Guest contribution Chris Muller

Restaurant experience meets convenience

Prof. Dr. Chris Muller is a leading academic expert in the field of Multi-Unit-Chain Restaurant Management.
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Prof. Dr. Chris Muller is a leading academic expert in the field of Multi-Unit-Chain Restaurant Management.

In order to survive the global pandemic, the catering industry must succeed in successfully combining local restaurant operations with online customer dialogue. What was unthinkable just nine months ago has become a new reality: the hybrid convenience experience. A guest article by Dr. Chris Muller.

This text is an excerpt. Read the complete analysis in the last issue of foodservice Europe & Middle East. Read now!

About a year ago I pointed out a tectonic shift in the global foodservice industry to which restaurant operators would have to respond in some way. According to this, the consumer differentiates all restaurants into convenience or experience-oriented businesses.

Using a very simple model, and based on consumer trends at the end of 2019, I presented two alternatives:
A) Using the ever-evolving delivery and pick-up options, 'the food gets to the customer' and is consumed there (convenience).
B) 'The customer moves to eat', i.e. a traditional restaurant visit with service-intensive on-site support (experience).

Of course, this was all before the global pandemic and the complete collapse of the catering industry. As a result of the Corona measures, 'convenience' is winning at every turn and the 'experience' has almost completely disappeared from everyday life. A visit to a bar or restaurant is considered highly dangerous, and few adult consumers are willing to experiment.

About Chris Muller
Dr Chris Muller is a leading academic expert in the field of multi-unit chain restaurant management and co-founder of the European Foodservice Summit. He is an internationally sought-after speaker. His book "The Leader of Managers", published in 2013, is considered a must-read for growth-oriented companies. Not to be missed: On December 3rd Chris Muller is a speaker at our second Digital Summit Talk. Register now for free.

Mix of Convenience & Experience

But what can the restaurateur do today to find a middle way, a hybrid? How can he create an experience while maximizing the convenience portion? What has changed for restaurants above all is that investment in the digital development of technology, personnel and content has become a necessity.

Of course, during the current Corona challenges, not every restaurant will be able, financially or in terms of personnel, to introduce modern data analysis or new management systems. But given the relatively low cost of self-created content and its publication in social media, smartphone apps can deliver results very quickly with the support of the team.

Ask an employee for help, or even better, encourage him/her to take responsibility for content creation. If your customers can create videos of your restaurant for WhatsApp, Instagram and YouTube, then so can you. To control the customer dialogue, you need to be in control of your social media messages. Here are some examples of what restaurants around the world are experimenting with.

Digital restaurant environment

One possibility is to upload short digital video sequences showing the cook preparing various specialities. Authenticity is more important than professionalism, with time the processes become easier. Expand the content bit by bit: show the bartender mixing special drinks behind the bar, service staff talking about a wine recommendation or presenting their favourite dishes.