When customers enter many of the venues operated by the contract firm Fresh Ideas Food Service Management, chances are they are immediately recognized, at least if they have signed up for the Nōwn app that Fresh Ideas uses at many of its sites.
Nōwn is generally triggered by the Bluetooth signal from a customer’s phone, which immediately tells it who the person is and what their purchase history has been. Alternately, the customer can also check in manually by inputting a specific code.
“What this allows a business owner to do is to know their customers, so when the customer enters the store, the cafeteria or wherever, their profile is automatically going to appear on the POS screen,” explains Kristin Dorsey, head of sales and marketing for Nōwn. “[This way] the customer can be greeted by name and [the staff] can see favorite items [the customer has] ordered in the past and offer them those items again. Also as part of the transaction, customers can earn rewards points, etc., without ever having to take their phone out of their pocket.”
Dorsey says Nōwn is perfect for environments that regularly experience high traffic volume and a lot of repeat customers, which is why Fresh ideas has adopted it.
“What we like about Nōwn is that we can customize the user experience as soon as they come in the door,” says Bob Love, chief technology officer for the company. “Also, we love the ease of use for our managers and cashiers.” He says it also allows facilities to easily supply gift card dining credits to temporary workers or as rewards to staff.
For regular users, Nōwn’s POS feature is tied to a credit or debit card account for quick, hands-free electronic checkout. They can also use the app to make mobile preorders.
These are features many preorder/checkout apps have, but Nōwn goes an extra step by making personalized service easier.
“It’s also a way to communicate with customers, so you can create campaigns based on certain demographics,” explains Dorsey. “For example, say you want to target people who love cheeseburgers. Well, you can send a promotion to those phones [of customers who have previously purchased cheeseburgers] that you have a special on their favorite cheeseburger and they can get 20% off their next order.”
Or the offer can be a simple blanket discount on any order placed within the next 48 hours, she adds. It’s all up to the dining venue and what it wishes to incent.
The app also allows in-store promos that only appear to the cashier so they can, for example, not just welcome a customer by name but also tell them they qualify for an instant promo on their purchase.
Nōwn currently operates at several hundred locations, including retail stores, coffee shops, commercial restaurants and other high-traffic venues. Fresh Ideas has the system in every one of its B&I locations and many of its college locations. It is also looking to add it in other segments like K-12, where its clients are generally private schools that operate more like colleges in how they handle their dining operations, and in senior dining.
At first glance, the latter may not seem like a good prospect for such a high-tech option, but Love is confident that’s not the case.
“If you look at senior living today and the population now feeding into that, they are used to these technologies, so we feel we will be well set up for that market with this system,” he offers.