It should come as no surprise to anyone in the restaurant industry that a new year brings along new diner preferences. As consumers gear up to accomplish their New Year resolutions: to slim down or to simply care for their health, lighter fare is the expectation. And it’s exactly what restaurants everywhere should be delivering, especially since we all need to adhere to dining restrictions, yet again (a little pandemic humor, too soon we know). But with diner preferences changing with each season, how do you know what your diners are craving when it’s time to promote a limited time offer? Do you rely on old favorites? Do you risk revenue and experiment with new flavor combinations and trendy ingredients? And when you promote your seasonal items, what do you use to determine the success of an item? To put it bluntly, outside of your payment processing system analytics, it’s pretty much a guessing game, isn’t it? Well it doesn’t have to be. You can use your very own menu to find out exactly what your customers crave and prepare for diners in 2021. Curious? Keep reading.
Ingredients: The Customer Data Treasure Trove
All the dishes that sell well (and those that don’t) are all created from the same thing: ingredients. And the success or failure of a menu item is depended on how those ingredients come together in flavor, texture, and presentation. Well when you’re trying to gather data on your customer’s preferences, the number one source of ingredient data is all stored in one place: your menu’s nutritional pdf. Now typically when we think of that nutritional pdf we think of the regulatory calorie counts required by the FDA to be on restaurant menus.
And in the case of restaurants that don’t pride themselves on being diet friendly, it might be even buried on your website. What you may not know, however, is that these nutritional documents are a treasure chest of information for collecting data on your customer preferences. And by simply converting your traditional nutrition pdf to a SmartMenu, you’ve got a hidden gold-mine that can help you discover everything about your customer’s preferences. Imagine creating your menu items for 2021 with the knowledge of what your customer’s are looking for? How would that change how you shaped your menu? Dare we say, drastically?
Shaping a Smarter Menu
You might be shocked to discover that SmartMenu was our response to the pandemic. We wanted to enable restaurants to make confident decisions about their online operations and menu offerings by simple repurposing their nutritional data to uncover their customer’s preferences. It is a rare consumer that goes to multiple restaurants and orders the same thing. The customer that orders their favorite salad at Panera will likely order another menu favorite at another restaurant.( I love Panera’s Asian Sesame Salad but I don’t want an Asian Sesame Salad when I head over to Buona Beef, I want a beef sandwich with extra sweet peppers!) This makes each restaurant menu a unique source of data that changes with each customer and is exclusively valuable to that restaurant alone. And we have found this to be the case within the same restaurant chain across hundreds of locations. A customer favorite at a hot dog chain in Boston might be completely different if that same hot dog chain had a location in Los Angeles. Why? Demographics! This making traffic on a per-location basis even more priceless.
The What and The Why of Diner Tracking
There are so many data-points to be derived from your nutritional/ingredient data. And these data-points can fluctuate in value from restaurant to restaurant depending on what they would like to know and how they are planning to apply that knowledge. A popular example we like to give has to do with costing. Many times, customers like to customize their meal orders to suit their personal flavor preferences. For example, if I went to Panera and ordered my favorite Asian Sesame Salad but wanted it without the wontons, your restaurant SmartMenu would track this preference. And not only could it save this preference for me for future orders, it will also track how many other customers are removing the wontons from the Asian Sesame Salad. If after tracking for a quarter, SmartMenu reports that 30% of customers remove the wontons from their Asian Sesame Salad just like me, naturally, Panera could order 30% less wontons. That’s a pretty big chunk of change when stretched across all 2,000 of their locations. In addition to the reduction in ordering costs for wontons, it’s a tremendous savings in food waste as well — a notorious issue in the food industry as we all know. No worries of extra wontons being stale or expiring due to unnecessary volume. And how could the money saved by increased accuracy in ordering practices be re-invested into the restaurant? That’s just one piece of data that impacts two major components of restaurant revenue and operations. Imagine how other data-points could be used for the benefit of the restaurant?
What word comes to mind when we say the word A/B testing? For us, it’s expensive and inconvenient. Okay, so there’s two, but we’re sure they came to your mind as well. Finding tried and true customer favorites is a difficult hurdle for all restaurants to overcome. But when you want to add some variety to your restaurant menu, that’s a whole other beast entirely. Traditionally data is collected via survey in-house or online over an extended period of time. And many times, the data collected is insufficient. A new sandwich might sell well at franchise locations on the East Coast, but in the Midwest, the same sandwich could completely bomb. But why? That question tends to go unanswered more often than it should. A restaurant SmartMenu could be a game-changer.
Instead of a long-handed limited time offer roll-out, a menu item can be A/B tested across several restaurants, made different ways and data can be collected to truly understand why that menu item succeeds or fails. A roasted chicken sandwich with chipotle mayo can be tested against itself with a garlic aioli. Converting to a SmartMenu will not only allow you to discover how the customer likes their roasted chicken sandwich prepared, but offers the restaurant the opportunity to chat with the customer on their LTO at any time. With built-in text fields, you can track repeat orders of your LTO’s and ask them if they enjoyed your sandwich, why they like it prepared the way they chose and even offer them a promo! The world is your oyster with SmartMenu.
Create and Change Your Menu with Confidence
SmartMenu eliminates the perpetual client guessing game by unveiling the dining, ordering and flavor preferences of your target customer. Enabled with geo-location tracking, customer dining insights, A/B testing capabilities and more, you can create and change your menu with confidence. Don’t waste a single dollar guessing what your customer wants when you have the power to discover it by repurposing your nutritional pdf into a data gold mine! Feel empowered making decisions about your menu, costing, ordering and operations deliberately, backed by real data. No one can tell you more about your customer than your customer themselves. Connect with them right through your menu with your restaurant SmartMenu. You won’t regret it.