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Customer Data is a Goldmine – Here’s 4 Ways To Increase Repeat Business With It

By Jay O'Sullivan

Modern POS systems have given most restaurants operational data and sales data over the last few years, and they’re using it to streamline business systems, cut down on expenses, and increase margins. But there’s still something missing from most POS solutions—the kind of data that can actually increase business: customer data.

Customer data enables you to personalize customer experiences, which is an effective way of driving repeat business.

Yes, customers come back for the food and quality of service. They enjoy the setting, the mood, the location. Personalization, however, adds a unique depth to the experience.

  • It makes customers feel special and appreciated when they visit
  • It helps you send the right marketing offers to the right guests
  • It enables your restaurant to stand out in competitive markets

In fact, customers who receive personalized marketing and experiences are 10x more likely to become your brand’s most valuable customers.

But to enable personalization, you have to know things about the individuals who visit your restaurant—and there’s no better place to collect that data than your front of house.

How To Collect Customer Data The Easy Way

Traditionally, restaurants have primarily used surveys to gather data on their customers. The strategy has worked for years, but it has its limitations. Customers don’t really like surveys, so you end up giving away free product as an incentive. They tend to produce imprecise results that are hard to gain insights from. And they take a large time investment to prepare and digest on the restaurant end.

There’s an easier way: build data collection into your front of house operations.

With a basic FOH tool in place, you can collect troves of actionable data on your customers during normal operations:

POS system gave restaurants the wisdom of sales data, front of house tools offer you the power of customer data.
  • Name
  • Contact information (phone numbers and emails)
  • Important dates (anniversaries, birthdays)
  • Food preferences (meal selection, menu trends)
  • Dietary needs (allergies, alternative diets)
  • Operational data (visit frequency, length of stay)

When someone joins the waitlist you get their name and number. Once they order food, the POS and FOH apps connect to create sales insights and dining preferences. With fast and easy surveys and feedback during and after the meal, you get a strong look at how the experience went.

These are all normal, everyday occurrences for your restaurant—and now they’re working for you to provide value you can turn into more value. Just like how the digital POS system gave restaurants the wisdom of sales data, FOH tools can offer you the power of customer data.

And once you have it, the benefits are profound.

How To Turn Customer Data Into Personalized Marketing

Here’s where personalization comes in again.

Now that you’re equipped with an ever-growing database of customer data that’s continually becoming more precise, you’re able to better target and time your offers down to the individual diner.

Here are a few of the ways you can use your data to power-up your marketing for a stronger ROI.

1. Segment Customers Based On Spend, Preferences, And Beyond

You have the data. Now you need to organize it. Any noteworthy FOH app will allow you to create segments of customers based on any data metric that you’ve been collecting and export the lists so that you can use that data in your marketing platforms.

Here are a few examples of how you can segment your customers to create personalized offers:

  • Find your top spenders — Creating a list of your highest spending customers isolates your VIPs. Once you have their names, you can treat them to some special surprises when they arrive in your restaurant or send them exclusive offers for high-end events, like a limited seating chef’s dinners.
  • Single out the wine lovers — Identifying the guests that order wine at least 50% of the time they dine at your restaurant gives you a highly engaged list that’s likely to respond to an email announcing an exciting vintage or bottle discount.
  • Recapture guests from last month — When customers don’t return after 30 days, you can add them to a list that sends a win-back offer via email or social media retargeting to get them back through your doors.

But why send a win-back offer to customers from last month when you could send a win-back offer that specifically targets people who ordered fish and a discount on your new salmon dish? These types of segments can transform your offers, and the more specific you are with your segments, the better they’ll perform.

2. Discover The Power Of The Personalized Email

Mass email sends aren’t interesting anymore, especially with how crowded inboxes are these days. The needs and preferences of your customers vary wildly, and non-personalized emails average just a 21% open rate (granted, it’s better than Facebook’s 6% organic reach).

A little personalization breathes life back into each of your emails. By tailoring offers to specific customer segments, restaurants are experiencing 27% higher unique click rates and 11% higher open rates—a dramatic jump that drastically alters your email marketing ROI.

Sure, it takes time to create multiple offers for various customer segments, but when you’re talking about thousands of customers receiving personalized emails, the reward is worth the investment.

3. Retarget Customers On Facebook With Relevant Offers

Facebook is now a pay-to-play platform for businesses. Organic reach is at an all-time low, but that doesn’t mean you have to throw up an ad and hope for the best. By exporting a list of customer emails and uploading them to Facebook, you can retarget those customers specifically.

And here’s why this is a no-brainer approach: customer acquisition costs are far higher than customer retention costs, and it’s the repeat diners who enable your restaurant to thrive. Retargeting makes getting customers back through your doors much easier and less expensive than regular Facebook ads or posts.

4. Transform The In-House Dining Experience

Customer data can even empower your ability to engage with customers in real-time. And even though the customer is already in your restaurant, you’re still marketing to them to get them to come back next month.

Here are a few ways your in-house dining experience can benefit from customer data.

  • Know when your customers aren’t feeling it — Most restaurants have no idea when a customer has a bad experience until the 2-star Google review shows up a day later, but if you can discover the trajectory of the experience before the customer leaves, you get a chance to turn it around. Sending a one-question survey text mid-meal is one way to capture this data. If the customer responds with a sad face or negative comment, you can send the manager over right away.
  • In-house offers and specials — When you can identify the dining preferences of your customers even before they sit down, you can offer personalized specials, tell them about relevant updates to the menu, and tempt them with their favorite dishes.

The key to using data in-house is to have a dynamic FOH tool that not only collects the data, but uses it to notify you about guests when they’re in the restaurant or on the waitlist.