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Executive Insight: Building Direct Relationships With Guests

Marybeth Sheppard, Senior Vice President, Marketing, SevenRooms

As restaurants adapt to the new normal, how can technology help by delivering efficiency, security, and ROI?

COVID-19 has impacted every area of the hospitality industry, creating new challenges for operators to navigate. Yet, throughout this time, the use of technology has continued to grow, driven by a need for a more streamlined and safe way to adapt to new operational processes. 

Platforms that offer operators a way to build a direct relationship with their guests through the collection and ownership of guest data are instrumental in building deeper brand loyalty. While cultivating repeat customers has always been top of mind for operators, now, more than ever, repeat business is crucial in helping restaurants build a path towards profitability.  In fact,the data shows that of those who are interested in dining out at the moment, 37% are more comfortable dining at restaurants they have been to before, highlighting the importance of making the first impression count.  

Technology solutions, like SevenRooms, help operators more deeply understand their guests to drive repeat business by providing operators with a holistic view of their customers across on- and off-premise. When operators have ownership of their guest data, they can leverage it to create personalized experiences for each individual guest. This attention to detail, which should be commonplace across the industry, drives loyalty with guests and keeps them coming back, creating a long-term repeat customer. 

As restaurants adopt and refine off-prem solutions such as pick-up, drive-thru, and delivery, what new challenges, such as security and food safety, does off-prem present? How is technology meeting those challenges?

As the pandemic continues, restaurants across the country are incorporating more off-premise strategies into their operations. Where delivery and pickup once accounted for roughly 10% of a restaurant’s total revenue, since the onset of COVID, that number has jumped to 80-90%. Having an off-premise solution is now a must-have, as it provides revenue during a potential on-premise closure, while also helping operators meet the new needs of guests, regardless of their safety profile. 

However, having an off-premise strategy is not enough if you’re using a third-party system to execute on it. A robust off-premise strategy must focus on helping operators build a direct relationship with customers while collecting and owning data that helps them execute on tailored marketing. This is in sharp contrast to most third-party systems’ models, where they own both the guest relationship and data, and make money by driving demand to their website versus a restaurant’s direct channels. Restaurant operators should look to technology solutions that help them connect directly with customers across every on- and off-premise interaction. This system should also provide them with tools to automate marketing and guest communications at scale to drive more repeat business, more often. 

Consider a restaurant guest who, pre-pandemic, regularly visited their neighborhood restaurant. Because of the pandemic, they don’t feel comfortable visiting to dine in person – a sentiment echoed bymore than 1 in 4 Americans. To engage this regular guest again, operators can use insights from their guest profile to send a personalized offer for discounted delivery on their favorite entrée or a message saying they hope to see them again soon. 

Restaurants are collecting more consumer data than ever before -- how can technology leverage that data to enhance direct-to-consumer communications, personalization, etc.

Historically, operators have kept an endless stream of guest notes and preferences in their heads to create magical hospitality experiences for guests. With changing guest behavior over the past several years, operators across the hospitality sector have had to rethink how they meet and exceed expectations. 

The introduction of new technology platforms has enabled operators to create more personalized experiences for every customer. Leveraging data collected during the customer journey, operators are now able to deliver on hyper-personalized marketing campaigns. This data-driven approach to marketing is used at scale to bring more guests back in a way that feels personal, timely and relevant. Ultimately, it has created deeper relationships with guests that drive more revenue to an operator’s bottom line. 

Using areservations, waitlist and seating management solution, operators can now begin building relationships before a guest even walks through the door. The data captured in these guest profiles helps operators to anticipate guests’ needs and create a hyper-personalized experience for them. Whether it is sending a guest an offer for a free cocktail in celebration of their birthday or providing them with a menu tailored to their dietary restrictions, operators can enhance their guest journey from start to finish using data.