The ability to surprise and delight customers is an important part of delivering memorable dining experiences. Heck, to running a successful business of any kind.
This truly is more important than ever these days. So much has changed in the last two-plus years — the onset of a pandemic, the promise and roll-out of vaccines, and new variants that continue to impact the industry in many ways to this day. From supply chain issues to staffing shortages and straight-up burnout, the industry has seen more than its fair share of challenges. Your customers are worn out, too. And they expect more than ever at a time when the industry, at times, has been hamstrung.
Hard as it has been, it’s important to remember the industry has risen to the occasion, driving innovation through restaurant technologies, reimagining how restaurants are operated, and retooling what it means to provide a meaningful dining experience with customer service to match.
As restaurants scale back opening hours; menu prices continue to rise; and restaurant operators rethink their business models, there’s a true opportunity to differentiate yourself from the competition, going above and beyond what your customers might expect — and adding value at every turn.
Given 68% of customers leave a business due to “perceived indifference,” you simply have to cultivate a rapt audience that’s excited about what you do — and what you might do next.
3D printed food
The role of technology in the restaurant industry is nothing new, but these days innovation has taken on a life of its own — with unexpected results. That’s certainly true of 3D-printed food (3DPF).
Typically, 3D printers used to construct intricate shapes and designs in the restaurant industry, namely in molecular kitchens or fancy bakeries, resulting in edibles are either ready for consumption or that can be prepared in an external oven (or grill) once the 3D printing process is complete.
Okay, so what’s all the fuss and what does it have to do with surprising and delighting customers? It paves the way for meal personalization, given you can create a wide range of different, easy-to-reproduce products — as well as fully personalized ones, based on composition, texture, flavor, and caloric content.
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs)
Then there’s the matter of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), a form of digital ownership that’s authenticated. Unique digital files that are stored on a blockchain network, they’re being used by food companies from Chipotle to Budweiser. Burger King’s recent NFTs offered free meals, calls from celebrities and 3D art. McDonald’s consisted of art on its iconic products. From real-life experiences — like virtual dining and pop-up restaurants — to merchandise drops they help create “fans” and generate buzz.
Tried and true tactics
Not everyone can own a 3D printer or is ready to go all-in on NFTs. That’s fair. The good news is you still get points for offering traditional swag and gifts.
Sending customers home with a unique treat, such as house-spun cotton candy that arrives with their check, is a tried and true way to stand out. But what about a recipe card instead? They’ll walk away with a branded, experiential gift that can prompt future dining experiences.
Incentives for loyalty members remain a fun, useful, and branded token of appreciation that can be tucked in with takeout. And everyone appreciates promotional discounts, unexpected freebies, and thoughtful birthday surprises. Just spend some time thinking creatively about what you can do and what represents — and acts as an extension of — your brand.
Of course, surprising and delighting your customers can be as simple as calling your customers by name — or having something for kids to do and taste while their parents enjoy a meal. Maybe introduce a pet-friendly patio with complimentary water and treats for pups.
Whatever your budget and appetite for innovation, one thing is certain: diners appreciate being cared for and considered. It creates a mutual appreciation and helps build loyalty. It gets people talking. And it helps set you up for success.
Want to dive into more restaurant trends? Visit our blog to see how restaurant technologies and innovations are turning the dining experience on end.
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