The word “data” might have sterile spreadsheets and cold, hard sales numbers dancing through operators’ heads, but the next generation of data in restaurants looks much more personal. Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group collects metrics from its online reservation platform to create a seamless guest experience. Data-driven personalization is a major key to guests’ perception of quality and satisfaction, says Charlee Williamson, EVP of the New Orleans-based group. “The bargain made is the expectation of a better experience in exchange for the personal data surrendered,” she says. Here’s how restaurants are giving diners more than they bargained for—and getting repeat visits in return.
Data on diner frequency, spend and meal-period preference helps RBRG segment and target guests. For instance, a restaurant can give some extra love, in the form of a discount or shoutout, to a customer who made several reservations in one month. As for guests who have ghosted its eight concepts, the marketing team can try to entice them with an email deal for their favorite special, based on past orders.
In addition to the reservation software, the group uses a dashboard to identify server strengths and opportunities. Managers can track which servers have a high percentage of voids and offer extra point-of-sale training or a lesson on how to better describe menu items.
At six-unit City Winery, data helps sommeliers cater to Platinum-level members of its Vinofile program. The sommelier can review guests’ order history and recommend rare wines stocked especially for them. “That human element is so important for how we set ourselves apart,” says Rebecca Spindler, City Winery’s national director of guest services. Members seem to think the personalization is worth the $2,500 annual fee—City Winery has kept every Platinum member since the program began, Spindler says.
But it’s not just premier members getting attention with the help of analytics. Standard Vinofile members, who pay $85 a year, get access to City Winery’s virtual sommelier, which recommends wines based on previous purchases. It’s the most popular feature of the program, says Spindler.
Execute on insights
Data is so important to multiconcept operator Levy Restaurants that it spun off its own analytics company that tracks transactional data and customer satisfaction through digital tools, surveys and in-person interviews.
After data showed that 70% of food sales at American Airlines Arena in Miami were beverages and snacks versus cooked items, Levy added a “captain” who helps direct customers to the correct point of sale for the different items. Wait times at the venue’s concession stands have been cut in half since adding the position.
“Guests expect you to be able to customize and adjust on the fly,” says Jaime Faulkner, CEO of the subsidiary group. “Making that happen means having a handle on your data.”