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Blog / August 6, 2021

Part 2: Lessons on Engaging Your Guests

engage more guests

Bianca Esmond

Warmer weather. Vaccine accessibility. Pent-up demand for travel and dining experience. The Restaurant Renaissance is here. 

But does your restaurant have the technology and operational processes in place to help you meet and exceed the expectations of these guests? In this three-part series, we explore how you can Acquire, Engage and Retain more customers with SevenRooms.

With the recent launch of our new website and brand category, SevenRooms is proud to be known as the industry’s first and only Guest Experience and Retention platform, helping operators to streamline on- and off-premise operations and automate marketing that brings guests back more often. In a recent Letter from the CEO, SevenRooms CEO & Co-Founder Joel Montaniel broke down the important role our platform plays for operators, stating, “We give them a proven strategy for success – combining data, personalization and automation into one powerful platform. We provide the tools they need to automate labor-intensive processes so they can focus on the human side of hospitality.” In this new era for hospitality, where margins are razor-thin and labor shortages abound 18 months after the start of the pandemic, our role is more important than ever.

In our recent three-week Coffee Break series, we explored themes around how hospitality operators can provide exceptional experiences to their guests while maximizing revenue for their businesses. Read on for key insights and takeaways about how operators can ‘Engage’ their guests both on- and off-premise, featuring a discussion with Alexa Detzi, Director, Enterprise Success at SevenRooms and Joe Ragonese, Director of Operations at Kyma Restaurants in New York. 

Engage Your Guests

As cities have reopened, there has been significant pent-up demand from consumers who are eager to dine out at their favorite restaurants once more. 

“The industry is going through a rebirth, and now is the time to optimize your strategy for acquiring, engaging and retaining customers,” said Alexa Detzi, Director, Enterprise Success at SevenRooms

But what matters when it comes to best serving and engaging your customers in this new era of hospitality? There are a few areas to focus on to best engage your customers. These include: 

  1. Having options to meet all guest expectations and needs 
  2. Integrating technology to run the best version of your dining room 
  3. Accessing guest feedback directly and incorporating it to improve operations

COVID fundamentally changed guest behavior when it comes to dining out, and it’s important to keep that in mind when developing new strategies for exceeding guest experiences. Integrated technologies relieve the operational burden and make it possible for you to provide these memorable experiences to customers with fewer resources. Plus, you can leverage tech to understand what your guests want, and use their feedback to update and improve your operations to drive repeat business directly in the future.  

Today, there are different levels of guest comfort surrounding reopening. Some are still not comfortable dining out, and default to online ordering for their restaurant experiences. Others are less wary, but want a safe way to interact with the restaurant. This is where virtual waitlists and reservations come into play. These online tools help streamline your operations, while prioritizing the health and safety of your staff and guests by making the on-premise check-in and dining experience nearly contactless.  

“Communicating expectations is something you need to let your guest know [ahead of their experience],” said Joe Ragonese, Director of Operations at Kyma. “We use all the tools we have, SevenRooms included, when they book a reservation. We’re letting them know about time limits, that we have bi-level seating, that you have the option to sit outdoors. We communicate ahead of their visit so when they get to [Kyma] they’re not surprised.”

The return of guests to restaurants means the return of guests celebrating a multitude of special occasions. Capture this pent-up demand and help them celebrate by offering unique experiences, pre-selling upgrades (like a birthday cake or champagne toast), and selling event tickets like a wine tasting or cooking class. 

“Guests are coming back to celebrate, making up for missed birthdays and anniversaries, and seeing friends for the first time in a year,” said Joe Ragonese, Director of Operations at Kyma. “Yet, they’re still a little skeptical and nervous. They want to see that [health and safety] protocols are in place, like temperature checks, contact tracing and sanitizers. Everything to make them feel a little more comfortable.”

Personalization is becoming increasingly more important for restaurants to deliver on, and the most powerful personalization tool is guest data. Every guest is an individual, and they do want personalized service as they return to dining out. True customer engagement happens when you can provide those personal touches throughout the guest journey. Guest data and a CRM tool give you a complete picture of your guests and unlock the ability to deliver personalized service at scale. 

Data helps operators deliver on wow-worthy service and experiences that not only drive engagement but also help with guest retention. With the right technology in place to help facilitate the collection and surfacing of this data, operators can keep their front-of-house operations running smoothly, maximize covers and turns, and capture point of sale and guest behavior data that enable personalization.   

Capturing guest feedback directly helps you measure engagement levels with your guests. When they rate their experience through automated guest feedback surveys, you can access both positive and negative feedback quickly, helping you respond quickly in the case of either experience. Plus, if you’re collecting feedback from your guests regularly, you can uncover trends such as service issues, menu changes and much more. 

“We react to all [our guest feedback],” said Joe Ragonese, Director of Operations at Kyma. “Anything under four stars we reach out to that guest to find out what happened. Tell me why, what I can fix. You get one [comment about something], sometimes you take it with a grain of salt. But when we start getting three or more, maybe there is something we missed and can do better on. When we start to see something coming over and over, we definitely address it with our staff.”

Interested in learning more about how you can ACQUIRE, ENGAGE and RETAIN your guests? Learn more via our Coffee Break: Restaurant Renaissance series, or reach out to request a demo today. 

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