For restaurants, guest data is the key to better sales, menu development and loyalty. But in an age of increasing cyber risk, what if some guests don’t want to share their information – or are turned off when you ask for it? First, make it easy and fast for them to share it, without a lot of discussion, clicks or scrolling required. Clarify how you will and won’t be using their information – and what benefits they will receive as a result, including special discounts, shorter wait times, member rewards or customized offers. Finally, make them feel safe – not only through your use of secure technology but also by ensuring their interactions with your staff feel genuine. Collect only the information you need and reinforce your commitment to protecting their safety and privacy.
While it seems like every restaurant has a loyalty program these days, there is significant room for improvement: According to new research from Mercator Advisory Group, only 22 percent of consumers are satisfied with the level of personalization offered by their loyalty programs. Harnessing guest data can help you up your game. Make sure your program is connected to every place a customer can place an order with you, online and off, so you can collect transactional data and use it to personalize your efforts to upsell and cross-sell items, or to target them with exclusive limited-time offers or invitations. A QSRweb report says this approach can help you present real-time promotions that are more likely to hit the mark with guests, like offering a discount on two large pizzas to the subset of visitors who would normally order just one.
Stability is hard to come by in the restaurant industry – but your technology may help you build and maintain it. According to new research from Paytronix Systems on consumers who own high numbers of connected devices, there is much loyalty – and therefore stability – among these consumers. The research found that 60 percent of high-tech consumers participate in loyalty programs at quick-service restaurants and 75 percent participate at table-service restaurants. High-tech consumers are also far more aware of and eager to adopt subscription programs, with 40 percent being “very” or “extremely” familiar with restaurant subscription services – as opposed to the 21 percent average for the general sample surveyed.
At a time when restaurants are having to run on especially thin margins, knowing who your most profitable guests are can be a big advantage. According to a new survey of more than 2,000 U.S. consumers, you will likely do well by focusing on your higher-tech guests – and serving and rewarding them through your mobile app. More than half of survey respondents cited mobile app availability as central to their willingness to spend more money. What’s more, your app can help secure their business for the longer term. An overwhelming 79 percent of respondents said they use mobile apps to connect with restaurant reward offerings. These guests are also the most likely to be interested in taking part in subscription offers.
Staffing is difficult enough right now – but it’s even more challenging when an operator must schedule a team to work an unpredictable, potentially sleepy day part. (It’s part of the reason why companies like First Watch have a single, 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. shift.) But what if there were another way? The technology you use to customize data-driven, strategic guest offers is designed to improve sales performance during specific day parts. When you have improved, consistent traffic, you require more hours from staff, who are now able to get the hours and pay they need to stay with the business. Is there a day part in your business that has great potential but needs a lift to be able to retain staff? Consider how you can use your loyalty technology to turn the customer who stops in for an afternoon coffee each day into someone who also comes in for breakfast or lunch.
Boosting certain convenience technologies you use in your restaurant could elevate your check totals – or result in your leaving money on the table. That’s according to recent research from Pymts.com, which surveyed consumers about the technologies that most influence their purchasing. The most popular features among respondents were the ability to order online, which 41 percent favored as part of their experience in a restaurant, as well as loyalty programs, which came in at a close second with 39 percent of respondents saying the programs drive them to make a purchase.
If you have a loyal base of customers, they are likely expecting you to have a digital rewards program that makes their patronage all the more worthwhile. But as these programs have become so widespread, it’s also become more difficult for operators to make them stand out. Research from Pymnts.com predicts that this year, restaurant brands will find more sophisticated methods of driving personalized messages and offers to guests in ways that don’t sacrifice profitability. That could mean offering menu items that are exclusive to loyalty program members, or simply gamifying your program with contests and virtual rewards. Late last year, Chipotle, for one, started offering achievement badges in its rewards program. They have no monetary value but have still resulted in a spike to loyalty program membership, according to a company spokesperson.
Elevating your loyalty program is key to retaining guests and maintaining profitability. Increasingly, artificial intelligence (AI) integrated with a restaurant’s POS, online ordering and overall payment system is being used to ensure that the loyalty offers restaurant guests receive are precisely fine-tuned to their evolving preferences. As AI algorithms analyze data from customer orders, they spot patterns and adapt to them continuously – then translate that information into targeted promotions and coupons. These offers can mean the difference between retaining a customer who goes a bit out of their way to collect an order from you versus one who debates whether to use a third-party aggregator to order from you or a nearby competitor.
The end of the year is a time restaurant operators can count on for strong performance – with December typically the most profitable month of the year. But Black Box data from December points to sales growth of just 4.1 percent, compared to 8.4 percent in November. It marked the weakest month for the industry since the 2.7 percent growth reported in March 2021. In light of those results, a recent Restaurant Business report suggested guests may be questioning restaurants’ value amid steeply climbing costs. It’s no wonder – amid ingredient and labor shortages, along with escalating costs, something has to give. But all the same, operators can only turn those figures around if they can demonstrate the value of choosing a restaurant meal over one prepared at home. Staffing shortages can cause service to take a hit, but you may be able to help compensate for this with improved speed of preparation: Simplify your menu with speed-scratch ingredients or other elements ready to be added to a number of dishes. Remove friction from the process guests must go through when searching for you online and placing an order. That means monitoring your restaurant online to ensure information about your menu, hours and contact information is up to date on review sites, search engines and social media, as well as testing your online ordering functionality to remove glitches and ensure repeat guests are recognized in your system. Speaking of loyal guests, double down on your loyalty program and guest personalization, which will make it feel more worthwhile for guests to support your business (either in your dining room or through order collection), as opposed to having a third-party vendor drop off their delivery order. Finally, aim to appeal to guests’ own values by supporting local suppliers and sharing their business names with guests – an expensive meal feels more worthwhile to a guest when they know it supports their broader community.
If you’ve ever ordered a pizza from Domino’s, you’ve gotten a glimpse into how a restaurant brand can harness technology to expedite ordering, upsell successfully and improve loyalty. But it’s one thing for a behemoth brand to accomplish this and quite another for a smaller, independent one. Slice, a tech platform for independent pizza restaurants, is looking to change that and its consumer app has attracted 16,000 independents so far. But according to The Spoon, which named Slice to its list of top-10 tech companies recently, Slice’s acquisition of the POS startup InStore is what’s really allowing it to help indie restaurants improve their customer experience. It’s enabling smaller pizza restaurants to offer the kind of loyalty programs and integrated marketing programs that make ordering from a small, one-store pizzeria as seamless as it is at Domino’s.