Next year will be characterised by the rise of click and collect, personalisation and customer data as consumers continue to adopt more technology-led interaction.
According to global research firm NPD Group, those operators who embrace technology in order to personalise the customer experience and provide alternative ordering methods will be best positioned to profit.
NPD Group foodservice director Cyril Lavenant said that those businesses willing to innovate and adjust to changing consumer habits would thrive in 2018.
He added: "There's huge potential for click & collect, for example, but success will depend on how well a foodservice responds to this trend. There's also scope for developing the way in which a business nurtures, trains and retains staff. Operators can bring creativity to bear on tiered and personalized loyalty schemes, and on the trend for recommendations."
Five eating out trends to watch in 2018
1. Click & collect
Click & collect through smart phones is set to drastically change the way foodservice operators and consumers interact, NPD Group predicts. It believes it will allow operators to serve more customers and drive profits, as well as providing the data to develop more personalised offers.
However, implementation will involve reconfiguring restaurants and training staff in order for the technology to work seamlessly. This might include the introduction of an ‘express lane' for customers expecting this new speedy service.
2. Invest in great staff for excellent results
While technology can help to some degree, your best sales people remain the staff on the restaurant's front line. By investing in the wellbeing, happiness and knowledge of your teams in return you'll gain enhanced customer satisfaction, loyalty and profits. There is no coincidence that those that nurture, train and retain staff are the operators gaining competitive advantage.
If you're already one of these businesses, it's worth measuring yourself against the competition and setting yourself apart as an employer of choice by entering the Best Places to Work in Hospitality 2018 awards.
3. Make VIP status the norm
Loyalty schemes are ubiquitous now, so to stand out an operator needs to offer more than a discount. Why not tap into your guests' desire for special treatment by offering valuable customers VIP or exclusive offers? NPD Group says that delivering an occasional, disruptive surprise will help drive short-term share gains and generate buzz and brand warmth.
4. Avoid broken brand promises
Never allow your brand to over-promise and under-deliver. With competition only set to increase in the coming months as consumers shop around for the best experience and perception of value, a restaurant product must live up to its promise of quality, service and support. In the age of social media news of a bad meal, long waiting times or poor service travels fast.
5. Make recommendations
Consumers love recommendations, and the technology is now available for front of house staff to make meaningful suggestions based on customer data. Technology will help tailor menu suggestions that are relevant to a customer's mood, diet, hunger or reason for visiting. Thorough collection of data, combined with an employee capable of reading it so as not to overwhelm the guest, will help operators make personalised recommendations and costumers feel valued.
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