Increasingly, consumers have come to expect the opportunity to customize or personalize their meal as well as their dining experience. According to the marketing research company, Technomic, nearly three-quarters of consumers (72% of those surveyed) expect restaurants to allow customization. This freedom to personalize has become a decision driver for customers, with nearly half (42%) of customers saying they would visit restaurants more if they provided greater ability to customize.
Consumers prefer the opportunity to customize their dining experience for different reasons. Many consumers (41%) believe they know better than chefs and restaurants what will taste best to them. As a result, personalization is more than a nice-to-have, it is a necessity. Even when consumers do not opt to personalize a meal, they prefer restaurants that offer the choice. Two-thirds of customers (66%) report that the ability to customize is important even if they choose not to use that option.
In addition to taste and flavor preferences, customers are increasingly seeking balanced diets that include healthy eating as well as the opportunity for indulgent meals. Personalization allows customers to be exactly as indulgent or healthful as they want to be, and it lessens the likelihood of a veto vote by someone in the dining party. If a foodservice operation offers an abundance of options to build a custom meal, customers can achieve their dietary goals at each unique dining occasion, making the establishment a desirable place to visit regardless of the consumers’ immediate desires.
When surveying consumers, Technomic found that only 12% actively follow a diet, compared to 65% that generally try to eat healthfully. Seeking nutritionally sound meals with occasional indulgence, rather than counting calories or grams of fat, is a relatively new phenomenon. “Better-for-you” has also expanded to include attributes that may not show up in the nutritional content. Local ingredients, free-range, grass-fed, antibiotic-free, artisanal and sustainable products all may benefit from a health halo and consumers are seeking products with these descriptors.
With so many different ways to appeal to customers, foodservice establishments can find their unique way to differentiate themselves and cater to customer demands.