We spent some time chatting gamification in the foodservice industry with Jim Matorin, Business Catalyst at SMARTKETING.

Curious about how to develop games for your operation? Hear more from Matorin on Sunday, May 22 during his NRA Show education session, Well Played: Gamifying Health and Wellness. Register today.

How can operators look at gamification as a learning tool?

Jim Matorin: It really depends on the type of operation. For example, a non-commercial operation focused on college and university students may want to consider how they can encourage better eating habits alongside the importance of exercise. On the flip side, you can also use gamification to incentivize employees to learn ways to be more operationally efficient on hot topics like food waste.

For commercial operators, they may want to focus on getting guests more engaged with their menu, especially if they’ve recently revamped the menu to include more nutritious, “cleaner” options. New concepts can use it to get customers familiar with their overall menu. Once you’ve decided what your objective is, that helps drive the overall direction of your app.

What are some tactics for making gamification an engaging way to deliver meaningful content?

JM: The most common tactic is creating challenges that allows users to accumulate points or badges to work toward some type of reward. Leaderboards keep people excited because they want to see where they stand and most people have a competitive streak in them, making them more willing to continue to engage in hopes of “winning.”

What are some considerations an operator needs to take into account when developing these tools?

JM: Two things: the first is to identify a resource. It’s probably best to seek outside counsel from a place like an agency. There are lots of agencies out there that focus on development. If you’re in the university or college space, you could also consider engaging tech-savvy students or tapping into tech majors to find the right minds to help you bring your idea to life.

The second is to consider the “regime of competence,” or how you dial in on the most relatable content that is challenging enough to keep people engaged without being polarizing. People will zone out if content is too difficult, but they’ll get bored quickly if it is too easy. You have to find that sweet spot so they keep trying to come back. If we started asking people who aren’t food professionals questions about 8 main allergens, it would likely be a struggle. You have to teach them using relatable content.

How do you see health and wellness needs shifting over the next few years, and how do you think tech-savvy operators can stay nimble to keep up?

JM: Tough question. For starters, all operators have to stay up on food trends. In addition to things like global flavors and other big trends, the new dietary guidelines call for more plant-based foods. Operators are also going to have to figure out how they can get their fair share of snacking since we are evolving into a snacking society with fewer sit-down meals.  Second, I don’t envision many operators using gamification to go beyond the transaction side of technology – payment systems lead to situational data of what and when people buy, streamlining convenience and delivery of food on-location or off-premise and help with better supply chain/inventory systems.  When it comes to gamification, the focus will be on fun ways to enhance the overall guest experience and finding new ways to further engage guests.  

Do you see gamification and loyalty being viewed as two separate entities in the future?
JM: We’ll see. For the time being, loyalty programs with incentives like badges, leaderboards, and more live under gamification. You’ll see some fairly simplistic loyalty programs, which aren’t truly games but may still live within a basic app. Moving forward, I think we’ll see more “text and tell” implementations like huge LED screens in cafeterias sharing social streams with mentions, especially in places like colleges and universities, which could take loyalty programs out of the gamification umbrella. However, if they are associated a leaderboard, that brings it right back to gamification.

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