You can have all the social media followers in the world, but it won’t necessarily equate to a successful restaurant.

That is the view of Jon Knight, chief executive of Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group, whose celebrity chef talisman has millions of social media followers.

“Jamie has 15m pairs of eyes across his social channels every week – so it should be the most successful restaurant on the high street, but It’s not,” Knight told Hostech.

“That’s a real difficulty we are trying to understand. If the name above your door is that of the best-selling non-fiction author in the UK across Christmas, and we’re still struggling – then there’s a real disconnect somewhere.

“A lot of it is campaign led – a lot of what Jamie believes in might have a disconnect with the idea of indulgence in a restaurant.

Knight was speaking at MCA’s Hostech Conference as part of a panel session entitled ‘If Amazon ran a restaurant group, how would it use data to improve guest experience?’, hosted by CGA vice president Peter Martin.

The panel was convened by Gary Goodman of Yumpingo, who set the scene for the ensuing discussion.

“The better you understand your customers - why they buy from you, what they love about the experience, and what drives them to come back - the more you can serve them,” he said.

“The way I shop and watch TV has been transformed by Amazon knowing so many aspects about me, keeping it consistent and personalised. They do it better than anyone I know, and I suspect restaurants can learn a lot from it.

“There’s lots of gut feeling people have – but imagine a world where that instinct was replaced by data. I believe that can transform the guest experience from end to end.”

Knight described some of the difficulties in keeping abreast of technological developments – while reminding delegates that restaurants were a people industry.

“I’m looking at a business with legacy systems that are 10 years old, and have been bolted on and bolted on, and now are quite dysfunctional and give us more problems than not.

“Capex is often about the aesthetic of the building and branding– very rarely do we leap into the unknown and see what is the best fit-for-purpose piece of tech we can operate with.”

“But I don’t think we as an industry can become the next Amazon”, he added. “I’m not in the camp that says that’s the way we should go. Its people led and people focused.”

Also on the panel was Gavin Adair of Rosa’s Thai, who said data was now front and centre of his growing group’s KPIs.

“I was pleasantly surprised when I joined Rosa’s 18 months ago, to find quite how much infrastructure there was for a business with 10 sites. We had strong till systems, strong people, and the early beginnings of a customer database.

“The challenge now is to pick and choose where to make our investments.”

This article was sourced from MCA, first published on 20th February 2019.

     

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