Customer profiling, makes customers happier

Have you ever felt like it was a waste of your and your customer's time to ask those suggestive-selling questions? Simran Mangat-Garcia, who owns a Roundtable Pizza franchise in Anaheim, California, concluded that those 'required' questions just tick some customers off. Customers who are greeted by a waitstaff member with a 'used car salesman' approach can be so turned off that they may not return. The same goes for a needy customer who does not get the attention they need.

Humans are creatures of habit. In the restaurant business, being able to distinguish between the different types of people is the key to providing them with what they want. Standardized questions are similar to old pick-up lines in that they usually don't work.


"We found in the course of running the restaurant that not every customer responds well to suggestive selling or unnecessary questions," Simran says. "Some customers want to place their order, get their food and go and are irritated by chatty waitresses. Customer profiling techniques, which I learned two years ago at a seminar where Gregg Rapp was a guest speaker, allow us to determine who needs special attention and who doesn't and that makes for happier customers."

For those of you who have been long-term readers of PMQ, you are probably already familiar with Gregg Rapp. He is considered by many to be the most knowledgeable expert in the design and function of restaurant menus. Now Gregg has another tool for you to use so you can increase customer satisfaction, employee efficiency, sales and repeat business-

Customer profiling.

'What is customer profiling?' you ask. Simply put, it is a way to tell what type of service the customer you are handling wants. Gregg says that while people may change their personal styles depending on the context or situation (i.e., where they are, what they are doing, who they are with), every customer reflects one specific style throughout a single visit to you restaurant. The task, he says, is to create a menu that appeals to people in each category, then train your waiters and waitresses to recognize the styles and sell to them accordingly.

Benefits of Customer Profiling

Not only can you increase sales, customer profiling can increase the efficiency of your employees. Simran says that since she started using the customer profiling system two years ago, she has seen a noticeable difference in the waitstaff she needs to handle hungry customers. She has been able to reduce the actual number of employees it takes to handle busy crowds. "You need to be fast and efficient in the pizza business," says Simran. "Customer profiling helps in selling to someone asking a lot of questions and in providing for other groups with different needs. This system has worked so well for us, I plan on using it with a new wedding and catering business I will be starting."

  • Analytical use of facts, examples and details.
  • Consistent and habitual
  • Specific planning

Decision Style:

Responds to:

  • Thorough, accurate descriptions
  • Minimal risks
  • Consistent performance
  • Forceful and persistent
  • Controlling and competive
  • Persuasive leadership

Decision Style:

Responds to:

  • Evidence
  • Efficiency
  • Briefly stated options and probabilities
  • Friendly and empathetic
  • Accommodating
  • Personal relationships

Decision Style:
Emotional/Gut level

Responds to:

  • Supportiveness
  • Suggestions
  • Assurances and guarantees
  • Poised and sociables
  • Fashionable
  • Personal contact

Decision Style:

Responds to:

  • Trends and status
  • Testimonials
  • Incentives

How to get Started

Learning how to distinguish between different types of people is relatively simple according to Ed Manly, who is a consultant with such companies as the Microsoft Corporation. He says that learning to adapt your behavior to suit their needs and wants is the difficult part. Ed says that he used a profiling system when he worked for Microsoft full-time and told Gregg Rapp about it a few years ago. Gregg adapted the system to fit the needs of restaurants and has seen tremendous results with it, especially when used with a menu design strategy. "It helps to understand how to react to specific groups of people" Ed says. "Why should pizza operators use a profiling system? Simple. It makes it where you don't waste your time or the customer's time and satisfy more customers. It helps you, your hostess and waiters to identify who is there just for food, for a total dining experience or are there just because it is trendy."

If you are concerned about how difficult it is to train your employees to use this system, don't worry at all. Simran says that every person on her waitstaff is 18 and under and it took less than a week to train them. She said she has found it best to not try to train them in customer profiling at first. They can better understand the system if they work with customers for a day or two. By then they will have already experienced and identified the differences in customers. Generally, most waiters and waitresses have worked in a restaurant before and already have a good idea of how different people need different approaches.

Simran says the best method to identify whom you are dealing with is to pay attention and listen. Listen to the conversation between the dining party. Listen for confusion, direct orders to other people in their group or talk of price. Use this to determine if the person is an asking type who may be open to suggestions or the telling type, which may be there to get their food, eat and go.

Ed has a couple of tips for those who are thinking about initiating a profiling system for their business. First, he says, make a list of characteristics most common to your restaurant. This will give you a good idea of who your waitstaff will be encountering more often. Then, sit down with the employees and ask them 'What do you like?' When you determine what profile they fit, you can use them for an example. This will also allow you to know who works best with what profile. Then, help your employees to understand the differences between the groups. The more they understand the customer, the happier the customer will be and this means more sales for you.

In customer profiling, there are four basic types of people. The names Gregg has given to the four profiles are Recipe people, Entr�e people, Bar-B-Q people and Dessert people. Seems a little confusing at first doesn't it? Actually, it's rather easy. Let's break it down a little further to help you understand how the different groups vary.

Recipe and Entree people are considered task oriented. By this, he means to say their restaurant experience is centered on getting something to eat.

Recipe People

Recipe people are task oriented/asking types. You might consider them accountant-like. They will come in, sit and begin the task of ordering and eating. Usually, they have planned to dine out at your restaurant prior to actually coming. They require that you accurately and precisely describe what is in a particular dish. They will read the entire menu, placing values on items and prices, along with any additional information, such as a brief history of your restaurant, before they order. To them, the decision of what to order is a task to be performed. Their decision style is analytical and cautious. They respond to consistent performance, thorough and accurate descriptions and minimal risk. They may respond to displays or photos of your food.

Entree People

Entree people are task oriented/telling types. They are those business people who come in to grab a bite while conducting business or reading over work-related material. They can read the menu and decide on what they will have quickly and do not require much conversation from the waitstaff. They tend to talk business with those who are with them and their decision style is quick and efficient. They are the ones who want to know when they can get it and how much it will cost. They respond to evidence, efficiency and briefly stated options and possibilities. They will look you in the eye and tell you their order. Don't bother these customers with unnecessary chatter.

Barbeque and Dessert people are more people oriented in that they are there to have a dining experience and are looking for human contact and interaction

Barbeque People

Barbeque people are people oriented/asking types. These are the ones who eat out for the complete dining experience. They will ask to sit in a particular person's section or want to know who is working in the kitchen that night. They will engage in personal conversation with the waitstaff and are open to suggestions. These people are the ones who love the nametags and call their servers by their name. They are friendly and accommodating. Their decision style is emotional. They respond to support, assurances and guarantees. You have a special or particular item you want sell? These are the ones who will buy it. If you talk to this group, you have made their day.

Dessert People

Dessert people are people oriented/telling types. They are usually there for social reasons. They like the trendy spots and foods. They like to be the first to try something new and exotic. These are the people you can suggest a new, expensive item to and make the sale, or recommend a more trendy beer or better wine and they will go for it. They usually order several items so that they have a little of everything in front of them. They love it when the owner or manager comes over to their table to speak with them because they are here to be seen and want to feel like the most important person in the room. They are looking to be impressed. Their decision style is deliberate. They respond best to trends and status, testimonials from others and incentives. Do you want to sell that new gourmet pizza or top shelf beers? Then target these customers.

Gregg says that you shouldn't try to cater to just one specific profile, but have something for everyone. It's as important to have a waitstaff that varies in profile as well as a menu that does the same. Put one of those trendy items on the menu for the Dessert people. Make sure you have a hostess who can tell the waiters who they are serving and have waitresses who can converse with needy Barbeque people and get the order quick and accurate for those Entree people. Greg also adds that a brief history or interesting note on the menu is always a good idea. For more information on customer profiling and menu design, call Gregg Rapp at 760-323-4848.