We’ve all heard of functional food by now — food that performs a function in the body to solve a problem or health concern. In the last 10 years or so, our society has begun to learn the difference between skinny and healthy, calories and nutrition. Diet-culture has begun to phase out while functional foods, self-care and wellness practices have taken over. And with this change, more and more restaurants have emerged with nutrition-forward concepts that enable diners to participate in this functional-food movement. But what happens when we begin to combine this trend with supportive technology that assists restaurants in connecting with their customers? Enter “Functional Dining Technology”.
Creating Purposeful Connection
The word “function” by definition, means “of or having a special activity, purpose, or task; relating to the way in which something works or operates”. While we’ve become accustomed to this term being assigned to food in the last several years, it can also be applied when describing the outcome of using technology to create connections and even collect insight on what customers expect from foodservice businesses when they dine. A big conversation we have here at FoodCalc is around intention. What purpose does our technology serve? How does it solve the pain points of our clients?
After providing nutrition analysis for restaurant menus for the last decade, we realized that we had created a connection between our clients and their customers, without even knowing it. The key to understanding a diner’s individual preferences is by taking note of what they’ve ordered and how they interacted with the menu option the chose during the ordering process. Once we captured these details, in addition to ingredient changes and ordering frequency, we were able to get a true idea of what customers were looking for on a per-location basis. As we’ve reported in recent weeks (amongst many other outlets who are seeing this new lane emerging on the restaurant-technology highway) diners have begun to subscribe to food businesses that cultivate and provide a customized experience. The more data a restaurant has regarding a diner’s likes and dislikes, the easier it is to re-target them for new business. So when we begin to open the conversation up to technology that gathers those insights by connecting the granular ingredient data to a mini-CRM, things start to get interesting. This is when Functional Dining Technology was born; technology created to solve problems for the food business and the diner alike.
Harnessing the Buying Power of the Millennial
The concept is simple: identify the customer’s meal preferences and how they interact with the foods they like on your menu, then use that data to create customized promotions that speak directly to the diner as an individual, not a group demographic. According to Single Platform: “A guest can go wild building out menu items to their heart’s content. And that goes a long way with millennials: 54% are more loyal to businesses that let them, in their words: “create something unique to me.”
54% of Millennials, the generation who has taken over with the most-buying power, are on the hunt for restaurants who have integrated technology in their everyday operations. The smoother the experience, the more intuitive the technology, the more they can customize their experience, the more loyal they become. This is where functional dining technology truly shines, connecting the restaurant to the individual preferences of their target diners by providing the data that tells the restaurant how each diner is interacting with their menu items, singular ingredients and even add-ons.
While diet culture has begun to take a backseat in recent years, allergen awareness and other dietary needs/preferences have hopped in the driver’s seat. According to a survey conducted by Gallup, 1 in 5 Americans are looking for gluten-free options when dining out. That’s a lot of Americans. While some allergy-conscious restaurants, like Cooper’s Hawk, have begun to take this demand seriously by creating gluten-free menus, some restaurants don’t even have allergens on their radar. But with the allergen community growing year after, it would be unwise for restaurants to continue to turn a blind eye to the concerns of their diners. In recent years, as allergy awareness has grown and the taboo has begun to fade, more and more food allergies have surfaced, forcing many Americans to adopt stricter lifestyles, like vegan or paleo, to avoid several of the Top 8 Allergens.
It’s becoming more apparent than ever that food businesses will fall behind the curve if they do not evolve to adapt to the new demands of their customer base. And what better way to stay in touch and on top of the trends than to use your very own digital menu as a customized analytics platform with an attached mini-CRM? Upgrade your very own menu by implementing functional dining technology with SmartMenu. Functional dining technology, like SmartMenu, isn’t just about adopting another platform, it’s about relating with your customers on such a granular level, that you’re understanding the intention behind their orders and getting to know your target audience on a level that wasn’t possible before.
How is your dining technology functional? What problem is it solving? What is its purpose? If you can’t answer these questions, it probably isn’t functional dining technology at all. Work smarter, not harder. Transform your menu into a custom experience. Activate your SmartMenu.