A simple Yelp search for restaurants in a mid-size American city can generate a whopping list of over 400 choices within 5 miles. The list includes everything from fast food to mom & pop bistros and upscale steakhouses. With so many choices, deciding where to eat ranges from sticking with familiarity to a complex, and often frustrating, process of elimination. The truth is, with the exception of the occasional “special event”, most dining occasions are low risk, routine decisions. In this environment of endless choices how do you stand out? How do you win? How do you stay relevant?
Staying relevant is harder than ever, especially with younger guests. Sally Smith, CEO of Buffalo Wild Wings, recently stated in the company’s letter to shareholders “Millennial consumers are more attracted than their elders to cooking at home, ordering delivery from restaurants, and eating quickly, in fast-casual or quick-serve restaurants.” There is a generational shift in dining-out preferences, driven by a desire for convenient quality, that is both a catalyst for new concepts and the fuel behind the growing number of choices.
Silicon Valley has played a role in changing expectations for both convenience and experience overall, so digital disruption seeps into every matter of life. As a result, how guests get motivated to visit, how they order and pay, and when and where they consume has evolved from a marketing and architecture focus into a new realm of branded user experiences.
Doing the same things better or faster is inadequate in the rapidly accelerating world of technology, not to mention guest-driven changes in taste preferences and occasion types. Restaurants need to address the culinary challenges for relevance simultaneously with innovation of the user, or guest experience. Innovative change cannot begin without knowing what to change, and that requires a thorough definition and deep understanding of the guest. A guest-centric approach produces insights into how they feel, how they behave, and how they decide, and will lead to strategies that have them choosing your concept more often.
Our experience across a variety of industries, especially with food service, hospitality and large consumer products companies, has fostered both appreciation and application of putting the “who” at the center of the design process via the identification of a Design Target. The result is a guest-centric approach to concept design that looks beyond mere architecture and interior design to create a holistic dining journey. Ultimately, the goal is to craft a distinctly different, easily personalized, delightfully delivered, and thus thoroughly enjoyable experience that is powerfully attributed to your brand.