As restaurant leaders across the country race to decide if—and how—to use artificial intelligence in their operations, Chili’s is betting on the tech to drive guest sentiment at 300-plus of its locations. Chili’s parent company Brinker International tapped a customer feedback tech platform to simplify the guest feedback collection and analytics process, then make recommendations for areas to improve across restaurant locations.
FSR recently sat down with David Weston, Brinker’s VP of international business and global development, to find out why the industry giant is taking a chance on this investment in AI innovation.
Can you share more about the motivation behind Brinker’s decision to integrate AI and partner with Tattle?
Tattle allows us to embrace AI to digest more data than ever before, accurately pinpointing what we’re doing well and where we can better live up to our purpose of making everyone feel special, as well as driving an enhanced guest experience in our more than 350 Chili’s restaurants internationally.
How do you envision AI-driven guest feedback analysis benefiting both the company and franchise operators at Brinker International?
It simplifies the whole idea of actionable data. Our franchisees can use it to see the highest-impact improvement opportunity for that location, and at the corporate level, we can clearly monitor and track each location’s guest sentiment.
In what ways do you believe AI technology will contribute to enhancing the overall guest experience at Chili’s Grill & Bar?
We receive vast amounts of guest feedback data, and analysis is done automatically within the system. This saves our operators the time and energy required to focus on what they do best, being accountable to our guests.
Could you provide some examples of the specific areas or aspects of guest satisfaction that Brinker International intends to focus on and potentially enhance based on Tattle’s insights?
Chili’s believes strongly in both food and drink perfection and making sure every guest counts. With that in mind, we will be measuring six core operational categories—accuracy, food quality, hospitality, speed of service, atmosphere, and cleanliness—across all channels, including dine-in, carry out, and delivery.
As Brinker International expands its partnership with Tattle, what long-term benefits or strategic advantages do you anticipate for the brand and its commitment to enhancing the guest experience
Tattle’s in-house team helps us go one step further and uncover more in-depth data insights beyond the dashboard. Their data collection and analytics work will help us validate hypotheses so that we can make confident decisions anchored in empirical data at the brand level.
Tattle also works with Dave’s Hot Chicken, MOD Pizza, and more, with a total footprint of nearly 10,000 restaurants across the country. Alex Beltrani, founder/CEO of Tattle, also chatted with FSR about his inspiration behind creating the tech platform, and his vision for the future.
Can you briefly walk me through your process of creating Tattle? What was your mission in doing so, and what hole were you looking to fill?
My inspiration for Tattle came from my parents. They used to own and operate a restaurant back in 1984, and to them, guest feedback was the key to their success. My parents would rely heavily on paper comment cards to measure guest satisfaction—a method popularized by Denny’s in the early 1980s. I thought to myself that there must be a better way of gathering guest feedback without fumbling through decks of cards, trying to observe trends and patterns? That’s how I came up with Tattle.
Tattle is the first improvement-focused guest feedback platform. We automatically collect guest feedback via 35-plus integrations with ordering and loyalty platforms, and synthesize the data into action items that restaurant operators can implement immediately to see results. Restaurants that meet Tattle recommended objectives have an 84 percent likelihood of seeing guest satisfaction improve within 30 days, and their revenue increase within 60-90 days.
How does Tattle compare with competitors in the market? What sets you apart?
Unlike other CXM platforms or feedback platforms, Tattle’s goal is improvement, and guest feedback happens to be the data source that’s feeding our recommendation algorithm. We’re all about identifying the one highest impact area—based on vast amounts of guest feedback data—that operators can immediately act on to see measurable results in the overall guest satisfaction.
We’re able to do this because our surveys are causation-based, meaning that we collect granular, actionable, structured factors that contribute to a positive or negative experience, instead of only collecting unstructured text entries that are hard to analyze accurately. Our surveys can collect up to 55 data points with an average 94.7 percent completion rate, thus ensuring both the quantity and quality of the feedback data that our partners are getting.
Tattle’s technology includes an Incident Management System. How does this system help in recovering guests and addressing their concerns effectively?
Because Tattle partners are proactively reaching out to guests to collect feedback, it’s less likely that unhappy guests will go onto online review sites or social media to write about their experience. This means restaurant operators are the first to know, privately via Tattle, that someone has had a bad experience, and therefore they get the chance to make things right immediately.
Tattle can send out conditional emails based on a guest’s experience, and try to recover the guest via a personalized apology or an automatic rewards attachment. By intercepting negative reviews and prompting positive reviews, Tattle partners can see their online review scores jump significantly within months. And the most successful Tattle partners can consistently recover one in three unhappy guests, leading to significant revenue gain.
Could you elaborate on how Tattle’s automated survey emails and data breakdown into operational categories will assist regional managers in coaching franchisees and GMs?
Tattle’s surveys deconstruct a guest experience first into operational categories, and then into underlying factors. For example, you can have an operational category of food quality, and its underlying factors being temperature, texture, presentation etc. Or an operational category of accuracy, and underlying factors being sides, entrees, special instructions etc. This allows regional managers to immediately pinpoint which areas each location needs to work on to improve the overall experience.
Tattle reports can also be filtered by daypart, ordering channel and more, which further helps regional managers to zoom in onto each location and understand the full story behind each restaurant’s operational strengths and weaknesses. That’s why our partners often call Tattle the “tool belt” for coaching franchisees and GMs. Regional managers also find it more empowering when they can coach GMs and franchisees with data evidence, not personal opinions.
How do you see the integration of Tattle technology across various ordering channels (Dine-In, Takeout, Delivery, Drive-Thru, Curbside) impacting the guest experience at Brinker International locations?
There are two incredible advantages to Tattle’s integrations. First of all, it allows Tattle to send automatic survey emails after an experience, so that restaurants are proactively reaching out to collect feedback. And we have an amazing survey participation rate of about 7 percent—a number that would be even higher among loyalty members. Secondly, the integrations allow Tattle to pre-populate the surveys with order details so guests don’t have to enter basic details such as time of the experience, store location, ordering channel etc. This makes Tattle surveys super easy and inviting to fill out for guests, which explains our exceptionally high survey completion rate of 94.7 percent.
One special note I’d like to call out is how these integrations also allow Tattle to collect menu item level feedback. Our surveys can automatically pull in the items that a guest ordered and ask them to rate the item, or ask guests to upload a picture of the receipt so our surveys can identify those items via image recognition. This gives our partners profound menu item level insight that helps them make marketing, operational and culinary decisions.
Lastly, our integration with loyalty platforms not only allow restaurants to survey their loyalty members easier, but also allow them to attach rewards to apology emails in order to recover more customers.
As Brinker International expands its partnership with Tattle, what long-term benefits or strategic advantages do you anticipate for the brand and its commitment to enhancing the guest experience?
As Brinker continues amassing the voluminous guest feedback data, they’re building a solid foundation for even more accurate and precise revenue predictions to base their decisions on—which is something our analytics team is already helping our partners understand. For example, if you’re able to predict with a high degree of certainty that by improving your accuracy satisfaction by 20 percent, how much will your revenue, guest lifetime value and likelihood to return increase, that’s really powerful for restaurant executives to make confident decisions around.
We are marching towards a state where all decisions within a restaurant’s operations can be based on evidence and data, not gut hunches or subjective opinions. We believe that this will be the key difference between the good brands and those that are truly great.
The partnership mentions the use of Tattle to identify and recommend high-impact objectives for improvement. Could you provide some examples of such objectives and how they might lead to guest satisfaction improvement?
This is all based on the structured data that we collect in the surveys, which break down a guest experience into operational categories and underlying factors. Our algorithm will then determine, specific to each location, or region, or brand, which operational category is the most likely to impact overall guest satisfaction, and recommend that as the objective for that month.
So for example, out of all the operational categories (e.g. food quality, accuracy, speed of service, hospitality etc.), our platform might identify “accuracy” as a top improvement opportunity for a brand. This is an example I love from one of our salad chain partners. With the underlying factors, they were able to identify that specifically, “missing sauces” was the main reason behind off-premise order inaccuracies. As a result, the brand made all their salad containers transparent, so that staff can easily see if a dressing is included on top of the salad. This drastically improved their accuracy score where it’s no longer a top objective anymore and they can shift their focus to something else.
Could you share your perspective on the broader impact of AI-driven guest feedback technology on the hospitality industry?
Similar to my answer in a previous question, we realize that there are so many decisions within hospitality that are made through intuition, personal preferences or hypotheses—these are what we call “I feel” statements. We believe what AI can do is translate vast amounts of data that humans don’t have time to decipher, into “I know” statements for our partners. So instead of saying “I feel that we should bring back our LTO promotion”, they can confidently say “I know that we should bring back our LTO promotion because it enjoyed really high overall guest satisfaction and accuracy scores, boosted our lunch traffic by 80 percent, increased our check sizes by 25 percent, had a likelihood to recommend that’s 158 percent higher than the next best menu item, and had an incident rate that’s 43 percent lower than our company average.”
We want to empower every single restaurant operator, from the executive level all the way down to the GM level, to be able to understand such insights and act on it, whether they have a data background or not. We’re still at the very beginning of this revolution, and there’s just so much potential in what we can accomplish together with our partners.