Tapping into the customer’s need for experience is a relevant part of all retail and luckily for the food and hospitality industry, giving that to them is not difficult to do with dining and eating being an experience in itself. However, as the industry grows and businesses continue to compete for customer spend it is important that developers and retail masterplanners continually develop the experience they are offering to continue enticing the customer and fulfil their want to spend on more than just a sandwich wrapped in paper. Here are just four simple ways in which food precincts and operators within developments around the world are delivering on an experiential level:
1. Transparent Food Production
The idea of customer-facing kitchens is not a new one however, when we look at the growth in people seeking experiences from their spend the integration of a customer-facing kitchen now holds more value. It is not unusual now for people to want to know all the in’s and out’s of how the food got to their plate and the preparation is part of that. Seeing pasta being made fresh in front of you or sashimi being sliced with some of the finest knife skills not only involves your customer in the process of the food but is likely to enhance your customer’s perception of the food when it’s served to them resulting in a deeply positive experience that extends all the way to their tastebuds.
2. Photo Worthy Food Presentation
This follows on from the first point that people are eating with their eyes and you can start their dining journey well and truly before they enter your outlet through user-generated content of photo worthy food items. It’s not uncommon to see patrons swiping through Instagram, Twitter and Facebook as they match your menu items to the pictures they have been coveting online and this type of behaviour will only continue to grow as the younger generations move through. Plus, these customers want to be able to take photos themselves and share them across social media channels as part of their own self-expression. Charcoal buns, loaded smoothies, vibrant whole food bowls, latte art, intricately rolled sushi, extreme soft serve cones - these are all some of the most Instagrammed foods of 2017. By creating food items that people want to talk about, you are enhancing their capacity to have a positive experience and as they instantly share your food with their social networks you are creating a marketing tool for yourself.
3. A Point of Difference Through Design
Design is a powerful way to get your message across without having to say or serve anything food at all. Through interior design and clever branding, you have the ability to create a space and visual representation of the precinct and operators within so that your customers can experience by simply stepping inside. A food court is just a food court until it becomes it’s own architecturally appealing, emotion evoking, experiential space. And same goes for single operators. People aren’t just looking for a sandwich, they’re look for the whole package including a noteworthy space to enjoy the food and hospitality in. Working closely with interior designers, architects and graphic designers to create a visual experience that creates ambience, a story and adds to the customer’s food and beverage journey is key to creating an experiential food precinct or operator that a customer will connect with and come back for.
4. Personal Connections
Starbucks achieved this in the very beginning by always asking for names when customers ordered their drinks. Personal connection is now more important particularly when it comes to providing an experience that people emotionally respond to and people are also seeking this type of interaction from the food and beverage category. Having a waiter introduce themselves and refer to you by your name elevates the experience of a smart casual dining restaurant or having your order assigned to your name at a quick service restaurant instead of being labelled with a number are both simple ways in which your brand can create personal connections with your customer. For precincts, using shopping centre concierges that create this same personal bond can create loyalty and leave a positive mark on the visitors mind to ensure they come back to your precinct time and time again. Overall, creating an authentic personal bond with your customers creates a strong connection that enhances the customer’s experience and also promotes your business.
Cover image - Sketch London via Behind the Blue Door by Wedgewood