6 Steps To Improve The Restaurant Guest Experience In 2022
An extraordinary restaurant guest experience is a necessity for any restaurant who wants to stay in business. Whether you’re independently owned or franchised, small or big, your customers are the ones who make or break you – and the experience is even more important post-pandemic
How can you effortlessly create unique restaurant guest experiences, tailored to specific guests and your target audience? The answer, my friend, lies in your data.
You may or may not already be taking advantage of using your restaurant’s data and digital channels to learn about your guests and/or strategize for marketing to help grow ROI. Either way, this article will show you the 6 steps for getting started or improving your digital strategy today. Taking control of your data means taking control of your restaurant’s growth and success in today’s world.
Regular restaurants are adding more online and order-ahead options. Influencer brands are starting to pop up in restaurants around the world, and cloud kitchens are operating without a large staff or dining area. Some restaurants are becoming hybrid dine-in and cloud kitchens. The opportunities for expansion have actually grown, thanks to the pandemic – and whether or not you choose to do these, you can still win by paying attention to consumer wants and expectations.
Restaurant Data: Where it’s hiding
Your restaurant has customer data already in your POS system, WiFi, online ordering platforms, third-party delivery apps like Uber Eats and DoorDash, and more. This data isn’t all easily accessible.
With the right data, you can get insights that give you a 3D-view of your guests and what they want, and tweak your restaurant’s strategy to not only provide personalized restaurant guest experiences, but also save on costs while increasing your revenue by taking actions that improve performance.
Your Restaurant's Guests Want Great Experiences
Thanks to the internet, your restaurant’s customer reviews are the predictor of your future success – or failure. A mere one-star increase in your Yelp rating will lead to a 5-9% revenue increase. Negative reviews about cleanliness will cause 85% of consumers not to visit your restaurant at all.
You don’t ever hear most of the complaints people make online – you only get about 14%, while 38% are posted on social media and review sites online only.
Plus, delivery app performance and reviews can affect your popularity as well – sometimes reviews can be affected by delivery and customer service, efficiency and order issues, and more.
Here’s the good news: you don’t have to become Indiana Jones and go digging to find out what consumers want anymore, and knowing what your specific guests expect and respond to is no longer hidden knowledge, either. Read on to learn what customers are looking for to make for great restaurant guest experiences.
Covid Changed The Restaurant Landscape For Good
The main challenges in the past few years for restaurants were employee shortages and rising inflation; yet, smart restaurants managed to actually grow and come out stronger than before the pandemic, using digital strategies now considered the norm by the industry and consumers at large. And the opportunities are open to everyone – restaurant sales grew 41% from 2020 to 2021, spurred on by the post-vaccination return to some form of whatever people consider “normal”.
The good news? It’s not hard. Today everyone, from the small-town independent restaurateur and not–yet-opened restaurant concept, to the multi-location enterprise brand, can take control of their restaurant business through going digital – and these 6 steps will show you how you can do it for yourself.
6 Steps to Improve the Restaurant Guest Experience in 2022
Follow these 6 steps to begin taking control of your business in ever-changing times and circumstances today.
Pay attention to what customers are saying
Restaurants can get customer information from a variety of sources to create a complete picture of what they’re looking for when they go out to eat, order online or have an event catered.
First, pay attention to the plethora of surveys, articles and customer reviews out there to see what customers both love and hate. Read good and bad reviews from sources like Yelp, sites like Quora where people answer questions, and restaurant bloggers to find out what restaurants are doing right.
Reports from sources like Deloitte have comprehensive consumer data that tell us exactly what people mean when they say they want “experiences”, because it’s about so much more than your food. It’s about quality, value, cleanliness, location, your employees and more. Great guest experiences are holistic, meaning every guest touch-point should contribute to a memorable experience that makes your guests feel connected to you. Customers want to be:
- Engaged: Guests want you to interact with them and be friendly, genuine and personable.
- Empowered: Guests expect the option to customize their experience and have their feedback taken seriously.
- Listened to: By showing that you hear all your guests’ needs, you prove to them that your establishment is worth their hard-earned money.
- Delighted: Guests want more than the bare minimum; they want you to go above and beyond with personalization so they can have wonderful memories of your brand.
- Known: Remembering each guest by name, orders and preferences is part of this. Anticipating them changing their preferences is also a big part of this one.
Your restaurant can do all of these things and consistently delight guests automatically, using digital solutions that are proven to provide valuable restaurant guest experiences.
Make sure your restaurant is set for the post-pandemic world
Since 2020, customer expectations have shifted in a major way. Today’s new “normal” for guest expectations for their experience centers around 3 main objectives:
- Convenience: Guests not only prefer, but demand convenience. That can mean takeout, order ahead capability, delivery/takeout, and drive-through.
- Seamless digital transactions: Most consumers today, of all ages, are more likely to be tech-savvy than not. And they’re also demanding digital engagement. They want restaurants to have options available today, which include knowing each guest’s preferences.
- Safety: Because of the pandemic, people are working remotely and avoiding being in crowds, which means restaurants have to find and adopt ways to accommodate these changes.
Adopt a guest-centric approach
Customer service has always driven the food service industry, and it still does – the way it’s done has just undergone a major modernization, and it took place quickly thanks to the pandemic.
Remember what we said about the restaurant guest experience? This is the new customer service.
People are willing to pay more for the experience rather than save money on the same high quality, cheaper-priced product-sans-experience.
73% of your guests say their experience is a main factor in purchasing decisions, meaning you can make more money by charging more for top-tier experiences while bringing in more guests and retaining more loyalty, meaning increased revenue from all angles!
Taking a guest-centric approach involves many things, but there is one thing that it can be centered around: the guest journey. Once you create customer journeys, they can be utilized to guide all your decisions, from marketing strategies and communication to menu engineering and design, restaurant locations, ordering channels and more.
Want more loyal guests? It takes 6-8 touchpoints to create a viable lead for a new customer. Mapping the guest journey means having a way to track guests’ steps on all touchpoints to know their preferences and habits. How do you create customer journeys and why should you? Here are some things you can do:
- Create and utilize various guest touchpoints to capture guest data, including: POS, website, landing pages, product pages/online menus, surveys, WiFi captive portal, payment gateway, apps, social media, chat, or phone support.
- Label restaurant guest experiences – pain points and delights – based on survey responses, social media information, in-store experiences and support.
- Send time-based, personalized offers and get guests coming in to buy from you more often.
- Create happy customers by fixing issues while adding delight simultaneously, in real time, before guests ever get a chance to leave that negative public review.
- Create a cohesive picture of your guests and restaurant so no guest or opportunity for interaction are left behind.
There are plenty of opportunities you may never see without customer journey mapping, and not taking advantage of these can also hurt your revenue because they create gaps for guests and employees that, when filled, tie together the customer experience and relationship.
Engage your employees and front line
One of the biggest parts of the restaurant guest experience has to do with your employees. When a guest feels like your staff is friendly, personable and caring, and knows how your restaurant runs to create a frictionless experience, that’s your golden ticket to positive reviews and repeat customers.
How to get your employees to be engaged and driven to provide top-tier guest experiences? Invest in employee development programs. Creating an environment where employees have responsibility that they find fulfilling is key. According to Deloitte, there are 5 keys to employees feeling fulfilled in their work:
- Purposeful work
- Support from management
- Supportive working environment
- Opportunities for growth
- Trustworthy management
When you cultivate a work environment that is authentic, supportive and humanistic, you make a place where people want to take pride in their work and be invested with you in your goals for growth and restaurant guest experience excellence.
Get a customer intelligence partner that makes it easy
If it’s up to just you, gathering all the data, unifying it into one place where you can see guest x, y, and z’s information from all sources, plus organize guests into like-minded groups to plan marketing outreach targeted to similar likes and habits, would take you away from your day job completely.
Before the pandemic, doing this was also way out of many restaurants’ possibilities, because it involved hiring an expensive data scientist or creating a bespoke, exorbitantly-priced CDP (customer data platform), which only big corporations had access to.
Thankfully, today the new restaurant landscape has an answer that is affordable and simple to use, and restaurants have already been using it and seeing success – Edley’s BBQ of Nashville, TN is one of them. During the pandemic they actually grew sales and were able to thrive online, while growing their email list to nearly 30,000 active subscribers, launching email and SMS marketing, and more.
The best way to win in today’s restaurant landscape is to get a customer intelligence partner with an affordable CDP made specifically for the restaurant industry that is proven to help restaurants succeed. Here are some things using a customer intelligence platform can do for you:
- Gather data from all sources and customer touchpoints
- Unify the data, organize and clean for inconsistencies to create a cohesive, holistic view of all your guests and target market
- Present this data to you in a visual, easy-to-understand way that you can share with others
- Suggest actionable steps to reach your goals, like how to generate more visibility on UberEats or DoorDash by knowing what is causing you to lose visibility; measuring which campaigns are most effective in the guest journey; and aligning marketing and operations for better efficiency and preparedness.
- Help you with Email and SMS marketing, unique loyalty programs, and other marketing strategies
- Help you engineer your menus and product mix to meet customer preferences, trends and cost-saving popular items for optimum profitability
The best part of this is that you get to keep doing your job while using the platform to guide your success. You don’t have to spend exorbitant amounts of money or try to DIY this. There is an answer and it’s available today for you to take advantage of.
Test, Refine and Repeat
Of course, using a customer data platform is like anything else – it’s an ongoing, evolving process, just like your guests’ ever-evolving preferences and habits.
Customer intelligence platforms are made to help you in an ongoing way – meaning they help you test your efforts so you can refine them to keep gaining more and more ROI as you go. The possibilities are endless because the digital platform continuously learns along with your business and customers, as you get new guests, grow your restaurant and so on.
The pandemic changed many things for the restaurant industry and consumer expectations, but that doesn’t mean it’s a one-and-done change. The world is ever-changing, and if you want to not only keep up but stay ahead and thrive, getting a customer data platform is a simple, doable way to get and stay ahead of the curve to create an optimal restaurant guest experience for your customers. Whether you’re a tech-savvy marketer or tech-challenged restaurant owner, data platforms can both make your job easier and help you do the best possible job to save both time and money.