Whatever your views on the ‘experience economy’, it’s clear that attracting and retaining loyal diners is essential to staying competitive in the hospitality industry. And if you agree that the best way of doing this is to find out what your customers want, and give it to them, then it’s time to look at some recent research.
A UK-wide study of 2,599 young people with a food allergy or intolerance led by the Food Standards Agency last year revealed that 60% avoid eating out. But, when they do, 55% always research the menu and 59% said that they often tend to visit the same places. As an estimated 2 million people in the UK have a diagnosed food allergy, and up to 20% of the population believe that they have a food intolerance, helping diners to make informed, safe choices is also good for business.
But finding ways to show customers what’s on (and behind) the menu without overwhelming them with information can be challenging. One solution is to use an online tool to communicate with diners in an accessible, interactive way.
Which is where Menu Guide comes in. Designed to give the hospitality and catering industry a clear, simple and user-friendly way of creating and sharing allergen menus, it has the flexibility to signpost diners to a wide range of information.
Menu Guide’s founder Lis Coulthard explains why she and her partner Philip Kenchington created it: “We couldn’t believe that 10 people die from a food allergy every year in the UK and 4,500 are hospitalised. In the absence of any cost-effective tools to help food businesses address this issue, we built Menu Guide to enable them to share up-to-date allergen and dietary information online, 24/7.”
Launched in May, Menu Guide is being used by SRA member Lussmanns Sustainable Fish and Grill, an independent group of award-winning, sustainable restaurants in Hertfordshire. You can see how they’re using it here.
Managing Director, Andrei Lussmann says: “We’re using it in all five restaurants and have already seen the benefits. An online system, with all the menu information in one place, minimises errors, reduces paperwork (and paper waste) and saves time.
“Our waiting staff, who have Menu Guide on iPads to support their own knowledge, say that they feel more comfortable dealing with enquiries, and these conversations with diners also provide great opportunities to talk about sourcing and sustainability.
“Guest feedback has been really positive too, they are impressed with Menu Guide’s interactive, user-friendly features. They can view the menu before they come, sort and view dishes using the interactive functions, discuss options with staff and save their personal preferences for their next visit.
“One of the most popular features with diners so far is the ability to filter dishes by dietary option: vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free. Having seen the potential of this tool, we are now working with the Menu Guide team to develop a set of custom icons that will enable us to show the sustainability credentials of each dish. Looking ahead, we may also include nutritional and calorific information. We could never put all this onto a printed menu, so this type of interactive communication tool must be the way forward for us and the hospitality industry more widely.”
To find out more, visit menuguide.pro