Digital Convenience for an Enhanced Restaurant Experience

Digital Convenience for an Enhanced Restaurant Experience

Digital Convenience for an Enhanced Restaurant Experience 800 534 Chute Gerdeman

Today’s on-the-go consumers look for added convenience in their everyday dining experiences. And there’s no doubt that technology is playing a role, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of sacrificing a brand experience. The end goal shouldn’t be to have consumers spend the shortest amount of time with your brand, but to utilize technology to add convenience and enhance the experience.

One brand that has seemed to recognize the fine balance between convenience and experience is Panera Bread. The fast casual brand has been slowly integrating their digitally enhanced Panera 2.0 café concept into the market. One of the biggest changes that customers will recognize with this concept is that the customer journey is now aided by technology, whether it’s in-store, at home or on the go.

Touch-screen kiosks were added as a way to replace the traditional cashier stations, which sometimes created congestion while consumers placed their orders. Now, guests are greeted by a “kiosk ambassador” to introduce and walk them through the digital ordering process for those not yet familiar. During the ordering process, guests are given the option to freely customize their orders should they choose to add extra bacon to their Bacon Turkey Bravo, or skip the cheese on a Frontega Chicken Panini. Recognizing the increase in desired customization, Panera shifted where staff labor was focused on the front line and added a back of house kitchen associate to ensure the accuracy of orders.

Other elements of the Panera 2.0 concept include a mobile app, online ordering, digital table service, and Rapid-Pick Up. Many brands have integrated an in-store pickup process, but Panera’s attempt to fully streamline the process doesn’t go without notice. Customers simply placed their order online identifying their desired pickup time (ready in as soon as 10 minutes). Upon pickup, customers forgo the traditional ordering line and head straight to a designated Rapid-Pick Up shelf where they’ll find their food already waiting with a bag identified by name. It doesn’t get much easier than that, unless it had been delivered…which turns out is something the brand is also working on implementing.

How is all this playing with their bigger picture of ROI? According to Blaine Hurst, Panera’s EVP of transformation and growth, “Digital orders account for more than 20 percent of sales at Panera 2.0 cafés and about 9 percent of total company sales.” (Source: Nation’s Restaurant News)

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It takes a thoughtful strategy to integrate technology so it doesn’t take away from the customer experience but rather amplify. This approach often requires evaluating the customer journey experience to understand consumer pain points, as well as understanding the relationship between operations.

Photo Credit: Panera Bread

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