From First Date to 50th: How Restaurant Marketing Nurtures Guest Loyalty
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It’s beginning to look a lot like... the busiest time of the year for restaurants. As the winter holidays approach, restaurants are gearing up for a rush of patrons. Over the past few years, holiday restaurant spending has been increasing between 8 and 10% per year, signaling a new wintertime tradition beyond the typical holiday gatherings at home.
You might have a plan in place for dealing with the holiday rush. Maybe you already know the seasonal employees you’re going to hire; maybe you’re going to whip out a reliable winter menu, or continue a tradition with which your community associates your restaurant. But here’s the secret about the holidays: the trick is not simply getting more covers in the door, but maximizing the occasion to drive as much incremental revenue as possible.
More people will be coming in, sure. But how many more people after that can you bring in with a sophisticated, data-based marketing and guest engagement strategy? That’s what we’re here to help you find out.
The holiday season will be hectic, but restaurants who plan ahead and apply a little bit of creativity will see a revenue boost that makes it all worthwhile. The key is implementing a data-based guest engagement strategy.
The concept is to use what you know about your guests to get them back into the restaurant—both during the holidays and after. The first step in this strategy, then, is increasing the amount of information you know about your customers.
In your restaurant, you probably know most of your regulars. Your staff know what they like and how they prefer to be served. Getting to know more customers on that level is possible with the help of technology that compiles data into a guest profile and helps your staff use it.
Suppose you have a family who, like clockwork, comes in for a visit every year around this time. Chances are no one at your restaurant will recognize them, given the infrequency of their visits. They’re regulars, but they won’t be treated like it.
Auto-tagging solves this problem. A “tag” is a marker of information about a customer contained in your operations software’s guest profile. (Think “Vegetarian” or “Local Resident.”) When the software is able to identify trends and apply them to a customer’s profile automatically, it can provide information about that person without your service staff having to remember it.
Auto-tagging would not only reveal this customer as a seasonal regular, but flag that they are likely planning their visit. You could reach out to them with a special offer, or even a simple note, and show them a touch of personalization that ensures they come back.
Understanding who comes into your restaurant is one of the great advantages of a guest profile. With this information, you can create bookable offers, promotions, and events aimed at attracting specific segments of your customer base. Here are a few example ideas:
Over the last decade or so, urban millennials have increasingly been making a tradition of “Friendsgiving,” a laid-back take on Thanksgiving. Help your clientele envision a Friendsgiving located outside a cramped apartment with group dinner-and-drinks promotions the week before the real holiday.
Make the most of your imaginative chef by promoting a seasonal menu that includes your restaurant’s spin on classic holiday mainstays: turkey, ham, the “seven fishes” of Christmas Eve, apple cider, gingerbread, stuffing—the list goes on and on. Promote it as a package deal or a limited-time-only menu; for extra credit, pair it with seasonal beverage tastings.
Embrace the season’s spirit of giving by partnering with a charitable organization. Get creative: donate all proceeds from your signature cocktail or match every order of a particular menu item with a contribution to a local food bank.
Would it really be the holidays without office parties loading up the calendar? Offer all-inclusive party packages for the companies in your area—and don’t forget, each attendee is a potential return customer.
New Year’s Day may be the unofficial end of the holiday season, but it also marks the beginning of the uphill battle many of us engage in to get back in shape. Help your customers kick off the year right with specials designed to get them weaned off the heavy holiday foods and into a healthier frame of mind.
With guest profiles and promotional offers in hand, it’s time to reach out to your customers and let them know about the experiences you have on tap this holiday season. Deliver this message with segmented email marketing.
Here’s where auto-tagging comes in handy again: with detailed knowledge of your guests, you can segment your audience to send targeted and even personalized messaging to specific groups of customers.
Not only does this approach let you control who gets what message, but it helps you scale your outreach efforts. Segmented email marketing is easily automated: set a program up once, let it run, and watch bookings come in.
Another advantage of this sophisticated, data-based approach guest engagement and marketing is that you can not only secure more covers and boost loyalty, you can actually collect revenue in advance, too. Here’s how:
Encourage followers to book directly from your presence across the web, including on Google. Use the custom tracking link to easily track ROI on your booking buttons across each channel.
This is a great way to provide an on-brand, user-friendly way to drive sales and convey the details of all your different events.
Control every aspect of your booking experience with a booking flow that feels like your brand and keeps data in-house. A white-label widget conveys branding, pricing, fees, terms & conditions, your cancellation policy, and more. Most importantly, it eliminates cover fees.
Secure higher revenue in advance by letting guests purchase their preferred experience during booking. This part of the customer journey is a great place to upsell your customers.
Assure your customers and keep their data safe by using PCI-compliant payment processing. This will allow you to directly collect deposits and prepayments from guests, and close the time between discovery and revenue—safely and securely.
Accommodate as many covers as possible during one of the busiest times of the year with intelligent seating algorithms and seamless operations software.
Create tailored customer segments and offer diverse experiences and messages that will resonate with each audience.
In some ways, the holiday season is a built-in restaurant promotion. It’s a time we set aside for gathering around a table with family and friends. But to make your restaurant a destination for some of this holiday cheer, it’s essential to not simply open your doors. Try a sophisticated guest engagement approach—complete with offering and charging for promotions you know your customers will love—and hit the new year with an even bigger holiday boost.