordering process can be so much more dynamic and provide additional information back to the brand. Some things are simple, like making sure that product images are enticing, but other things take more technology, like understanding a guest's browsing patterns and building menus that change dynamically based on product availability. When restaurants outsource that activity to third-party aggregators, they're putting a barrier between themselves and their own customers. If the mobile phone is part of the guest journey, then it needs to be a key component of a brand's overall marketing solution. 

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