Business Insights

Consumers Crave Customized Experiences

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In their quest for new and interesting foods, diners are not only choosing restaurants based on the published menu; they’re making choices based on how much flexibility they have to customize what’s menued according to their individual tastes and needs. In other words, the days of "no substitutions" are long gone.

Most consumers expect DIY options at restaurants. And their requests for substitutions are more complicated than, “I’d like rice instead of fries.”

Today’s guests are well-informed about food and use different criteria at various times to make their choices. For some, the choice is based on health. Others seek to please their palate. And still others gravitate to statement dining based on specific and personal sensibilities.

To serve diners demanding customization, adapt while remaining true to your brand. “Don’t try to be all things to all people,” says Matt Trusela, Shamrock Foods Enterprise Business Consultant. “It’s still important to be who you are.”

Consider offering customization packages that allow diners to add veggies, increase protein or avoid certain ingredients. With so many customers following specific diets – like paleo, keto, Whole30, gluten-free and reduced sodium – this approach puts diners in control of their meal experience within the parameters of your brand’s menu.

Here are just a few ways you can effectively offer customization:

Keep it simple. Offering too many options can paralyze choice, throw off efficiencies and blow out food costs. Determine ahead of time how many options you can offer, cost out menu items, plan accordingly, then communicate clearly about how guests can customize using those options. Break choices into categories: meat proteins, vegetables, sauces/condiments, carriers and beverage add-ins.

Train. Teach cooks how various choices affect preparation and timing. Instruct them to share that information with servers. If an order for gluten-free French toast, for example, will take more time, make sure they tell waitstaff and then have the server tell the customer. Teach servers how to gently advise guests if a combination may not be optimal. Make servers knowledgeable about ingredients so they can share information with customers and answer their questions.

Provide self-serve add-ins. Condiments, spices, sauces, creamers, etc., at self-serve stations or the table, let guests fine-tune their orders as they please.

Give diners portion options. Offer small-plate, large-plate and shareable portions in various sizes – to accommodate different needs at different times.

Customize technology. Install self-ordering kiosks centrally or tableside to streamline the customized-ordering process. Hook into personalized technologies – such as online ordering apps and rewards systems that remember diners’ previous orders, track points, provide deals based on previous personal behavior and cross-sell based on the user’s preferences.

The bottom line? If at all possible within your operational capabilities, price points and the parameters of your brand, give customers what they want.

Ask your Shamrock Foods Sales Representative how you can create winning customizable solutions on your menu.

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