Customer Experiences with Flavor: How CX is Paying Off for the Restaurant and Hospitality Industry

Why Customer Experience is the Leading Strategy in Food Service and Hospitality

How much does customer experience really matter when it comes to the food and hospitality industry?

According to recent data, a lot.

 In 2023 and beyond, customer experience is creating a new competitive edge for leaders in food & hospitality, from fast food to fine dining, boutique hotels to luxury chains. No matter where your brand falls, customer experience can still be a major differentiator between you and competitors.

say positive experiences will cause them to “dine at a certain restaurant more frequently.”

care more about customer experiences than they did before the Covid-19 pandemic.

say that “positive experiences influence purchasing decisions” regarding hotels and restaurants.

Why Customer Experience is the Leading Strategy in Food Service and Hospitality

Brands that have taken the lead in offering excellent customer experiences are already reaping the benefits. Take, for example, Edley’s Restaurant Group in Tennessee. With an increased focus on CX during and since the Covid-19 pandemic, Edley’s has seen:







Not only do exceptional customer experiences strengthen customer loyalty and satisfaction, they ultimately lead to increased word-of-mouth marketing, improved sales and profitability, and a stronger business model to weather future economic changes.

In today’s F&B landscape, it’s no longer sufficient for businesses to merely deliver good food to customers – they also have to create amazing customer experiences in order to stay relevant. The truth is that the concept of CX has changed the way companies in the foodservice segment operate, with digital channels opening up many different avenues for companies to not just deliver products and services, but more importantly, to delight their customers and make them stay.


At ROI CX Solutions, we’ve been helping business leaders in the food and hospitality industry strengthen their customer experience for decades. In this comprehensive Restaurant and Hospitality Customer Experience Guide, you can explore the importance of CX for food and hospitality, understand the major factors guests today want from their experiences, and learn how to improve your customer experiences to reap the benefits.

What Today’s Guests Want

Jeff Bezos has famously said of their customer-centric perspective at Amazon, “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”

If that’s true for Amazon, it’s certainly true for in-person-focused industries such as hospitality or food. In many situations, customers are literally celebrating something when they go out to eat or travel, and your brand is the host. What are you doing to ensure their experience is delightful and memorable?

Treating each customer experience as an important celebration can go a long way to improving your customer experiences – whether guests are celebrating their honeymoon, a milestone birthday, or just grabbing a bite to eat after work.

In general, customers want food and hospitality brands to provide five things in their experiences:


1. Empathy

Customer experiences should begin and end with empathy. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that guests expect to be treated hospitably in the hospitality industry. Leading with empathy engages customers and creates space to turn interactions from purely transactional to relational—a key marker of great customer experiences.

2. Customized experiences

Customers don’t want to be passive participants in their shopping, travel, and retail experiences today. Instead, they want to be active drivers of their experiences, customizing interactions according to their specific needs and feeling assured that brands will respond to their needs and preferences.

As such, today’s guests are drawn to experiences they can “make their own.” This could take many forms, from branded apps that help consumers customize their experience to personalized interactions, experiential add-ons for personalization, and more.

Unsurprisingly, customization is valued more in some sectors than others—for example, according to a Deloitte study, being able to customize their experience was the most important customer experience factor when ordering takeout or delivery. In addition, guests who stayed in luxury hotel brands were 33% more likely to cite customization as an essential factor of a great experience.

3. Ease

Of course, consumers also want their experiences to be easy and frictionless. Whether that’s making a reservation online, splitting the check, extending their stay, or some other interaction, guests need to know that brands:

  • hear them and understand their needs
  • treat them as a unique individual
  • aim to make their experience as easy as possible

In doing so, brands cement trust and loyalty among their guests while also providing an effortless experience that serves guests well.

4. Knowledge of their preferences

Beyond making their experiences easy and customizable, guests also want to feel known by the food and hospitality brands they interact with. Brands should seek to understand and remember consumer preferences and anticipate and react accordingly to guests’ changing needs.

Many brands did this well during the Covid-19 pandemic, anticipating what guests would need and want to feel comfortable returning to a dining or travel experience and adjusting accordingly. Companies redesigned their services to offer special takeout menus, allow space between hotel stay bookings for rooms to “air out,” and other safety measures. Anticipating guests’ needs when it comes to safety, comfort, or general preferences is a must for creating memorable experiences.

5. “Above and beyond” experiences

Finally, guests want to be delighted. Far from settling for transactional, run-of-the-mill experiences, consumers today want—and are coming to expect—experiences with brands that exceed their expectations and that they can cherish and tell their friends about.

If that seems like a high bar for brands to meet, keep in mind that consumers have more options now than ever. If one brand isn’t willing to personalize the customer experience with “above-and-beyond” gestures that surprise and delight their guests, another brand will. And in today’s market, the brands that are willing to go above and beyond for their guests are the ones who are enjoying stronger loyalty and retention.

Ready to take the next step?

How to Improve Customer Experience in Food & Hospitality

So how can you deliver customer experiences that meet guests’ expectations and set your brand apart in the food and hospitality industry? These seven essential touchstones are crucial for improving customer experiences.

Identify key touchpoints for improvement

The customer journey today isn’t as simple as it once was. Before a customer even steps foot inside your restaurant or hotel, they’ve likely done online research, looked at your website, read online reviews, scoured the menu, and so on.

As such, brands that want to provide standout customer experiences need to understand the entire customer journey and identify the key interactions and touchpoints that make the biggest impact on customer experiences. For example:

  • Are customers more frustrated by slow service or a slow website?
  • Are customers more frazzled at check-in or check-out?
  • Do customers prefer to make reservations over the phone or online?

By identifying key interactions throughout the customer journey, you can engage customers at crucial junctions, delight customers during key decision-making interactions, and provide exceptional service during interactions where customers are most likely to be dissatisfied.

Make reservations easy

From restaurants to hotels to airlines, making a reservation is typically the first interaction a guest has with the food and hospitality sector. As such, it’s essential to make this initial interaction a positive one. One of the best ways to do so is to make the reservation process as simple as possible.

This is especially important for hotels and restaurants, where customers have many options. If your reservation process proves too complicated, guests may abandon the transaction altogether and simply switch to a competitor. As a result, reducing customer effort during reservations is a must that can improve your customer experience.

Provide excellent customer service

Excellent, on-brand customer service throughout the entire customer journey is a must for standout customer experiences in the hospitality industry. Whether customers are calling to request a change for their flight, checking in with the host at your restaurant, or getting additional toiletries from the hotel concierge, customer service can make or break the customer experience.

Keep in mind that customer service goes beyond in-person interactions. Speaking with someone over the phone, searching on your website, or sending a message to your brand’s social media accounts should all provide the same level of quality service.

Quality service requires a variety of factors:


If your brand is struggling to provide consistent, quality service, outsourcing your customer support can be a valuable way to improve many common customer service issues, as well as scale your customer support affordably.

Lead with empathy to engage customers

There’s more to customer service than just service—in a recent study by PwC, nearly 80% of consumers rated “friendly service” as important as speed, convenience, and knowledgeable help in the customer service process.

Even recent data shows that—particularly in the food and hospitality industry—consumers are looking for personal, empathetic experiences.


Customer value can increase up to 27% for restaurants that have emotional connections with their customers.


of consumers rated “being engaged by the restaurant and staff” as the most important part of their experience.


of guests were more likely to promote a hotel chain in the future when the hotel staff was “friendly and attentive” during their stay.

As such, it’s essential to lead with empathy as you engage with your customers, prioritizing soft skills such as active listening and relational strength for customer service agents and customer-facing staff.

Increase convenience for the customer

No matter where your guest is in their customer journey, increasing the convenience and ease through which they can meet their needs and move through their experience is a key factor in creating standout customer experiences.

Take a hotel chain, for example: when guests check in, they’re often tired from traveling and eager to get checked in quickly so they can unwind in their rooms or get some food. How do you increase convenience for the guest at this stage?

  • Make the check-in process seamless, even integrating digital elements that allow the guest to complete the process more quickly.
  • Provide friendly and engaging service throughout check-in.
  • Offer guests water or refreshments in the hotel lobby.
  • Carry complimentary or for-purchase travel essentials in the hotel lobby so guests can easily acquire anything they need for their stay.

Hotels and other hospitality industry leaders can reduce friction for guests by reducing the number of steps – i.e., the amount of effort – guests have to undergo to get their needs met. By doing so, you’ll create an effortless and memorable customer experience that builds trust and affinity for your brand.

Personalize, personalize, personalize

In the modern market, personalization is a must. Not only do customers want to be seen and feel known by the brands they interact with, but they’re also coming to expect it. Take a look at some of the recent data on personalization:

are frustrated by impersonal or generic customer experiences.

have made impulse purchases after receiving personalized recommendations, or another personalized experience

see personalization as “very important” in the customer experience (even more than the 53% who ranked speed as “very important”)

This is not just the case with customer service but across the entire customer experience. In the same way that a barista at your local coffee shop might remember your order, guests want their experiences to feel personalized—especially when they’re traveling and far from home.

Starbucks sets a great example of ongoing customer personalization with its app experience. Through the app, members can not only earn rewards, skip the line and receive other perks, but they get to have a local, personalized experience no matter where in the world they’re ordering. Customer data in the app allows Starbucks to remember customer orders, make personalized recommendations for new products and keep the customer at the forefront, giving each customer experience a personalized touch.

Delight and reward loyal customers

The benefits of rewards programs are well-researched—offering increased customer retention, loyalty, and value—but do these benefits hold in the hospitality and food sector?

From coffee shop stamp cards to fast-food subscription programs, hotel and airline rewards, and more, research shows that loyalty programs are beneficial in the food and hospitality industries. For example, since Taco Bell launched its subscription-based “Taco Lover’s Pass,” it found that subscribers are 3x more likely to visit Taco Bell at least once a month compared to non-subscribers.

On the other hand, despite their popularity, many brands still aren’t nailing the rewards experience. The data tells an interesting story:

said loyalty rewards programs for restaurants would make them more likely to eat out.

Guests who are satisfied with their loyalty rewards are 13% more likely to return to a particular hotel chain.

believe that guests think their loyalty program rewards are relevant, while only 22% of guests feel the same way.

While customers want to be rewarded for loyal patronage, loyalty programs don’t always satisfy consumer desires. As such, brands looking to improve their customer experiences should focus on strengthening rewards for loyal customers.

For example, hotels and airlines should consider amplifying immediate rewards. According to a recent survey, 70% of consumers leave loyalty programs because earning and redeeming rewards takes too long. When customers can receive some sort of immediate gratification, they’re more likely to feel loyal to your brand.

Immediate rewards can take the form of special perks for their current in-person experiences (such as late check-outs, increased flexibility, or increased baggage allowances). Brands might also provide rewards redeemable upon their next experience. Delta Airlines, for example, gives loyalty program members vouchers for free in-flight drinks—even if members don’t have enough reward miles for a free flight, they still reap the benefits of being loyal travelers.

Brands looking to strengthen their loyalty programs should also consider partnering with customer experience experts. At ROI CX Solutions, we build brand loyalty into every customer interaction we manage—but our team also develops and executes loyalty programs that delight customers, increase retention and drive real business impact.

Is Customer Experience Outsourcing Right for You?

Considering outsourcing your customer experience? While outsourcing used to have a poor reputation—conjuring up experiences with unhelpful agents—in today’s economy, outsourcing is an effective business strategy that offers many benefits. However, it’s not the right solution for every brand.

Outsourcing is the best solution for brands who are looking to:

Scale up customer service efforts quickly.

When it comes to scaling your service or customer experience initiatives rapidly, there’s almost no better solution than outsourcing. Outsourcing allows you to scale quickly and affordably without sacrificing quality and overwhelming internal teams with hiring, training, and management.

Reduce workloads for internal staff.

Similarly, for internal teams who need additional support—whether on the strategy or execution side—outsourcing parts of your process that require intensive manual work can provide the necessary support for internal teams. Many brands keep the strategy and development aspects of their customer experience in-house while outsourcing the execution of customer service or technical support.

Cut costs and scale affordably.

Of course, outsourcing has long been a cost-cutting initiative and still is. According to a study by Deloitte, cost-cutting is still a “primary objective” for companies who choose to outsource. And with more outsourcing options on the market today, there’s increasing quality alongside affordable service.

Create stronger connections with customers.

At ROI CX Solutions, we consider our team an extension of your own. We’re here to serve as your brand experts, with specialized agents dedicated to your brand. Through this focused effort, we create stronger connections with your customers through empathetic service, on-brand interactions, and deep product knowledge.

Take advantage of customer expertise.

Finally, outsourcing allows your team to partner effectively with leaders in customer service. Here at ROI CX Solutions, we have decades of customer experience, so we know how to get results for your audience in your industry. For example, we were able to help some of our restaurant clients see major gains in customer satisfaction and sales in 2022:


improvement in CSAT YoY (from 52% to 60%)


increase in total tickets handled


increase in sales YoY

Partnering with an outsourcing provider can allow you to bring the knowledge and benefits of such expertise “in-house.”

Ready to see how outsourcing can help you improve your customer experiences and set your brand apart in the food and hospitality sector? We’re here to help.

Connect with an ROI CX Solutions expert today!

About ROI CX Solutions

ROI CX Solutions drives customer satisfaction and business success through outsourced customer service and global sourcing management. With decades of experience across our expert team, ROI CX Solutions has innovated results-driven performance and improved customer experiences for brands across a variety of industries. With flexible, customizable solutions, state-of-the-art technology, and world-class customer service representatives, we deliver results for your business—and your customers.

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