Restaurant Insights from Consumers Unmasked

restaurants & retail

“Sometimes You Really Don't Know What Customers Want Unless You Have a Conversation”

The Resonance Test 75: Barbara Castiglia and Nicole France: Restaurant Insights from Consumers Unmasked

January 31, 2022
by Buck SleeperKen Gordon
nicole and barbara

In 2022, you aren’t just what you eat. You’re also where and how and why and when and with whom you do so. It’s a whole new integrated experience, as we learned from Stage 2 of our Consumers Unmasked research project.

To enrich the study’s palate of insights, and help restaurateurs better understand their diners and employees, we convened three experts—Buck Sleeper, Head of Retail Experience Consulting in EPAM Continuum’s North American Digital Engagement Practice; Barbara Castiglia, Executive Editor of Modern Restaurant Management magazine and host of The Main Course podcast; and Nicole France, Product Marketing Evangelist at Contentful—to consider report’s findings.

The conversation provides a full menu of insights.

For starters, freshness matters to diners, in a holistic sense. “Freshness is not only in the ingredient itself but it's in the entire meal that you're having,” says Sleeper.

And ghost kitchens are here to stay—and are the drivers of new food ventures, according to Castiglia. “For a little bit of investment, you could have some new restauranteurs out there.”

“You don't even need a taco truck,” says France.

The group chewed over the idea of data—both the importance of big data for restaurants, and for small data as well. “Sometimes you really don't know what customers want unless you have a conversation,” says France.

France also talked about making data relevant and legible for employees: “It's all about interpreting that data into something meaningful, and honestly, that's a hell of a lot easier to share than big data sets.”

Sleeper notes that a quarter of Consumers Unmasked’s US respondents are watching food and video tutorials. Castiglia replies that, for restauranteurs, “Your digital footprint is very, very important now. So you have to examine which of these channels make the most sense for your brand and spend the time to put together an effort to engage with your guests.”

But the truth is, those guests might be difficult to reach. France says that many young people have are completely comfortable with delivery apps and online ordering but also have “this strange but very deeply held fear of actually interacting with people. So whether that's picking food up or eating in a restaurant, I think there's going to have to be something that adapts to that trend.”

Host: Alison Kotin
Engineer: Kyp Pilalas
Producer: Ken Gordon

The Resonance Test 75: Barbara Castiglia and Nicole France: Restaurant Insights from Consumers Unmasked
filed in: restaurants & retail , customer experience, travel and hospitality

About the Author

  • Sleeper Buck
    Buck Sleeper

    Buck Sleeper is an experience designer at the global design and innovation firm EPAM Continuum, working broadly to understand the needs and behaviors of humans, identify disruptive opportunities for businesses and institutions, and forge alignment within organizations to drive real change and implementation. Buck is obsessed with crafting a future that is inclusive, sustainable, and optimistic. He leads the Restaurants and Retail Vertical at EPAM Continuum, drawing from his diverse background of projects in education, healthcare, financial services, civic design, and connected devices to transform the future of shopping and eating.

    Buck is trained as an architect, previously holding positions at Skidmore Owings and Merrill, Kennedy Violich Architects, and Howeler Yoon Architects. Buck earned his master of architecture at MIT in Cambridge, and holds a bachelor of arts from Middlebury College in Vermont. He lives just outside of Boston.

  • Ken Gordon
    Ken Gordon
    Chief Communications Specialist

    Ken makes EPAM Continuum’s work visible to the necessary people. He creates superlative content, works with colleagues to do the same, and employs social networks to share it widely.

    A card-carrying humanist, Ken co-founded QuickMuse, the improvisational writing website, and JEDLAB, the Jewish education community. He has written for, the New York Times, and many other pubs.

    Ken has an English degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and an MA in English from the State University of New York at Albany. He framed both diplomas long ago, but can’t seem to find them now—a fact he considers all-too-human.