The Ackroyds are regulars. They come to your restaurant almost every week. Dennis Ackroyd always orders one of your more expensive red wines and Jacqueline loves the fish dishes. They are on friendly terms with your waiter Riccardo.
One night Riccardo is off sick and the Ackroyds are served by a new waiter who seems unaware of who they are. The evening is OK although the Ackroyds miss Riccardo's warm welcome and service is a little bumpy. On leaving, they decide they'll try somewhere new next time.
Such an inconsistent guest experience would have been easy to avoid if the new waiter had been given some basic information about the Ackroyds in advance. This is where guest experience management (GEM) platforms can help.
Several technology vendors, including names like Superb, HGEM and Yumpingo, provide this service specifically for the restaurant industry. There are significant differences between the services these companies provide, although the principle of GEM – or GXM as it is also known – is the same: gathering and using guest data to make service and business improvements.
You have plenty of information about the Ackroyds from their previous visits; they have left a digital data trail in your reservations, electronic point of sale (Epos) and payment systems.
Historically, restaurant businesses have always had lots of data about their customers within their grasp; the problem has been easy access to it. Integrating different operating systems was costly and often it wasn't possible to achieve the desired outcomes.
This situation only changed a few years ago with the coming-of-age of open APIs (application programming interfaces). This is the technology that allows different systems to talk to each other, that, for instance, allows PayPal to make payments from your bank account.
Centralise your information
Kevin Dow, restaurant manager of the Gannet in Glasgow, was familiar with working across four or five different platforms at his modern fine-dining restaurant in order to collate guest information, see how team members were performing or what dishes were the most successful. This process was time-consuming and took him away from concentrating on his guests and the dining experience.
Dow heard about Superb, a Copenhagen-based technology vendor, and decided to switch to their fully integrated reservation, EPoS and payments system. He says: "Having everything collated together as an all-in-one tool was so much easier for me and enabled us to make the whole experience so much better for our guests. For everyone who's got a dietary request or a specific table they like, we take a note of that."
Installation was carried out remotely and took a few days. Dow now uses the iPad as an EPoS and the card payment terminals issued by Superb as the only hardware necessary to run his business. He pays a monthly subscription for the service and, in addition, Superb receive a percentage of transactions similar to a card merchant processing fee.
Zaedo Musa, the co-founder of Superb, previously worked in restaurants as well as being part of the team that built coffee shop chain Joe & the Juice into a global brand with 300 outlets. He noticed that on nights when restaurant managers were absent, revenue would drop by around 25%.
"That was simply because the manager was sitting on more insights about the guests than the rest of the team," he says. "Our all-in-one tool gives the restaurant industry the opportunity to have full control of the data hidden in their software, so they can connect the dots. They need to collect and access insights on their business and guests. We believe that the next mega-trend is personalisation."
So, returning to the Ackroyds, a concise guest profile could clearly display their average spend (data source: EPoS). This could alert the new waiter to possible upselling if they were spending less than normal. Having given their consent under GDPR, the Ackroyds entered some information about their dietary requirements when making their first booking (data source: reservations). The new waiter would have known that the Ackroyds never touch white wine so has saved himself the trouble of pushing a zesty Verdicchio to match the Dover sole.
In another example, you may have a young couple who always dine with you on different nights of the week and have been coming for several months. They are always served by a different team member, so do not feel as welcome as if they were recognised as loyal guests. It would be enough to record on their booking that they are loyal guests so that all staff could react accordingly. But without having the data, or an easy way to record it, loyal guests like these might slip through the net.
Henne is an independent 14-cover Cotswolds restaurant. With just two members of staff, co-founder Nick Fenton says that having advance notice of guest preferences and requirements, as provided via the Superb platform, has been "a game-changer." With only one chef, the restaurant can use the information to create a more personal experience, he explains.
For multi-site businesses, the core principle of guest experience management still holds true: using data to make service and business improvements. For fast-casual dining brands that do not take bookings so are not capturing guest information at this stage, the source of data shifts to post-visit feedback.
Data at scale
With much greater volumes of data, the scope for benchmarking increases. Large companies can quickly see how successful a new dish is; data can be selected to compare one location's performance against another's. The group can see patterns, by dish, by shift, by location, and start to draw conclusions and develop actions.
Nando's UK, for example, initially piloted a GEM solution provided by Yumpingo in July 2020. The platform was integrated with Vita Mojo, Nandos' order and pay provider, and rolled out across the group's 450 UK locations. Since implementation, Nando's UK has received on average more than 100,000 guest reviews a month. This has enabled the group to make significant improvements to its food and service offering, including satisfaction levels for take-away and delivery. The group reported a 15-point improvement in its Net Promoter Score (NPS), the key metric that measures how likely guests are to recommend a product or service to others.
Wingstop is a fast-casual dining franchise originating in the US. The UK business has eight dine-in restaurants plus six delivery-only kitchens. The group was already using UK company HGEM for mystery shopper audits and, in the summer of 2021, decided to use HGEM for guest feedback too rather than the service provided by its American franchisor.
The switch took about four weeks and involved putting QR codes onto all receipts and onto fliers dropped into take-away orders. Guests scan the QR codes to complete a short feedback questionnaire and have the chance to win a £100 voucher to spend at Wingstop.
Wingstop UK's head of marketing Andreia Harwood said the transition went well and she is now making sure that her teams use all the feedback, both negative and positive.
"We create reports every Monday morning and the operations team have meetings that same day," she explains. "They use the reports as a benchmark for performance week-on-week. It helps identify at any time if there is an issue – whether that's food quality, cleanliness, or team friendliness – we can get ahead of it."
She adds: "We want to reward our people, so every Friday we post all the great things that people have said about us on our intranet and we hero the team. We say congratulations and give them gifts."
Harwood says the relationship with HGEM is very much a partnership in continuous development and they are now in the process of adding reviews from Wingstop's sole delivery partner Deliveroo to the central platform: "We are relatively small and growing at a fast pace. HGEM are coming with us on this journey and they are willing to invest to make sure we have the tools that we need."
Navigating the digital journey
In fact, operators and their GEM suppliers have had to adapt to the increase in click and collect and delivery services during the pandemic.
"When deliveries started to take off at the start of the pandemic, up to 7% of them failed for one reason or another, but the restaurants themselves were largely oblivious to that," says Steven Pike, managing director, HGEM.
"Particularly for those with a recognisable brand, this was a problem – the customer orders online, a third-party delivers and they get nothing back. They don't know whether the order was successful or not." Since then, brands and their GEM partners have taken action and the percentage of failed deliveries has come down. "We've seen a fluidity in the technology to cope with the expansion of channels. GEM ties all those digital journeys together and measures them," says Pike.
Employees in various positions have their own reasons for looking at the data; a chef manager will be interested in how new dishes are performing whereas the marketing manager will take a greater interest in overall patterns, review ratings and NPS scores.
It is now increasingly common for relatively small hospitality businesses to employ a data analyst or insight manager. Robert Findlay-Ayles, an insight analyst intern at Wagamama's south London headquarters, gives an example of the creativity of his role. He says: "Before the pandemic, we held an internal nationwide competition called Wokstars, a head-to-head competition between our chefs with a trip to Japan on offer for the winner. By using GEM customer measures, we were able to find a positive correlation between restaurants that took part in Wokstars and their menu performance. Simply put, customers eating at a competition restaurant reported higher satisfaction with our food. This insight wouldn't have been possible without GEM."
This positive correlation encouraged Wagamama to re-run the competition this year but also extend it to front of house teams, giving them the chance to showcase their ability to bring menus to life and impress guests.
"Wagamama is very good at engaging teams in looking at the data and making sense of it," notes Pike at HGEM, who has worked with the Japanese-style chain since 2004.
Looking at innovation in the GEM space, restaurant operators can expect to see increasingly dynamic customer feedback surveys which change according to how much information guests want to give. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are making greater inroads, resulting in more intelligent data mining and continuing the theme of personalisation.
Zaedo Musa at Superb argues that post-pandemic trading conditions mean restaurants are more reliant than ever on their existing guests and have a constrained ability to attract new ones.
"To succeed today you need to know who your guests are and identify ways to bring them back," he says. "The old world is using multiple systems. The new world is using a GXM system with everything in one place so you can gather insights."
Guest experience management at a glance
- Guest experience management (GEM) refers to tech services and platforms which enable businesses to improve their performance and profitability by analysing guest data.
- The operating systems used by restaurants (reservations, EPoS and payments) contain lots of guest data, but historically it has not been easy to bring it all together in one place. Advances in open API technology now make it much easier for restaurants to collect data about their guests and business performance directly from these operating systems.
- GEM services can include data gathered from guest reviews and social media. Multi-site fast-casual brands use review and feedback platforms to benchmark performance.
- Machine learning is helping to create dynamic feedback surveys that are increasing completion rates.
Sponsor's comment: Superb
Running a restaurant using multiple systems isn't sufficient any more. The lack of integrations makes it challenging to collect and use data to improve performance, upsell to guests, and build repeat business. Located in Copenhagen, Superb empowers the new generation of restaurateurs with a more innovative way of working. Our Guest Experience Management platform (GXM) is the world's first all-in-one platform that gathers every tool needed to run and market your restaurant (reservations, POS and payments) while collecting the guest data needed to provide personalised experiences and build relationships.
With GXM, restaurants can maximise revenue with gift cards, prepaid tickets, events and no-show protection – without sacrificing the guest experience.
It's our mission to make cutting-edge technology that works for your entire team. We innovate so you can adapt to the evolving demands of the industry.
Discover why #experiencematters at http://superbexperience.com