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Food for love with menu personalization

The tech-centric buzzword of the year – and what every hotelier is coming to understand as critical for their properties – is personalization, both in terms of delivering a better guest experience and driving RevPAR. While we understand the concept, though, integration costs and outdated management protocols can become potential barriers. Hence, when I see an effort at personalization that bypasses these barriers, no matter how small, I get excited.

Turning our attention to one central aspect of the modern hotel experience, how do you make patrons in your restaurant feel as if you have personalized the dining experience for them? While undoubtedly there are numerous answers that run the gamut of cost, the simplest that I’ve seen is to personalize and print out the menu for a group.

Here is an example in practice from Jiang-Nan Chun, the signature restaurant at the Four Seasons Singapore. In this case, when a host asks if anyone at a table is celebrating anything special, extra care is taken to deliver a definitive wow factor, especially when it’s the 30th wedding anniversary for my loving wife, Maureen, and yours truly.

Now this obviously requires some additional training, a laser printer handy and swift coordination to generate this elegant surprise on such short notice. There’s a way, though, to deliver this level of personalization on a smaller scale that can also be easily replicated.

Kenzo is a 32-seat, single-Michelin-star (not currently rated, but the chef has this prior designation), Japanese restaurant tucked away in Napa Valley where guests are given two prix fixe menu options before arrival. Opting to sit at the sushi counter to watch the chef’s craft, my wife and I sat down for the evening with the two chosen menus already placed at each bar setting.

The personalization in this case came at the end of the meal when the executive chef came out and signed each menu by hand. I don’t read Japanese, so I have no way of knowing what the handwritten letters mean, but the ceremony to sign each document was so carefully orchestrated that I have retained both as a keepsake.

Just think about that for a second. A simple piece of printed paper from a restaurant that is so cherished that a customer holds onto it for years afterwards. Not only will such an eatery stay top of mind for what could be decades but during that time the customer is also likely to praise the restaurant in part due to this minor yet exceedingly elegant touch.

These are but two approaches to menu personalization. As a next step, look at your own F&B operations and what creative approach you could take to enhance the relationship with your guests.

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