How Restaurants Can Use Data to Improve Customer Relationships and Sales

Restaurants put data on the menu

The restaurant industry is a business of relationships, passion – and believe it or not – data.  Restaurant goers freely offer up their personal information through reservation bookings, reward cards, mailing lists, social media and feedback.  It’s one of the unique areas of business where the organization is not only allowed to collect information, but consumers appreciate when you do your homework on them.

Consider myself as an example.  I take clients and prospects to lunch about 2-3 times a week.  I typically spend $40-50 and tip around 20-25 percent, and I almost always have at least 2-3 other people with me.  I’m using the restaurant and lunch experience to build trust with my client or prospect.  I normally choose between two restaurants.  The first I go to only because of proximity to my workplace; the other restaurant is farther from my office, but if the manager is in the restaurant, he often stops by to say hello or makes sure that the waiter offers a complementary appetizer or dessert.  I have no idea which restaurant costs more.  I just know that if it’s a client I want to impress, I’ll take my chances that the manager from the second restaurant stops by for a quick chat.

The difference between these two restaurants for me is not the cost, or even the food, it’s the service and relationship.  Now, how could the first restaurant build that same relationship with customers like me?  They actually already have all the tools they need.  They know I’m coming in for lunch due to the online reservation which gives them my phone number, name, and possibly email address.  They know what I order, how much I spend and how much I tip all because they have at least 30 different orders in their point-of-service (POS) data.  And, if they were really thorough, they could easily figure out that I work in a large firm just upstairs (where there may be plenty of potential for larger party reservations and additional patrons).

The reason most restaurants fall short of leveraging their customer information is that they have multiple systems for each type of dataset, and none of these systems talk to each other.  For example, a restaurant uses OpenTable for its reservations, but it uses Aloha for its POS, and then it has a separate website that monitors its reward information.  The key is linking the information together.  In a recent study BDO conducted of retail CMOs, nearly all (93 percent) said they find it a challenge to integrate and manage the data, and 40 percent specified that it is “very challenging.”  Challenging or not, restaurants must make better use of the information they have.  Those that are successful in this area will be poised to increase sales through more relationships and personalized service by using the data behind the scenes.

Stay tuned for my next post detailing what data integration really looks like.