In 2022, experiential dining will be key to both bringing guests into a restaurant and maintaining online ordering momentum.

In 2021, the return to pre-pandemic levels of on-premises dining, paired with comprehensive off-premises strategies, gave the hospitality industry a much-needed financial boost. Yet, challenges remained as the U.S. experiences continued economic uncertainty, labor shortages, and supply chain issues. As diners found a balance between online ordering and in-person dining, a clear pattern emerged: they craved even more personalized and unique experiences, whether in person or off-premises. And they were willing to share their data to receive it, with 84 percent of consumers saying they trust restaurants with their personal data if it translates to a more personalized experience. 

Next year, experiential dining—elevating an ordinary meal into a memorable moment through personalized service and unique touches—will be key to both bringing guests into a restaurant and maintaining online ordering momentum. Building on pre-pandemic interest in immersive and enhanced restaurant experiences, experiential dining will no longer be an added perk, but table stakes for restaurants looking to deepen guest relationships.

To see continued success, operators should build upon lessons learned in 2021, leveraging data to deliver on the guest experience while implementing new innovations to address the growing demand from discerning guests for more personalized, experience-driven dining.

Enhancing the dining experience

Experiential dining can take many forms, including focused attention on diners’ individual preferences through in-person interactions and virtual feedback. For example, since over half of Americans deal with food sensitivities, operators can provide guests with an enhanced experience by remembering their food preferences and allergies to make tailored recommendations. By acknowledging these details, operators can offer their customers better experiences that will keep them coming back time and time again.

Additional extra touches such as seating a guest at their preferred table or greeting them by name at the host stand can also make the difference between a one-time visitor and a loyal guest. In fact, over half (51 percent) of Americans state a server simply remembering them from a previous visit would make their dining out experience more special.

Online ordering will also continue to play a crucial role in personalization, since 61 percent of consumers now order takeout or delivery once per week (up from 29 percent in 2020). To offer more tailored promotions and online menus, hospitality operators should track important insights via a unified guest profile. With on- and off-premises data in one place, operators can execute on takeout and delivery experiences that feel as tailored and welcoming as in-person dining. 

While more diners will seek out unique food experiences in the new year, any restaurant that implements personalized service as their baseline will see success. 

Leveraging data to unlock rich dining experiences

The key to meeting guests’ expectations in 2022 will be in how a restaurant leverages their customer data. Tech savvy hospitality operators know that having the right tools at their disposal can take their marketing programs to new heights. With a strategy in place to personalize those marketing interactions, operators can leverage data to create programs that drive loyalty for both on- and off-premises experiences.

With online ordering and reservation data in a singular centralized guest database, operators have the information they need at their fingertips to unlock rich dining experiences—but only when they work with a technology provider that gives them ownership over their data. When operators own their guest data, they own their customer relationships, enabling them to market to their guests more effectively to drive deeper loyalty and engagement with their brand. 

For example, data from previous in-person visits can let staff know about high-priority tables, which guests are regulars, who might have a severe allergy, or what type of wine a guest orders at every meal. When you tie in off-premises guest data, you can also understand who a frequent delivery customer might be, what kind of experience they had the last time they ordered, and whether they’re a local. These insights can be used to tailor experiences that resonate with guests, like inviting a local delivery customer in for an exclusive tasting of their favorite dish or offering a complimentary glass of their favorite wine to a guest visiting for the 10th time. 

Most importantly, data, and the platforms it is stored in, can help automate the time-consuming and siloed processes of getting to know and recognize a restaurant’s best guests. This ultimately helps combat labor shortages with fewer front of house employees, all while providing a clearer view of both on- and off-premises guests.

Imagine a New York diner who orders the same dish but only ever through delivery. With the right guest management technology, a guest can be tagged automatically as a frequent takeout customer and their itemized spend can be added to their guest profile. Around that guests’ birthday, operators could send a tailored marketing email with a special birthday discount for their favorite dish when ordered online or a complimentary treat if they decide to visit in person. Marketing automation allows operators to execute personalized service and experiences at scale, extending the brand of the restaurant beyond its doors and ensuring it’s chosen time and again amongst a sea of options.

With the amount of data available to restaurants through multiple channels, investing in the right technology partners is key to unlocking its potential and boosting guest loyalty in 2022.

Looking ahead

Heading into the new year, restaurant guests will seek out experiential dining, ranging from unique in-person experiences to personalized touches when ordering online. Leveraging guest data will be key to meeting expectations across both scenarios and creating a unique, personalized experience with every order or visit.

The 2022 restaurant guest will be hungry for personalized service, and the right data tools will help restaurants satisfy every craving. 

Joel Montaniel is the CEO and co-founder of SevenRooms, a guest experience & retention platform for the hospitality industry, where he leads business strategy and sales. Prior to founding SevenRooms in 2011, Montaniel served as the Chief of Staff at LivePerson, leading strategic, operational and cultural initiatives. He started his career at Credit Suisse within the Real Estate, Finance & Securitization Group. He graduated with a B.A. from Georgetown University.

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