Is your digital ordering platform up to the challenges this winter will bring? The season will be a test for restaurants everywhere: The days of generating only a small fraction of business from off-premise orders are over – perhaps permanently. So consider this winter an opportunity to get to know your data better than ever before. Andrew Robbins, the CEO of Paytronix, recently told Pyments.com that this winter would be a chance for brands to get to know their guests even better by exploring their customer relationship management systems and – with the help of artificial intelligence – analyzing customer purchasing patterns. “This can lead to long-term changes, like data-driven subscription programs that further cement the relationships between brands and their guests,” he said. Instead of looking at this winter as a period to survive, consider it a time when you can harness your systems to truly understand the data you’re collecting – and then turn it into offers that build the kind of loyal following that will carry you through times like this.
Last year at this time, having an on-trend menu or holiday promotions may have been priorities for you. Fast-forward a year and restaurant hospitality – and the ethics surrounding it – looks much different. One recent Washington Post article mentioned how diners, in general, are going through a more rigorous decision-making process when it comes to determining if and where they will dine out. Criteria that would have seemed outlandish just a year ago – like a restaurant’s COVID-19 protocols, table-distancing measures, neighbourhood and amount of foot traffic – now speak volumes to consumers about a restaurant’s potential risks (and therefore, the quality of their hospitality). If local restrictions fluctuate in the coming months, how will you consistently communicate safety to your guests and off-premise customers? Continue to promote – via your website, social media and in-store signage – that you are committed to protecting the safety of both your staff and your guests. If guests want to access detailed information about how you’re handling COVID-19, provide details on your website. Post your employee sick leave policy, specific cleaning protocols and schedule – yes, recent research indicates that more consumers want to know these details – and what you are doing to protect the safety of off-premise meals as well. Much like restaurants that have developed a loyal following of customers who have food allergies, restaurants that visibly protect guest safety – not just for show but as a deeply felt value – stand to earn guest loyalty too.
You’re likely collecting more customer data these days – whether for enabling contact tracing, enhancing mobile ordering or boosting your marketing efforts. As you consider new technology to support that effort, be mindful of consumer privacy concerns – and ensure you are able to tell guests how you are using their information. Since you won’t be able to get guests to share information with you without demonstrating you are trustworthy, make sure your providers use guest-centric practices – collecting only the information that is needed to facilitate a transaction or interaction, limiting the tracking of location data, and never sharing or selling personal information or location data. This report from QSR Magazine outlines some precautions to take when collecting guest data and vetting potential providers. (https://bit.ly/2Frvqhi)
Back in June, the National Restaurant Association named virtual gift cards on a list of restaurant tech tools that it predicted would best support the industry’s recovery from the pandemic. Virtual gift cards – as opposed to the plastic ones that clutter a person’s wallet – make contactless, fast payment possible, so they’re well suited to these times. Further, since more than 70 percent of gift card recipients spend more than the face value of their cards, according to research from Givex, they can help lift check totals. Are you offering and promoting virtual gift cards on your website, app and social media platforms?
Is there an area where your restaurant can give a little bit in order to demonstrate customer benefits in the long run? According to this Bloomberg report for the Washington Post, Chipotle had offered free delivery for much of the second quarter to entice customers. Now it is beginning to charge for that service, but the company has found that customers who used Chipotle’s app for free delivery are now going on to use the app to place orders for pickup – especially when they are reminded that they can do this for free and for a typically shorter wait time. Chipotle is gaining new converts to pickup – as well as more customer data – all for charging more for delivery and communicating well through its app.
Your restaurant marketing strategy has likely done an about-face in recent weeks and months – or if it hasn’t, perhaps it should. Schedules and traffic patterns have shifted, so the people who used to buy a quick, easy meal they could pick up on their route home from school or work are likely spending a lot more time at home at the moment – and may not be passing your restaurant at all in the course of a week. Cravings may have changed too. This doesn’t mean people haven’t been craving your food – in fact, they may be missing it more than ever. But how can you tap into their current mindset and make it appealing for them to place an order or, better yet, venture out to dine with you or pick up their food themselves? Start by showing how your restaurant is relevant to people’s lives: Is there an easy, tasty recipe you can share that will satisfy everyone in a household? Can you post a video of your chef inventing a meal on the spot using a few ingredients – or dreaming up ways to use pantry staples when certain ingredients are unavailable? Total Food Service suggests sending out surveys to guests, asking them questions about your menu and getting a sense of what they are preparing at home. What would entice them to come out right now? That may help you refine your current menu and promotions – and avoid offering a family-style pasta meal deal if they have been reheating spaghetti Bolognese for days on end.