estaurants have a wealth of data, but often it sits in silos, not easy to access. As we close out 2020, many restaurant brands have been pushed by the pandemic into accelerating their tech roadmap, or upgrading their tech stack to solve specific problems.
For a technologist's perspective on driving growth post-pandemic, Wisely’s CEO Mike Vichich talked with Subha Rajagopalan, VP of IT Applications for P.F. Chang’s, about how the brand is leveraging data to inform nearly every single strategic decision.
P.F. Chang’s partners with Wisely for Waitlist/Reservations and Order Management.
In this conversation Rajagopalan shared how P.F Chang’s approached their tech priorities during the pandemic, how tech integrations can impact customer experience and retention, and what other restaurant brands should consider as they plan their tech roadmaps for 2021.
P.F. Chang’s Approach to Tech Transformation, Before, During, and After the Pandemic
For P.F. Chang’s, the path to evolving their current tech stack started before the pandemic. Rajagopalan said that they’ve “adjusted some things because of COVID.” P.F. Chang’s was already doing off-premise dining, but they upgraded curbside pick-up and delivery functionality, and added contactless payment and menus.
The core of their technology adoption, though, began with a single purpose—an end-to-end understanding of their customer.
“We pivoted a little bit over the last eight months,” Rajagopalan shared, “but honestly the journey for us is to understand our customers all the way [...] we wanted to look through every single part of their experience and understand what they are doing and how they are doing it, then make sure we have the technology to help us through that journey.”
When building out a tech stack to fulfill this vision, P.F. Chang’s first selected an online ordering vendor, then layered on Wisely’s reservation system and CRM because it integrates with every other system.
Their approach to tech, Rajagopalan says, “really comes from our thought-process around the customer. When a guest has an experience with P.F. Chang’s we want that to be consistent, irrespective of how they find us and what their journey is.”
Why Tech Integration Matters
As P.F. Chang’s added new capabilities to their tech stack, integration with the rest of their tools was the top criteria in pursuit of the full view of the customer. Why? “If you don’t have technology connected, you really cannot trace the customer end-to-end,” Rajagopalan stated.
She added that without integrations and access to data, the same customer could be seen as “one customer on the website, and a different customer when they walk in, and a different customer when they call in…”
Vichich noted that, as Wisely’s CRM integrates seamlessly with P.F. Chang’s loyalty and online ordering partners, their loyalty members are immediately flagged when they join the waitlist so operators can better connect with high-value customers.
Additionally, a restaurant CRM that tracks Customer Lifetime Value metrics like frequency, recency, and spend is especially impactful when thinking about the investment a brand puts into customer retention.
Vichich noted that “If you increase retention of the best customers, it has a disproportionate effect on your sales and profit down the road.”
Rajagopalan affirmed that P.F. Chang’s is seeing that theory play out in the data. “We’ve already spent a lot of money getting [high-value customers] in our door. Getting them to come in one more time, or order one more dish, or add liquor, beer, or wine, it absolutely has far-reaching effects.”
Planning a Tech Roadmap for 2021
Looking forward to 2021, Rajagopalan said that P.F. Chang’s has a clear roadmap to turn data “into a meaningful story that our operators can act on.” She added that on the journey to understand the customer end-to-end, “we’ve been methodically going after connecting systems.”
As the conversation closed, Vichich asked for her perspective on how restaurant brands can create clear goals in their tech roadmap.
Rajagopalan’s answer? “Consider the pillar of what you do, then build your ecosystem around it… [and] to Mike’s point, I must emphasize that you have to make sure that solutions allow you to integrate easily, and that the data is yours.”
Click play below to watch the full conversation.