DIGITAL DINING -
THE DATA OPPURTUNITY
04/11/2016 | BY AALIA WALKER
Enter a restaurant these days and you’ll no doubt see some of the following: a blogger choosing the perfect filter whilst their starter goes cold; a date where both parties are already swiping right for the next one; a businessman closing the deal with an excessively loud phone call; a child staring at the TV in the corner.
Of course, dining out should be all about taking our eyes off the smartphone, turning off the box set, and actually going out and speaking to each other. It’s a truly live, offline experience. But this modern obsession with bringing our digital lives into everything that we do brings something very valuable to the table, both for the diner and the restaurateur: data. As a diner I know everything about the restaurant I choose to book, and as a restaurateur I know everything about my customers, and prospective customers. This is invaluable.
Let’s follow the diner’s journey first. Long before you tuck into that first mouthful, you will have been fed streams of data to help you choose where to eat – your friends sending photos of their dinner, that blogger you follow on Twitter raving about the next big thing, the Facebook ad for your local Chinese restaurant, the TripAdvisor reviews. The journey continues online – you book a table through their website, and increasingly you may even order from an iPad and pay with an app. And then you’ll share your #FoodPorn pics, leave a review, and the cycle continues.
"dining out should be all about taking our eyes off the smartphone, turning off the box set, and actually going out and speaking to each other"
All of this is an opportunity for restaurants. The more a restaurant owner knows about his customers, the more they can cater to their needs, and the easier it becomes to seek out similar diners. Which dish is getting shared on Instagram? What didn’t that blogger like about the lighting? How many of your online reviews complain about the price? The more information that is taken from pen and paper into the digital world the better when it comes to restaurant marketing. Depending on a restaurant’s technical setup, every step of the diner’s journey is a chance to get know them – take an online booking and add them to your mailing list, take the order on an iPad and monitor your most popular dishes, or even that diner’s favourite dish for when they return. Monitor what people are saying about your restaurant on social media, and what kinds of people are doing the talking. Read the reviews, take feedback on board, and win over disappointed diners. Encourage your diners to interact online, and the data collection becomes even easier – run a social media competition, offer discounts for email sign-ups, add your restaurant to a mobile payment app.
With all this comes opportunities to get even more granular – what time is the busiest on a Thursday? Do more people book on a Tuesday or a Sunday? What time are your Instagram followers online? Do more women order dessert than men? With this level of information, not only can marketing be targeted but the service can be more personal – imagine if a restaurant had noted your favourite cocktail so brought it to your table when you came back. Or getting emailed an offer because the restaurant knew it’s your birthday. Big Brother seems less scary when he brings free champagne.
Dining out must remain a real-life experience, full of flavour, atmosphere and social interaction. But there’s space for digital in all of this. Diners are hungry for the next big thing on the restaurant scene, and in order to deliver it, restaurants should be hungry for data.