Whether they’re vegans or meat eaters, people are looking for places that accommodate their food palate as well as offer fast service and a casual decor. Along with diversifying tastes in foods comes overwhelming demand for personalization. Fast-casual restaurants such as Chipotle, Sweetgreen and Dig Inn have exploded in popularity in recent years, offering a personalized customer experience with customized ordering and loyalty programs. Their assembly-line style ordering allows people to pick the ingredients they want, whether it’s—in the case of Chipotle—brown versus white rice, peppers and onions versus beans, etc. (not to mention the secret menu for those really in the know).

Chipotle also offers self-service customer service through popular online ordering system Postmates along with its own app for quick, on-demand ordering. Even after the now infamous E. Coli incident that caused huge issues for Chipotle, J.P. Morgan analysts still see a bright future writing that Chipotle has created “a highly meaningful brand, that with time and expense can regain customer trust.” A big part of that must be attributed to the value Chipotle places on creating outstanding customer experiences.

Across the board, fast-casual establishments are bringing more control to how people can order and when they can leave, said Cherryh Cansler, managing editor for FastCasual.com and RetailCustomerExperience.com. “Consumers, especially millennials, are looking for a quick and affordable way to eat healthy, fresh food,” Cansler said. “It’s really about customization, and yes, that means they want a variety of menu choices, but they also want to control their experience.”

How restaurants bring personalization

As part of their strategy of offering better customer experience solutions, fast-casual restaurants are implementing digital menu boards, mobile loyalty programs, kiosks and mobile payments. “CX has always been about making the customer feel important, but technology has given restaurants so many more ways to do it,” Cansler noted. This applies to new startups in the space as well as more established companies such as Panera and Starbucks.

With its Panera 2.0 initiative, Panera allows customers to order using in-store tablets and scan their rewards card to earn free items like bakery goods. “The brand is practically using every technology available to cut wait times and to enhance the CX,” Cansler said. A rapid pickup service lets Panera customers order in advance using the company’s website or mobile app. RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology also allows Panera to locate the correct tables to deliver food to in the store. This table tracker system eliminates what Panera’s CEO Ron Shaich calls a “mosh pit” of people waiting to get their food.

Understanding that consumers value deals, Sweetgreen has a mobile app that adds to the customer experience by allowing customers to pay $3 and get $3 back in rewards for another time.

So what do all these elements ladder up to? Better living through tech and customer experience.

Mining for dining patterns

Companies are able to mine data from orders and loyalty programs to better serve customers. Data from loyalty programs allow food establishments such as Panera to target specific offers to a customer’s location. The MyPanera loyalty program allows the company to track who is ordering various types of foods in nearly 50 percent of the chain’s transactions— providing data from the program’s 21 million member base.

“Think about the power that ultimately gives us,” Blaine Hurst, Panera’s executive vice president and chief transformation and growth officer, told Nation’s Restaurant News. The company reaches out to customers to find out about their experience ordering specific foods and receives between 100,000 and 150,000 responses per month.

Fast-casual restaurants are also using customer experience solutions such as beacons to send personalized messages about discount deals to smartphone users. These deals “are going to be attractive to value seekers and give you a little bit of extra motivation to go to the restaurant,” Darren Tristano, president of restaurant consultancy Technomic, told The CX Report.

Fast-casual tech in the future

In-store touch-screen boards, like those used to locate stores in malls, allow customers to view more information about the food they’re consuming in addition to calorie count. In fact, 34 percent of consumers said restaurant touch-screens enhance the dining experience, according to data from Technomic.

Personalization will continue to play a big part in fast-casual restaurants, offering a better customer experience, just like Starbucks offers a personal touch by writing customers’ names on cups. “Providing the guest experience people want, either in the restaurant’s dining room or in consumers’ own homes, will require heavy investments in technology and people up front,” Tristano wrote in a blog post. “But the more those digital channels grow, the more efficient and profitable fast-casual chains stand to become.”