Driven by the shift to an experience economy, the way Americans choose to dine out has changed dramatically in recent years. Encompassing everything from fast-food chains, to hotel restaurants, to fine dining, to eat-in movie theaters and other entertainment options, consumers have more choices than ever before. However, one thing remains the same—the customer experience has to be incredible to entice guests through the door and keep them coming back.
As delivery services and ghost kitchens continue to surface, making access to any kind of meal extremely convenient for customers, the restaurant industry has scrambled to keep up with the changing demands of consumers. In an industry where consumers have endless options for where to go on any given night, operators need to take extra steps to keep guests coming through the doors by utilizing guest data and providing incentives like entertainment and localized options.
Many restaurants are modifying their strategy to better align with diners’ changing expectations, and we’re currently seeing nightlife undergo a similar transformation. At the intersection of this transformation is ‘Eatertainment’. Eatertainment has taken off as we see nightlife trends shift away from crowded bars with loud music, and towards venues that offer great food, convenience, efficiency and entertainment. Diners are leaning in to a wider variety of experiences on their nights out, and with 29 percent of Americans preferring bars that offer activities, food & drinks all in one, venues have an opportunity to capitalize on guests’ cravings for entertainment.
In fact, 21 percent of Americans are willing to spend more money on a night out at an eatertainment venue than a traditional venue, and almost a quarter (24 percent) of Americans wish there were more venues near them that combine an activity with food and drink. With consumers wanting experience-driven activities during their night out, venues can make the most of this trend by offering trivia nights, board games, live music, comedy showcases, sport activities like bowling, mini golf or ping pong, and so much more. The options are endless when it comes to capturing guest engagement through eatertainment.
Customer expectations for the restaurant industry are changing, and what guests want out of a hotel experience is no different. Bars and restaurants are now an integral part of the hotel guest experience, and often they become destinations unto themselves. As hotels create incredible dining experiences that stand on their own, they can utilize personalization efforts to drive guests and local diners to their on-property restaurants as well.
When staying locals, 17 percent of Americans believe bars and restaurants operated by hotels in their area offer higher levels of service. This notion gives hotels an advantage to exceed expectations and, ultimately, appeal to the 26 percent of Americans that think hotels should use their food & drink venues to engage more with locals. By offering locally-sourced menu items, featuring well-known area chefs, or bringing in community talent to entertain guests, like a talented musician, hotels can appeal to locals who will come back time and time again, and, in turn, become more likely to book with the brand when traveling.
The restaurant tech industry saw a 2019 filled with acquisitions, major partnerships and a shifting business landscape. This new state-of-the-industry speaks not only to the strength of digital platforms and the place they have in the hospitality industry today—but also to the responsibility these businesses have to the restaurants that rely on them. While all of these partnerships have the intention and potential to enhance guest experiences, the most important thing to consider is whether they will continue to put guest data directly in operators’ hands. Data is an integral component to creating these experiences for both new and returning customers.
When restaurant operators can own and access that data themselves, they can make use of deeper customer insights to build a long-lasting relationship with them. In fact, by owning the guest relationship and leveraging the data available to them, operators have a huge potential to be able to engage more proactively with guests. Simple gestures – such as reaching out directly to a guest to invite them back in to try a seasonal spin on their favorite appetizer, or sending an email to guests offering a complimentary hot drink for those who venture in during the colder winter months – have a huge impact. These little perks can increase revenue in the moment and go further to drive loyalty down the line.
Guests will come back for a host that knows they want a corner booth rather than the table near the door, or the server that knows to suggest the menu items that meet their dietary restrictions. In an increasingly digital and impersonal world, these small touches are enough to entice diners in the door, and keep them coming back.
Joel Montaniel is the CEO & co-founder of SevenRooms, a reservation, seating and guest engagement platform, 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.