The Covid-19 pandemic has induced distance between everyone. Not only did people have to physically distance due to social distancing measures introduced by the government, but many also became emotionally distant as they lost touch with the people around them.
This reality was especially true within the restaurant industry as restaurants were forced to shut down for the safety of the population. This meant that customers were no longer able to maintain any connection with the employees and owners of their favorite restaurants. Restaurants rely on the interactions they make with customers in order to thrive as a business. However, since the pandemic they have been denied this opportunity for in-person connections.
Now that the world is starting to open back up and the pandemic is easing off, it is giving restaurants the chance to improve the customer experience even more. It is now time for businesses to reconnect and provide the level of customer satisfaction that loyal customers deserve.
Why is customer loyalty so important in the food and beverage industry?
The food and beverage industry is one of the most oversaturated markets out there and competition is fierce. Therefore, once you have proven to a customer that your restaurant is worth their money and time, it is integral to keep them interested in your offer.
There are always other places where customers can seek out similar products and services. Restaurants have to continuously up their game and improve their value proposition so that customers remain loyal and keep returning to their business on a regular basis.
Unfortunately, many restaurant owners wrongly believe that customer loyalty does not matter that much so they focus on customer acquisition instead of customer retention. This is not a great strategy, however, since gaining a new customer can cost you anywhere between 5 to 25 times more than retaining an existing customer (source).
Moreover, customer loyalty and retention help restaurants get new customers on board. As you can imagine, long-term customers are more likely to recommend your business to others through word of mouth. With a great loyalty program in place, restaurants have free brand advocates and ambassadors that genuinely love their brand and are happy to promote it.
3 ways to build lasting relationships with restaurant customers
It is important to build strong customer relations to foster brand loyalty and increase your profit margins. Although serving great food and providing good service is often enough to keep customers coming back for more, here are a few more tips that will help ensure your relationship with your customers stands the test of time.
1. Personalize the customer experience
Personalizing the customer experience is a guaranteed way to reinforce customer loyalty as it shows your customers that you have taken the time to learn and understand what they prefer and have adapted your value proposition to fulfill their needs.
There are a few different ways in which you can learn what your customers like. For example, you can keep communication channels open so that customers feel comfortable sharing their experience directly with you. However, if you want a way to personalize the customer experience in a broader sense, you should leverage technology.
Data is extremely important to understand how to customize experiences as it gives you insights into customer behavior, what menu items work well and which don’t, etc. A great way to collect data is with an online ordering system and custom mobile app.
Customers that prefer the convenience will sign up and willingly share their information with you so you will be better positioned to personalize the experience based on past orders. Nowadays some online ordering platforms even leverage artificial intelligence and smart marketing tools to make upselling easy, increase their profit margins and boost customer loyalty. Plus, it’s needless to say that given the coronavirus pandemic, customers feel more comfortable ordering with their phone to ensure their safety.
2. Invest in digital marketing tools
Digital marketing tools are invaluable to build strong customer relationships. Many people think that marketing campaigns are just a tool to expose your brand to potential customers. However, it is equally important to focus on existing customers and use marketing tools as well as first party data to safeguard customer data for future marketing initiatives.
You can invest in a range of different marketing tools depending on your objectives, such as email marketing software, social media ads, etc. You should also make sure to choose the right ordering platform and compare the different marketing tools that they offer you so that you can make the most of your investment and personalize the customer experience.
UEAT’s ordering platform integrates with loyalty programs, syncs with Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager for conversion tracking, gives you access to personalized reports and verifies your stock so that you can update your menu in real-time if an ingredient is missing to keep customers happy. It also lets you tailor your menus at any moment (holiday, event, etc.), create targeted promotions and much more.
3. Leverage artificial intelligence
The use of artificial intelligence in the food and drink industry can exponentially improve customer relationship management. As you know by now, collecting data is integral to understanding what customers love about your restaurant and personalizing your offer… and artificial intelligence makes this much easier for you.
AI powered online ordering platforms like UEAT continuously track menu item popularity and can even recommend new dish options based on what your customers like. Basically, AI is like the most attentive employee you could ever wish for.
Tips to connect with F&B customers before, during and after their visit
It can be easy for restaurant owners to only think about connecting with customers during their visit. However, if you want to effectively connect with your customers, it is integral that you establish the connection before they even set foot through your doors.
You can do this in a number of different ways. For example, if you use a reservation system or a CRM tool, you can automate emails to confirm reservations by SMS or send them info related to upcoming events and promotions. You can also send out creative and personalized emails to your newsletter subscribers to inform them of changes in your menu, new dishes, contests and much more.
Using social media is also an excellent way to engage with guests before their visit. Before trying out a restaurant, customers often like to browse the social media profiles of the company so that they know what to expect. Keeping your social media profiles constantly updated with pictures of delicious food and interactive content will ensure guests are excited about their visit and impressed with your establishment before they have even arrived.
The most obvious time to establish customer connections is during their visit. This is also where customers expect it the most. In order to get off on the right foot, you should ensure all guests are appropriately greeted and receive quality service. To do so, you should regularly train your employees. After all, they are the face of your brand.
If you have a delivery service, it is equally as important for you to ensure customer satisfaction. Since the delivery experience is out of your hands when you work with third party delivery apps, you may want to consider complementing your delivery ecosystem with your own online ordering system. This will save you money and ensure the delivery service is up to your standards.
Once the customers have left your restaurant, you need to consider different ways to keep them coming back. Hopefully, they had a fantastic time during their visit to your restaurant and the work needed to be put in to get them back will be minimal. Nevertheless, it is extremely important to follow up.
To follow up with customers you can:
- Send them a survey after their visit
- Automate email campaigns
- Share their social media posts on your social accounts
- Respond to positive and negative feedback proactively
How to connect with digital-first customers
With the advent of the coronavirus pandemic, a lot has changed in the restaurant industry. With restrictions changing regularly, restaurants have to be proactive and be prepared to close their doors if the government requires it. To be more resilient, they should offer customers an online channel to purchase food in order to ensure a steady flow of income. To do so, restaurant owners should invest in an online ordering system and custom mobile app. This allows you to have access to first party data and personalize the customer experience.
Also, in some parts of the world restaurants are requiring vaccine passports, which not all customers are going to want to provide. It is therefore important to find ways to offer these customers a chance to enjoy your food and brand experience via takeout, curbside pick-up, etc.
Want to boost customer loyalty?
If you want to boost customer loyalty in the best, most efficient way possible, the digital realm is the way to go. Although personal connections between customers and staff will always be important, if you really want to boost your bottom line, you will need to digitize your restaurant to take advantage of different sales channels.
If you want to step into the 21st century world of the restaurant business and maximize customer loyalty, click here to explore the services offered by UEAT.