Using AI and ML to Make Your Restaurant, Retail and C-Store Marketing Data Even More Powerful

By: Punchh


It’s no secret that technology has fundamentally changed the way the world operates, and the food service industry is no exception. With the proliferation of smartphones and other mobile devices, digitally-savvy consumers care more about taking a photo of their food and posting it to social media than they do about actually eating it.

This has changed the way that most restaurants are used to catering to their guests. The problem is, if your restaurant hasn’t kept up with this speed of change, then you’re likely to see a drop in foot traffic. Across the board, consumers are dining out less often, especially with the new found popularity of food delivery services that can conveniently deliver food right to a consumer’s door. In fact, this new consumer expectation of having what you want, when you want it is all that Generation Z and their $143B in spending power has ever known.

So how can restaurants keep up with these high expectations from their consumers? And how can they create compelling experiences for their consumers in-store? Well, it all starts with data.

The Big Deal with Big Data

At the recent FSTEC Event in Orlando, expert panelists sat down to discuss data ownership, how data is parsed out and protected and how to use it to enhance the customer experience. Sherif Mityas, Chief Experience Officer at TGI Fridays, encouraged event attendees to find the right data to inform the creation of your guest experience. “It’s important to understand how to use the right data to drive the best guest experience. Guests don’t care what goes on behind the scenes at your restaurant. They care that restaurants know who they are and that you’re providing them a good experience,” said Mityas.

TGI Fridays, for example, can look through their customer data and know that their customer, Mary, likes salads without chicken and consistently orders this dish every Monday and Wednesday. Through the collection and analysis of this data, TGI Fridays can then send her a note through the platform/channel she usually orders from to see if she wants them to pre-fill her basket with her usual meal. The amazing thing is they can actually do this for their customers at scale. Mityas told the audience that of the 10,000 “Mary” customers that they tested this simple “Yes” or “No” featured button on, 72% clicked “Yes”.

It’s clear that the hospitality industry needs to embrace the use of customer data so they can create these personalized experiences that guests are expecting. But the question that Omnivore CEO, Mike Wior, raised is how can brands find the right balance between being “creepy” and enabling technology to deliver these experiences? While 72% of the Marys from TGI Fridays example opted in, another 28% choose not to. There are no industry best practices or guidelines for brands to adhere, so instead, brands need to be in constant communication with their guests to understand what they care about, as well as understanding what is happening culturally in order to be sensitive to what’s happening both nationwide and in local communities.

Data Protection

The advancement of technology has well outpaced many regulators and governments to keep up with the impact of this technology on consumers. However, with the EU recently passing the GDPR, most brands are having to rethink their approach to and use of customer data. The recent California Consumer Privacy Act is even more important, especially for US-based brands, as this law requires that if you collect data, that data needs to then be made available to the consumer to review via a portal.

Between these and other security-based legislation currently in the works, it’s imperative for brands to have an IT and cyber security strategy in place. While no small investment, brands need to employ the strategies and technologies needed in order to stay in compliance with these new laws by keeping customer data as up-to-date as possible, while also being as transparent as possible. When customers understand the data you have on them, it’s easier for them to then manipulate the data (i.e. subscribe or unsubscribe from email newsletters, SMS texts, etc.) in a safe way which in turn helps to create trust and loyalty with your brand.

What’s Next?

Collecting customer data is imperative for brands today to not only understand the wants and needs of their current and prospective customers, but it can help brands tailor and personalize those experiences, which can ultimately set your brand apart.

Brands need to own their own data, but they also need to be able to trust their third party partners with this data. There needs to be a common set of operating principles for suppliers, operators, delivery companies, loyalty vendors, online ordering platforms, reservation systems, workforce management tools, as well as for consumers themselves. When all of these parties can exchange data under the same set of standards, this will help with minimizing operational in-efficiencies while establishing and maintaining trust with consumers.

Brands need to start thinking differently about how to approach having and keeping good data hygiene, implementing necessary security protocols and ultimately putting the customer first by giving consumers access and control over the data they share.

Mityas noted, “Brands need to unleash the power of data to change the guest experience. Use emerging technologies such as AI and machine learning to create differentiated and personalized engagement for guests to engender loyalty.”

Punchh is already using both AI and machine learning tools to analyze and predict guest behavior in order to help brands create personalized customer journeys that are not only meaningful to customers, but that also help operators optimize their businesses. Punchh customers always own their own data to be able to put their guests’ safety and experience first.

To learn more about how Punchh can help your brand engage customers, predict behavior and execute personalized marketing campaigns, Contact us today.

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