Future Technology: Collecting & Using Guest Data Effectively

Image: SevenRooms

Operators have always had a lot on their proverbial plates. The speed at which bar and restaurant tech innovations are coming to market is stacking that plate higher and higher.

Innovation can be a double-edged sword, at once a blessing and a curse. On one side of that sword-edge of technology: task simplification, enhanced communication, online training, margin protection, guest tracking and categorizing, improved guest experiences, and online review collection.

On the other side: choosing apps, programs, systems and hardware, learning how to use them, hoping those choices were the best in terms of adoption and long-term support, engaging with screens more often than with people.

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We asked industry leaders to weigh in on what metrics they were tracking to ensure proper cash flow, increased profit margins, and operations setup for future growth.

For the most part, tech innovation in the bar and restaurant space is a great thing. In fact, Sarah Rush Wirth, executive editor at Restaurant Business Magazine, recently revealed that 93 percent of operators believe tech impacts guests positively. That positive impact leads to increased guest loyalty, repeat visits, and more revenue generated.

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As Allison Page, founder and chief product officer at SevenRooms, has explained, operators went from remembering facts about guests to writing notes down on paper. Next came creating spreadsheets and using other non-integrated systems. Now, we have systems and services like SevenRooms that help guests make customized or otherwise upgraded reservations while collecting hundreds of bits of information about them.

On its face, it’s “just” a reservation system. However, systems like this one offer detailed guest insight, robust marketing tools, and guest management features that can help deliver incredible guest experiences.

Consider what a reservation and marketing system capable of tracking hundreds of guest datapoints can do for an operation. Information such as seating preferences, relationships with team members, job and employer, number of previous visits, total spend so far, food and drink preferences, and allergies can start the guest experience at an elevated level before the guest even arrives.

The more visits tracked, the more data is collected. The more data collected, the more effective marketing efforts for promotions can be. Multi-unit and multi-concept operators can track those datapoints and hone their marketing efforts through a system like SevenRooms across all properties.

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As stated earlier, convenience—for operators and guests—runs the risk of disengagement. That may seem strange but integrated systems that provide in-service alerts aren’t much good if nobody is tracking them. That means engaging with a screen, and when someone is engaging with a device they’re not engaging with a guest or team member. They’re at least somewhat disconnected with somebody.

What if it didn’t have to be that way? What if an operator or manager could track front-of-house service on screens while engaged with their surroundings? What if that was how front-of-house service tracking and engagement worked?

That’s the premise of Alexa-enabled smart focals, and SevenRooms’ Page demoed them in Chicago not long ago. As Page said, “Every moment we look down at a screen to use guest data is a moment we're not delivering on hospitality.” Smart focals look like an average pair of eyeglasses. As far as guests are concerned, the person wearing them simply requires corrective lenses to go about their day.

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Meanwhile, the smart focals are integrated into a bar or restaurant’s systems. The wearer can review guest data such as the occasion for which they’re visiting, whether they’re a local or tourist, if they're a first-time or repeat guest, their favorite drink and dessert, and more. Smart focals can add a local tag to a guest or table and kick of a targeted email campaign. The operator, manager or shift leader sporting smart focals can also track the number of covers and revenue while never appearing to take their eyes off what’s going on or seeming disconnected from guests and the team.

Tech innovation is showing no signs of stagnation. Utilized effectively, the proper innovations can take the guest experience to new levels, increase guest engagement and loyalty, cut costs, and grow revenue. Just two—an integrated guest reservation system and smart focals—answer a question posed by Page: “What is it you can do tomorrow to collect more data from your guests to improve their experience in the future?”

Imagine what operators will be able to accomplish through tech next.

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