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Don’t forget to humanize technology, Coca-Cola marketing executive says

Technology fails when operators neglect what motivates customers

This is part of NRN’s special coverage of the 2018 NRA Show, being held in Chicago, May 19-22. Visit for the latest coverage from the show, plus follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

When digital efforts fail, it’s likely that restaurant operators have forgotten one of the basic tenets of their industry: hospitality.

“What’s really important is to remember the human being you’re trying to target,” Gwen Brannon, director of guest insights and analytics at The Coca-Cola Company, told attendees at the National Restaurant Association conference in Chicago.

Operators should not sacrifice human interaction when it comes to technology, Brannon(left) said during a 30-minute session on Saturday titled “Impact on Foodservice from Evolving Digital Landscape.” Digital efforts must match the needs of a variety of diners, from Baby Boomers to Centennials.

“Just throwing one more app out there is not enough,” said Brannon, who has 13 years of experience in market research in the consumer packaged goods industry. 

Brannon provided insights on what motivates today’s four distinct generations: Baby Boomers and Generations X, Y and Z.

Baby Boomers: This age group is “dating” technology, so don’t assume they are averse to trying new things. However, they want the digital experience to be simple and they like nostalgia-infused menus. Also, give them a phone number for customer service. They, unlike younger generations, like verbal communication.

Gen X: This double-income household group is desperate to simplify life. They love convenience and digital platforms that save them time, such as delivery and curbside pickup. If they dine out, they are attracted to restaurants that cater to families.

Millennials: Surprisingly, this coveted demographic approaches tech with uncertainty, because they don’t trust it. They want to be in control. “They trust themselves a lot more than anyone else,” Brannon said. When it comes to spending, they are willing to pay for “once in a lifetime” experiences, even if they can’t afford it.

Centennials: This age group, also known as Gen Z, grew up during the digital revolution. They click and swipe without thinking. They understand tech and are flooded with opinions about all topics. In terms of the menu, this group loves to snack, so they are a prime target for special afternoon “happy hour” programs. They don’t have a huge attention span, so make sure marketing messages are short and fast.

Contact Nancy Luna at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter: @FastFoodMaven

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