Every person has their own likes, dislikes and preferences when it comes to food. And, with so many people following a wide range of dietary restrictions and lifestyles, many restaurants have started trying to offer “Create Your Own” options to a market that is growing in popularity. According to Technavio, innovation and customization are the main growth drivers in the fast-casual restaurant category in the United States.
Several restaurants have had success tapping into this consumer trend by enabling customers to choose exactly what ingredients go into their meal (Salata, Blaze Pizza, Chipotle, among others). However, to offer a truly customizable experience, operators should also allow their customer to be in control of the quantity of each ingredient in their meal. At Genghis Grill, our format allows our customers to decide the different items that go into each dish, but we also give them the power to control how much of each item goes into their bowl.
From an operational standpoint, customization can be challenging – especially with digital orders. How do you deliver so many options to your customers? How do you juggle the inevitable mix-ups? How do you avoid requiring the customer to constantly asking for more of an ingredient? There’s an easy solution, have the customer physically choose each ingredient. This will remove some of the frustration on the back-end with operations, and it will remove those issues. The customer will choose exactly what they want and the bowl itself will limit cost by limiting how much they put in it.
Benefits of Customization
When operators offer a high level of control and customization, they also offer an enhanced and differentiated value proposition. Operators can provide a uniquely personalized dish to each customer. This is our brand’s core purpose – to “Feed Individuality.” The Genghis Grill team aims to give customers choice and control in ways that no other restaurant can.
Whether it be for taste preference, health, dietary restrictions, or religious reasons, our customers know they can make a delicious meal that aligns with their lifestyle at our restaurants, allowing us to serve an incredibly diverse customer base. Operators don’t need to create separate dishes. But rather our customers build their own meals rather than picking from a shortlist on a limited menu marked for that preference (i.e., vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, etc.) and ultimately, they still may need to alter it from the menu options set aside for those restrictions.
Overcoming the Operational Challenges
As I’m sure many of you know, there can be serious issues when operators give the customer that much power. While they typically know what ingredients they like, most customers are not trained chefs. And, with more than 80 fresh proteins, vegetables and sauces to choose from, it can be easy to be overwhelmed by choices or to build a bowl without thinking through the flavor profile and make a meal they don’t actually enjoy.
One way we combat that is to provide a framework to guide customers when choosing ingredients. While they still have the freedom to choose what they want, we recommend certain items together that we know taste great and put tasting notes on our sauce labels. We also offer recipe cards that can guide customers to make one of 16 different flavor profiles.
When dining in-person at our restaurants, our bowls create a physical limit on how many ingredients our guests can put in a meal, but online ordering removes that limiting factor. So, we have to put limits in place to prevent customers from adding more ingredients than can fit. So, in the digital space, we do have to create some boundaries, but it is similar to the tradeoffs customers would have to make in the restaurant.
Adding Efficiency and Accuracy to the Equation
While many people love having the ability to heavily customize their meals, there are others who don’t want to make these decisions. For anyone who prefers to have our chefs create their bowl, we do offer a selection of chef-made “Signature Bowls” that they can order. These bowls are designed to provide delicious options for first-time guests or those who are intimidated by all the choices.
With all these options, it is important to have good processes and operational procedures to increase efficiency and accuracy. One way to help guests stay on track is by presenting the ingredients the same way in each restaurant and in an order that helps them build their bowls best. That way, whether a customer is in Grand Junction, Colorado or Augusta, Georgia, they will have a consistent experience each time.
Since our self-serve format is a key part of our system, delivery and online orders are more challenging. We’ve added a two-step process to make sure that each pick-up or delivery order is built just the way our customer wants. One team member assembles the order. They then hand it off to a second “carryout captain” who reviews the order for accuracy and staples it closed with the receipt. They also organize the orders and ensure the pick-up area is organized and efficient.
Overall, we know that customization is a powerful consumer trend and that is not going away. Whether someone is following a special diet or just wants more choice on what they eat, restaurants that can offer a high level of customization will be in demand. By creating more customer control, operators can easily accommodate both a vegetarian with very particular ingredient preferences and their keto diet following weightlifting friend.