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Want to Future-Proof Your Restaurant? Listen More

Most restaurants are sitting on a goldmine of data that can––and should––be leveraged to drive deep customer loyalty through the personalized experiences they crave.
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The statistics pack a punch: Sixty percent of restaurants don’t make it past their first year, and 80% fail within the first five years. Restaurateurs must constantly be on their A-game to remain competitive amid rising wages, food costs and powerful incumbents—not to mention the curveball the pandemic dealt the entire hospitality industry.

The good news? Most restaurants are sitting on a goldmine of data that can––and should––be leveraged to drive deep customer loyalty through the personalized experiences they crave.


32% of restaurants say using data to understand guest preferences and behavior is driving their next POS upgrade -- HT's 2021 POS Software Trends report

Consumers are increasingly opting for a multi-channel approach when it comes to their dining experience. This includes how they order, where they dine (at home or in the restaurant) and how they prefer to engage with their favorite restaurants. As a result, restaurants have to be able to meet consumers where they are and fulfill their expectations for personalized, flexible solutions.

This requires getting to know––or “re-getting” to know––the customer. Luckily, most restaurants already have the insight they need and now there are tools to automate and easily scale the personalization process.


Tapping into your existing customer data

The more you know about your guests, the easier it is to understand them. Understanding them leads to exceptional customer experiences, which in turn results in loyalty and higher sales.

And studies show diners are inclined to share information if it translates to more engaging and personalized experiences. What’s more, technology makes it easy to gather and use meaningful data quickly and effectively––data that your customers have opted in to share.

Where do you look?

Point-of-sale (POS) systems: Your POS can help you gather and keep track of specific customer details and preferences. From basic demographics to ordering and menu preferences—this insight can be used to deliver personalized messages and offers to the customer.


37% of restaurants say integration with a third-party delivery system is driving their next POS upgrade -- HT's 2021 POS Software Trends report

Customer relationship management (CRM) systems and loyalty programs:  Customer data collected in these platforms enables you to learn more about customer buying patterns, which offers compel action and how customers prefer to be communicated with. The CRM, specifically, helps organize all the data from your various systems in one place and automate certain communications. A good CRM that is regularly maintained will become your single source of truth.

Email marketing platforms: Even your email lists can provide some good insight. Most provide insight into which contacts on your list are engaging with your email campaigns. You can use this information along with what they’re clicking on, what time they open it, etc. to gain a more detailed picture of what those individual customers are interested in and you might further personalize your outreach to them.


Putting the data to work

Achieving true personalization has traditionally been extremely time consuming and expensive, especially performing it at the scale needed to see a return in the investment. But there are now a variety of tools accessible to and affordable enough for restaurants of any size to help automate that process.

The key to creating truly personalized experiences for each individual customer, however, must start with meeting them where they are. Today, that journey more often than not starts in a mobile app.

A recent report by Bluedot found 86% of respondents surveyed said they have ordered directly from a restaurant app since the start of the pandemic, and eight out of 10 those consumers said they plan to maintain their current dining habits beyond the pandemic. And, according to the State of Mobile 2021 report by App Annie, mobile orders of food and food delivery in the US have grown over 105% in the past year. Those shifts are showing no signs of reversing.

This begs the question, how do you deliver personalized experiences to your customers where they are, efficiently and at scale? This is where proximity engagement comes in. 

Proximity engagement is a mobile marketing technology that follows the principles of behavior design. TThat is, a person is most likely to perform a behavior when their motivation and ability to do so are most closely aligned. It does this by analyzing opt-in behavioral and location data from your customers’ mobile devices along with other customer data from your POS system, loyalty platform, or CRM to identify those moments of alignment.

The upshot? Proximity engagement allows restaurants to automate the delivery of hyper-personalized messages and offers through their mobile app at exactly the right moment and in precisely the right place in which each customer will be most likely to respond and convert.

Those prompts can range from something as simple as a coupon for a discount on a customer’s favorite lunch item that is sent when they’re nearby, to more complex examples like sending a push to promote your catering business when one of your regulars is back in the office, to targeting offers to weekend-only customers to visit on slower days of the week.  The good news is that the technology takes care of the heavy lifting, and is almost infinitely flexible to support whatever business objective you’re trying to achieve.

Consumer behavior has changed, and it will continue to evolve, but you can bet the preference toward personalization won’t be going anywhere no matter how diners choose to patronize their favorite restaurants. Do the work now to get “re-get” to know your customers. Not only will it help you drive business today, it will position you to be in tune with behavior changes down the road.


About the Author

Andrew Steele is the CEO of LighthousePE, a proximity engagement platform, where he spearheads the overall strategic vision and operations, and oversees the portfolio of digital products and proprietary AI technology.


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