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06/09/2022

The Scoop on RTN’s Customer Record Data Standard

Restaurant Technology Network’s newest industry standard helps operators maintain integrity when collecting and handling customer data, both zero-party and first-party.
Anna Wolfe
Senior Editor - Restaurants
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RTN Data Standard

The Restaurant Technology Network (RTN) introduced its latest specification as part of an ongoing effort to wrap industry standards around restaurant technology for the benefit of restaurants and technology suppliers who serve them. The Customer Record Data Standard was released to the industry during a special webinar held on June 1.

Creating this game-changing standard was a labor of love. It took the Customer Record Data Standard workgroup (13 people), 452 hours during a 17 month period to create it. 

The Heart of RTN: Workgroups 

Workgroups are at the heart of the RTN community; it's where thought leaders from across the industry – restaurant operators, vendors and consultants – roll up their sleeves and work together to find solutions to common problems.

“RTN workgroups are really like industry think tanks, whereby restaurants and suppliers join together to solve restaurant challenges,” explained RTN Co-Founder Angela Diffly. “That's really what RTN is all about. That's our mission.”

As operators lean into data for optimizing customer relationships, RTN’s Customer Record Data Standard can prove beneficial when sharing data across platforms and parties.

Once implemented the Customer Record Data Standard will: 

Collect fragmented, non-uniform customer profiles

Manage customer data via disparate systems

Maintain integrity when collecting and handling customer data, both zero party and first-party

Help restaurants own the customer relationship, cultivating loyal fans, understanding customer behavior, sparking repeat business
 

Rising to the Challenge

Steven M. Elison,Worldwide Head of Restaurants & Food Service at Amazon Web Services (AWS), shared the group’s defining principle: “To allow the systems to have the business logic, the business intelligence, and make all the deterministic things and just create simple, dumb pipes that allow that communication to be sent down to the next system that's smart and intelligent and can interpret the information. In essence, we want to put all of the business logic on the systems and make our communications channels super easy, streamlined, simple and straightforward.”

The majority of systems today allow free access to their data, pointed out Results Thru Strategy’s Christopher Sebes. This presents challenges and opportunities for the industry.

Pain Points Be Gone

From the operator’s perspective, having to integrate disparate systems is a pain and also points to the need for a single standard, explained George Hutto, Sr. BI Developer, MOD Super Fast Pizza. The data that's both collected and shared between systems is not congruent.

“I want to be efficient and write and ingest it only one time… It (RTN’s data standard) allows me to do that too, and I don't have to do something unique each and every time, which is all too often,” Hutto explained.

Standards Matter

Since its founding, RTN has released several technical documents, including the Open API Framework and the Menu Synchronization Specification and the community continues to build upon these standards. 

ICYMI: Restaurant Technology Network Shares Benefits of Open APIs at Restaurant Tech Conference

“We also utilize both the tables and the data elements from our other workgroups (Menu Sync.) …There's quite a bit of interplay between all of this. And not only do we want to know who the guest is, but we want to know what they're purchasing and where they're purchasing it,” said Robert Peterson, Area VP, New Business, North America, Oracle Food & Beverage.

With this Customer Record Data Standard, “We believe we put together a schema that allows us to capture every event at every specific location in every particular channel,” Peterson added.

When developing the standard, the workgroup kept some universal truths in mind. “We all want to do a better job of enhancing our customer's experience,” said Elison. So anything we can do that allows us to do more rapid experimentation, quicker integrations, speed to market, global scale, we all favor those kinds of things, and that's exactly what a standard leads to. The end result is we're all trying to answer the universal truths in our industry.”

Knowing the customer is a crucial step in building that relationship. “Historically, we wouldn't know who the customer was until maybe the transaction when they might've identified themselves as a loyalty member or we know who they are when they pay that check,” said Results Thru Strategy’s Christoper Sebes. “This opens it up.”

Consumers have embraced digital channels these past few years. 

With an increasing emphasis on digital channels during the last 24 to 36 months, there is now a record of the customer order journey. Whether for off- or on-premises dining, when the order is initiated digitally, the guest is automatically identified, explained Peterson. This contrasts with table service, where there’s “very rarely the opportunity to have a guest identify themselves,” he noted. That’s where reservation platforms can be leveraged. “The table management platforms and the reservation platforms, the interplay between them are extremely important in a service venue, … and we want to make sure that the customer record accommodates every single type of service,” said Peterson.

These days, “enhancing the customer experience” is often said with the same breath as “using data to create personalized offers.” 

“What we hear from our brand peers is that they want to be able to understand each consumer as an individual unit of one,” Elison explained. “…When you're able to piece all of those things together from all of your disparate systems, zero party, first party, you can form this really strong profile about the customer.”

The customer’s preferred ordering channels, dietary preferences, preferred menu items and preferred pronouns are important to know, to respect the customer and to build the relationship, Hutto stressed. 

The Customer Record Data Standard is a good guide for brands that want to start centralizing all the data that they have, said Tim Guerriero, Information Security Program Manager atP.F. Chang's. This gives a general understanding of the use cases and the fields that need to be collected and how to feed it all in. It “helps brands decipher all the data that we get on a daily basis from all the different systems. This helps the marketing teams and the other teams decipher the data that they need to use to help sell the brands, improve our brand, determine what customers need and to help our brands grow,” Guerriero explained.

Benefits of Being Involved

RTN’s Customer Record Data Standard is available now to the industry here, along with the Open API Framework and the Menu Synchronization Specification. RTN welcomes industry feedback and participation. “It is hugely helpful to have those of you in the industry, consume this information to read through it and go, ‘Wow, you forgot this,’” said Peterson. “‘Or what about that? Or did you think about it this way?’ And that's exactly the type of people that we want. It is so helpful to have more eyes on this.”

For more information about how you can get involved with RTN, visit https://restauranttechnologynetwork.com/.