My family loves pizza. One of our favorites is Uno Chicago Grill, which we still can’t stop thinking of as Pizzeria Uno. But whenever we would go there, I would cringe. You see, I have a sensitivity to Canola Oil, that seemingly ubiquitous liquid lipid that has insidiously insinuated itself into prepared food everywhere. Whenever we would go to Uno, I would get ill.
But recently, Uno went from dangerous to desirable, all thanks to the little computer kiosk in their vestibule and the ability to search a full ingredients list for every item on their menu. While waiting to be seated, which can take longer than it does to grow the tomatoes from which their sauce is made, I noticed the kiosk and figured I’d check it out.
With just a few clicks, I was able to discover that, in terms of canola, Spinocolli Deep Dish Pizza was good, Farmer’s Market Vegetable was bad. Simple, unassuming Cheese & Tomato Deep Dish was actually cool, canola-wise, while my old standby, Four Cheese Deep Dish, was catastrophically uncool.
Fascinated, and with nothing better to do, I read virtually every potentially non-meat item on the menu, and found some which I never would have tried before that I could now order with abandon. (Crispy Cheese Dippers and Shrimp and Crab Fondue good; Roasted Vegetable Quesadillas and 4 Flavor Veggie Pot Stickers with Peanut Sauce, both bad, bad, bad.)
Uno turned a pain point (a long wait) into a deeply immersive engagement that deepened my relationship with their organization (and turned a foe into a friend.)
They’re also in step with the trends. With more and more people reading ingredients labels, there’s clearly a growing concern over ingredients, nutritional breakdowns, etc. The labels of prescription drugs often include long lists of food ingredients to avoid when taking them. State and municipal governments are mandating various levels of disclosure, from calories and fat to more, and even banning the use of many ingredients.
It makes sense for restaurants to drop their drawers and let consumers get a good look inside. I think Uno is missing a few tricks, though.
Imagine if I could have typed in the ingredients or allergens I wanted to avoid, rather than having to look through the whole menu, and have all the “safe items” pop up? It might be less effective in terms of time of engagement, but more effective in terms of product trial and loyalty.
What if there were kiosks at every table, so that people with concerns could check out a menu item from their multi-page menu rather than having to ask a server? After all, we’re there to eat. We’re going to order something. Why not make sure it’s the right something, so we leave happy and come back wanting more?
Why not give everyone a wireless menu pad when they walk in the door, so customers could check out the ingredients while waiting and order directly from the pad afterwards? You could still have the order confirmed by a live server, and only activated after people were seated, to avoid scheduling issues, allow for suggestive cross- and up-sell and maintain a level of friendly server/customer interaction. Plus, Uno would never need to print another menu — just download the new one onto the pad.
Some of these ideas are almost certainly cost-prohibitive right now. But since a recent study on Marketing Sherpa just found that customer service is the most important aspect of consumer loyalty, the return on investment may actually pay off.
As the chart shows, many vendors don’t get it. I’m betting Uno does, and they’re milking it for everything it’s worth. Not only will you find the same nutritional breakdowns on their website, but you’ll also find that as of this writing the most prominent real estate on their home page touts their accolades: named “America’s #1 Healthiest Chain Restaurant” by Health Magazine, “1 of the top 10 family restaurants” by Parents Magazine, and Prevention Magazine’s “Guilt-Free Favorite Pizza” (which, by the way, I can’t eat, thanks to… canola oil!).
There are many benefits to taking advantage of the growing consumer hunger to know exactly what we’re putting into our bodies. So can someone please explain to me why most restaurants insist on serving us mystery meals?