The 100 or so chain executives attending Chicago researcher Technomic’s 2015 Consumer Insights and Planning Program this January learned how the perplexing consumer is evolving under such influences as a tepid economy and rapid-fire technical advances. Some revelations had pens scratching across notepads in a frenzy, including these:
1. Chick-fil-A uses technology to ease pressure on customers. “Our restaurants are usually busy, and that can add to the stress,” explained Senior Business Consultant Ari Zachas. With the concept’s new remote-ordering app, he said patrons are spared the on-the-spot pressure of scanning the menu board and deciding what to order. They can use the app to do that at their leisure.
2. Very young consumers classified as Gen Z are “far more likely than their older counterparts to cite the importance of human interaction” with restaurant staffers, said Sara Monnette, Technomic’s senior director of consumer insights and innovation. Her remark all but quashed conventional wisdom that love of in-restaurant tech correlates directly with consumers’ youth.
3. “Once guests teach you, they don’t want to teach you again,” said Seasons 52 President Brian Foye. So the chain uses technology to avert potential customer frustration, he explained. After diners provide precise instructions about how they want an item or a meal, “we try to capture that information in our CRM so they don’t have to tell you again.”