Ultimate Guides

Fishbowl’s ultimate guides help restaurants understand the value of our CRM+CDP and marketing automation solutions.

Understanding Restaurant Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are quantifiable measurements that help businesses track their performance over time. For restaurants, these metrics are crucial as they provide insights into various aspects of the business, from financial health to operational efficiency. 

Definition of KPIs and Their Importance for Restaurant Performance

KPIs are data-driven metrics that businesses use to measure their progress towards specific goals. In the restaurant industry, these indicators are used to evaluate the success of the business in areas such as sales, customer service, and operational efficiency. By monitoring KPIs, restaurant owners and managers can identify areas of strength and weakness, make informed decisions, and implement strategies to improve performance and profitability.

Measuring Financial Health: Revenue and Profitability Metrics

Understanding your restaurant's financial health is crucial for its survival and growth. Here are some key financial KPIs that every restaurant should track:

Gross Profit Margin

This metric measures the profitability of your restaurant after accounting for the cost of goods sold (COGS). It's calculated by subtracting COGS from total revenue and dividing the result by total revenue.

Net Profit Margin

Net profit margin is the percentage of revenue that remains after all expenses have been deducted. It provides a clear picture of your restaurant's overall profitability.

Average Covers

This KPI refers to the average number of customers served during a specific period. It helps determine the restaurant's capacity and efficiency in serving customers.

Cost of Goods Sold (COGS)

COGS is the total cost of all the ingredients used to prepare the dishes sold. It's a crucial metric for understanding your restaurant's profitability.

Food Cost Percentage

This metric measures the cost of the food ingredients as a percentage of the selling price of the dish. It's a key indicator of your menu pricing strategy and profitability.

Cash Flow

Cash flow is the net amount of cash moving in and out of your business. Positive cash flow indicates that your restaurant is generating more revenue than it is spending, which is crucial for its survival.

Prime Costs

Prime costs are the combined costs of goods sold and labor. It's one of the most critical metrics as it accounts for the majority of a restaurant's expenses.

Average Check Size

This KPI measures the average amount that customers spend per visit. It helps gauge the effectiveness of your pricing and upselling strategies.

Break-Even Point

The break-even point is when your restaurant's total revenue equals its total expenses. It's a critical metric for understanding how much you need to sell to cover your costs.

Tracking Operational Efficiency: Productivity and Performance Metrics

Operational efficiency is just as important as financial health. Here are some key operational KPIs:

Revenue per Available Seat Hour (RevPASH)

RevPASH measures the revenue generated per available seat per hour. It's a useful metric for assessing the efficiency of your seating and scheduling.

Turn Time or Table Turnover

This KPI measures the average time a table is occupied by customers. It's important for managing customer flow and maximizing revenue.

Inventory Turnover Ratio

This metric measures how often your inventory is sold and replaced. A high turnover ratio indicates efficient inventory management.

Total Sales by Server

This KPI measures the sales performance of each server. It can help identify your top-performing staff and those who may need additional training.

Food Waste

Food waste is a critical metric for restaurants as it directly impacts profitability. Tracking this KPI can help identify issues in portion control, ordering, and food preparation.

Optimizing Restaurant Operations with KPIs

KPIs are not just tools for measuring performance; they are also instrumental in optimizing restaurant operations. By identifying bottlenecks, improving efficiency, and enhancing customer satisfaction, restaurants can leverage KPIs to drive growth and profitability.

Identifying Bottlenecks and Improving Efficiency

Efficiency is the backbone of any successful restaurant operation. By analyzing key metrics, restaurants can identify operational bottlenecks and implement strategies to improve efficiency.

Analyzing RevPASH to Optimize Seat Utilization

Revenue per Available Seat Hour (RevPASH) is a critical metric for assessing the efficiency of your seating and scheduling. By analyzing RevPASH, you can identify peak hours, optimize seat utilization, and maximize revenue. For instance, if your RevPASH is low during certain hours, you might consider running promotions to attract more customers during those times.

Monitoring Turn Time to Enhance Restaurant Flow

Turn time, or table turnover, measures the average time a table is occupied by customers. By monitoring this KPI, you can manage customer flow more effectively. If your turn time is high, it may indicate that customers are waiting too long for their meals, which can lead to dissatisfaction. In this case, you might need to streamline your kitchen operations or train your staff to serve meals more quickly.

Utilizing Inventory Turnover to Prevent Waste and Maximize Stock Levels

Inventory turnover ratio measures how often your inventory is sold and replaced. A high turnover ratio indicates efficient inventory management, while a low ratio may suggest overstocking or waste. By tracking this KPI, you can adjust your ordering practices to prevent waste and ensure you always have the right amount of stock on hand.

Enhancing Customer Satisfaction

Customer satisfaction is key to the success of any restaurant. By tracking relevant KPIs, restaurants can gain valuable insights into their customers' experiences and make necessary improvements.

Tracking Guest Count to Monitor Foot Traffic

Guest count refers to the number of customers served during a specific period. By tracking this KPI, you can monitor foot traffic and identify trends. For example, if your guest count is consistently low on certain days, you might consider running special promotions to attract more customers.

Measuring Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) for Feedback and Improvement

The Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) measures customer satisfaction on a scale of 1 to 5. By regularly measuring CSAT, you can gain valuable feedback from your customers and identify areas for improvement. If your CSAT is low, it may indicate issues with food quality, service, or ambiance, which you can address to enhance customer satisfaction.

Managing Walk-Ins versus Reservations for Effective Capacity Planning

Balancing walk-ins and reservations is crucial for effective capacity planning. By tracking the ratio of walk-ins to reservations, you can manage your seating capacity more effectively and ensure a smooth dining experience for all customers. If you have too many walk-ins and not enough reservations, you might consider implementing a reservation system to better manage customer flow.

Reducing No-Shows and Cancellations to Optimize Operations

No-shows and cancellations can disrupt your operations and lead to lost revenue. By tracking this KPI, you can identify patterns and implement strategies to reduce no-shows and cancellations. For instance, you might consider implementing a cancellation policy or sending reminder messages to customers who have made reservations.

In conclusion, KPIs are powerful tools that can help restaurants optimize operations, enhance customer satisfaction, and drive growth. By tracking the right KPIs and using the insights they provide, restaurants can make informed decisions and implement effective strategies for success.

Data-Driven Decision Making for Restaurant Success

In the rapidly evolving restaurant industry, data-driven decision making has become a cornerstone of success. By analyzing data trends, identifying patterns, and making informed decisions based on KPIs, restaurants can optimize their operations, enhance customer satisfaction, and stay ahead in the industry.

Analyzing Data Trends and Identifying Patterns

The first step in data-driven decision making is to analyze data trends and identify patterns. This involves examining your KPIs over time to understand how your restaurant is performing and where there might be opportunities for improvement.

Identifying Seasonal or Day-Specific Performance Variations

One of the key aspects of data analysis is identifying seasonal or day-specific performance variations. For instance, you might find that your restaurant is busier on weekends or during certain seasons. By identifying these trends, you can adjust your staffing, inventory, and marketing strategies accordingly to maximize revenue during peak times and minimize costs during slow periods.

Recognizing Customer Behavior Patterns to Enhance Menu and Service Offerings

Another important aspect of data analysis is recognizing customer behavior patterns. By analyzing your sales data, you can identify which dishes are most popular, what times of day customers prefer to dine, and how much they typically spend. This information can help you enhance your menu and service offerings to better meet your customers' needs and preferences, ultimately boosting customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Forecasting Sales and Projecting Future Performance

Data analysis can also help you forecast sales and project future performance. By analyzing historical data and current trends, you can make accurate predictions about your future sales, which can help you plan your budget, manage your inventory, and make strategic decisions about growth and expansion.

Making Informed Decisions Based on KPIs

Once you've analyzed your data and identified trends and patterns, the next step is to make informed decisions based on your KPIs. This involves using the insights gained from your data analysis to optimize your operations and drive your restaurant's success.

Optimizing Staffing and Scheduling to Maximize Efficiency

One of the key decisions you can make based on your KPIs is how to optimize your staffing and scheduling. For instance, if your data analysis reveals that your restaurant is busiest during certain times of day or days of the week, you can schedule more staff during these times to ensure that you can meet demand and provide excellent service. Conversely, if your data shows that your restaurant is typically slow during certain periods, you can schedule fewer staff during these times to reduce labor costs and maximize efficiency.

Identifying Investments and Improvements Based on KPI Insights

Your KPIs can also help you identify where to invest in your restaurant to improve performance and profitability. For example, if your food cost percentage is high, you might consider investing in more cost-effective ingredients or improving your portion control. If your customer satisfaction score is low, you might invest in staff training or make improvements to your restaurant's ambiance. By making strategic investments based on your KPIs, you can enhance your restaurant's performance and drive growth.

Monitoring Competitor Performance to Stay Ahead in the Industry

Finally, data-driven decision making involves monitoring your competitors' performance to stay ahead in the industry. By keeping an eye on your competitors' KPIs, you can gain insights into their strategies and identify opportunities to differentiate your restaurant and gain a competitive edge. For instance, if your competitors' average check size is higher than yours, you might consider revising your pricing strategy or offering more premium menu items.

Reporting and Tracking Restaurant KPIs

In the restaurant industry, simply identifying and understanding KPIs is not enough. It is equally important to establish a robust reporting and tracking system to monitor these metrics effectively. This will enable restaurant owners and managers to make timely and informed decisions that can drive business performance and growth.

Establishing a Reporting Framework

A reporting framework provides a structured approach to track, analyze, and report KPIs. It ensures that all relevant data is captured accurately and consistently, and that it is presented in a way that facilitates understanding and decision-making.

Setting Benchmarks and Targets for KPIs

The first step in establishing a reporting framework is to set benchmarks and targets for your KPIs. Benchmarks are industry standards or best practices that provide a point of reference for evaluating your restaurant's performance. Targets, on the other hand, are specific goals that you aim to achieve within a certain timeframe. By setting benchmarks and targets, you can measure your restaurant's performance against industry standards and your own business objectives, and identify areas where improvement is needed.

Determining Frequency and Methods of KPI Reporting

The next step is to determine the frequency and methods of KPI reporting. The frequency of reporting depends on the nature of the KPI and the needs of your business. For instance, some KPIs, like daily sales or table turnover, may need to be tracked daily, while others, like monthly profit margin or customer satisfaction score, may be tracked monthly. The method of reporting, whether it's through written reports, digital dashboards, or staff meetings, should ensure that the data is easily accessible and understandable to all relevant stakeholders.

Using Technology for KPI Tracking and Monitoring

In today's digital age, technology plays a crucial role in KPI tracking and monitoring. It not only automates the data collection process but also provides real-time insights and visualization that can enhance understanding and decision-making.

Implementing Restaurant Management Software for Automated Data Collection

Restaurant management software is a powerful tool that can automate the data collection process. It can track a wide range of KPIs, from sales and inventory to customer feedback and staff performance, and provide accurate and up-to-date data. This not only saves time and reduces the risk of errors but also allows you to focus more on analyzing the data and making strategic decisions.

Employing KPI Dashboards for Real-Time Monitoring and Visualization

KPI dashboards are digital platforms that display real-time data on various KPIs. They provide a visual representation of your restaurant's performance, making it easier to understand trends, identify patterns, and spot issues. With KPI dashboards, you can monitor your restaurant's performance at a glance and make quick, data-driven decisions.

Best Practices for Restaurant KPI Monitoring and Improvement

Monitoring and improving KPIs is an ongoing process that requires commitment, discipline, and a strategic approach. Here are some best practices that can help you effectively monitor and improve your restaurant's KPIs.

Setting Realistic and Achievable Goals

While it's important to aim high, it's equally important to set realistic and achievable goals. Unrealistic goals can demotivate your team and lead to disappointment. On the other hand, achievable goals can motivate your team, boost morale, and lead to consistent improvement in performance.

Regular Review and Analysis of KPI Performance

Regular review and analysis of KPI performance is crucial for identifying trends, spotting issues, and making informed decisions. It allows you to stay on top of your restaurant's performance and take timely action when needed. It's recommended to review your KPIs on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, depending on the nature of the KPI and the needs of your business.

Collaboration and Communication of KPI Data to Staff

KPIs are not just for managers and owners; they are also for staff. By communicating KPI data to your staff, you can create a culture of transparency and accountability, and empower your staff to contribute to the restaurant's success. Regular staff meetings, training sessions, and digital dashboards are effective ways to communicate KPI data to your staff.

Continuous Improvement and Optimization of Restaurant Operations

Finally, continuous improvement and optimization of restaurant operations is key to improving KPI performance. This involves regularly reviewing your operations, identifying areas of inefficiency or waste, and implementing strategies to improve. Whether it's streamlining your kitchen operations, enhancing your menu, or improving your customer service, continuous improvement can lead to significant improvements in your KPIs and overall business performance.

Wrapping Up / Key Takeaways

In conclusion, KPIs are powerful tools that can drive restaurant success. By establishing a robust reporting framework, leveraging technology for KPI tracking, and following best practices for KPI monitoring and improvement, restaurants can optimize their operations, enhance customer satisfaction, and achieve their business goals. As the restaurant industry continues to evolve, those that effectively track and utilize KPIs will be best positioned to thrive.

The Ultimate Guide to Restaurant KPIs

June 10, 2024
Read Time: % Min

Understand key performance indicators (KPIs) for restaurants. Track, measure, and optimize your restaurant's performance with our comprehensive guide.

View Ultimate Guide

Understanding Restaurant Customer Retention

Customer retention, in the simplest terms, is the ability of a business to retain its customers over a specified period. In the context of a restaurant, it refers to the ability to keep customers coming back for more of your culinary delights. 

Why is customer retention crucial for restaurants? The answer lies in three key areas: increased revenue, reduced marketing costs, and improved brand reputation. 

Firstly, a loyal customer base is a reliable source of revenue. According to a study by Bain & Company, a 5% increase in customer retention can lead to an increase in profits by 25% to 95%. This is because repeat customers are more likely to spend more on each visit and visit more frequently. 

Secondly, retaining customers can significantly reduce marketing costs. Acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining an existing one. This is because the costs associated with customer acquisition such as advertising and promotional offers are not present with customer retention. 

Lastly, a strong customer retention rate can significantly enhance your restaurant's brand reputation. Repeat customers are more likely to recommend your restaurant to their friends and family, effectively serving as brand ambassadors. 

How to Calculate Your Restaurant Customer Retention Rate

Now that we understand the importance of customer retention, let's delve into how to calculate your restaurant's customer retention rate. 

The formula for calculating customer retention rate is quite straightforward: 

Customer Retention Rate = ((E-N)/S) * 100


E = Number of customers at end of period
N = Number of new customers acquired during period
S = Number of customers at start of period


Let's say you have 700 customers at the end of the period (E). The number of new customers acquired during that period is 150 (N). The number of customers you started with was 600 (S).

Using the formula:

Customer Retention Rate = ((700 - 150) / 600) * 100 = (550 / 600) * 100 ≈ 91.67%

In this example, the customer retention rate is approximately 91.67%.

To gather the data for this calculation, you'll need to track the number of customers at the start and end of a specific period (for example, a month or a year), as well as the number of new customers acquired during that period. 

Here are the steps to gather data and measure retention:

  1. Determine the period you want to measure. This could be a month, quarter, or year depending on your business needs.
  2. At the start of the period, record the number of customers (S).
  3. During the period, keep track of the number of new customers (N).
  4. At the end of the period, record the total number of customers (E).
  5. Plug these numbers into the formula to calculate your customer retention rate.

By understanding and monitoring your restaurant's customer retention rate, you can gain valuable insights into your customers' behavior, loyalty, and overall satisfaction. This, in turn, can help you make informed decisions to improve your restaurant's performance and profitability.

What is a Good Customer Retention Rate?

For restaurant businesses, a good customer retention rate typically ranges between 70% and 80%. High-performing restaurants might achieve even higher rates, especially those with strong brand loyalty and exceptional customer service. Monitoring and aiming for a high retention rate can help ensure the long-term success and growth of your restaurant.

The Benefits of Customer Retention for Restaurants

In the restaurant industry, customer retention is not just a metric, but a lifeline that can significantly impact the bottom line. The benefits of customer retention are manifold, and they extend far beyond the obvious financial gains. Let's delve into these benefits in more detail.

  1. Increased Revenue Generation Through Repeat Purchases
    The first and most immediate benefit of customer retention is increased revenue. As we mentioned earlier, a loyal customer base is a reliable source of income. Repeat customers are more likely to spend more on each visit and visit more frequently. This is not just conjecture, but a fact backed by numerous studies. According to a report by Harvard Business Review, increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%. This is a significant margin that can make a substantial difference in a restaurant's profitability.
  2. Reduced Marketing Costs Compared to Acquiring New Customers
    Another significant advantage of customer retention is the reduction in marketing costs. It is a well-known fact in the business world that acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining an existing one. This is because the costs associated with customer acquisition, such as advertising and promotional offers, are not present with customer retention. By focusing on retaining your existing customers, you can significantly cut down on your marketing expenses, freeing up resources for other areas of your business.
  3. Enhanced Word-of-Mouth Marketing and Positive Reviews
    A strong customer retention rate can significantly enhance your restaurant's reputation. Repeat customers are more likely to recommend your restaurant to their friends and family, effectively serving as brand ambassadors. This word-of-mouth marketing is incredibly valuable, as it is free and highly trusted. According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers believe suggestions from friends and family more than advertising. Moreover, loyal customers are more likely to leave positive reviews on platforms like Yelp and TripAdvisor, further boosting your restaurant's reputation.
  4. More Responsive Customers Who Provide Valuable Feedback
    Loyal customers are more likely to provide valuable feedback about your restaurant. They have a vested interest in your success and are more likely to take the time to share their thoughts and suggestions. This feedback can be invaluable in improving your menu, service, and overall customer experience. By fostering a strong relationship with your repeat customers, you can create a feedback loop that helps you continually improve and adapt to your customers' changing needs and preferences.
  5. More Adventurous Customers Willing to Try New Menu Items
    Finally, repeat customers are often more adventurous and willing to try new menu items. They trust your restaurant and are more open to experimenting with new dishes. This can be particularly beneficial when you're looking to introduce new menu items or specials. Having a loyal customer base that is open to trying new things can help ensure these new additions are a success.

Implementing Effective Customer Retention Strategies

In the competitive restaurant industry, merely understanding the importance of customer retention is not enough. It is crucial to implement effective strategies that can help you retain your customers and keep them coming back for more. Here are some strategies that can help you achieve this goal.

Personalize Customer Experiences

Personalization is a powerful tool that can significantly enhance customer retention. By tailoring your services and marketing efforts to meet the unique needs and preferences of each customer, you can make them feel valued and appreciated, which can, in turn, foster loyalty.

Gathering customer data is the first step towards personalization. By tracking your customers' dining habits, preferences, and feedback, you can gain valuable insights that can help you tailor your marketing campaigns and services. For instance, if you know that a customer loves seafood, you can send them special offers on your seafood dishes or inform them when you have a new seafood dish on your menu.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems can be incredibly useful in this regard. These systems can help you track your customers' preferences and behavior, enabling you to offer personalized recommendations and loyalty rewards. For instance, if a customer frequently orders a particular dish, you can offer them a discount on that dish as a loyalty reward.

Foster Customer Engagement

Engaging your customers is another effective strategy for customer retention. By creating opportunities for your customers to interact with your restaurant, you can foster a sense of community and loyalty.

Creating a loyalty program is one of the most effective ways to foster customer engagement. Such a program can reward repeat visits and referrals, encouraging customers to keep coming back and bring their friends and family along. 

Hosting events, contests, and promotions can also help engage customers. For instance, you could host a cooking class, a wine tasting event, or a contest where customers can win a free meal. 

Providing excellent customer service is another crucial aspect of customer engagement. By responding promptly and effectively to customer inquiries and complaints, you can show your customers that you value their feedback and are committed to improving their experience.

Stay Top-of-Mind

Staying top-of-mind is crucial for customer retention. By regularly communicating with your customers and reminding them of your restaurant, you can ensure that they keep coming back.

Email marketing campaigns can be a great way to nurture relationships with your customers. By sending regular newsletters that offer special deals, share exciting news, or simply wish your customers a happy holiday, you can keep your restaurant fresh in their minds.

Social media is another powerful tool for staying top-of-mind. By regularly posting updates, sharing photos of your dishes, and interacting with your customers on social media, you can keep your restaurant in their thoughts.

Targeted advertising can also help remind customers of your restaurant. By running ads that target your existing customers, you can remind them of your delicious dishes and prompt them to visit your restaurant again.

Show Dad You Care, Perkin's, 29 February 2024

Recover Lost Customers

Even with the best retention strategies, some customers may stop visiting your restaurant. However, this doesn't mean you should give up on them. By identifying the reasons for customer churn and implementing win-back campaigns, you can re-engage these customers and encourage them to return.

Win-back campaigns can involve sending personalized emails to lapsed customers, offering them special deals or discounts, or simply reminding them of the great experiences they've had at your restaurant. 

Use Technology to Enhance Retention

Technology can be a powerful ally in your customer retention efforts. By streamlining your processes and enhancing your services, technology can help you retain customers and improve their experience.

Reservation and ordering platforms, for instance, can make it easier for customers to book a table or order food from your restaurant. By making these processes seamless and convenient, you can enhance customer satisfaction and encourage repeat visits.

Online feedback systems can provide you with valuable insights into your customers' experiences and preferences. By gathering and analyzing this feedback, you can continually improve your services and meet your customers' changing needs.

Automated marketing campaigns and customer communication can also enhance customer retention. By automating these processes, you can ensure that your customers receive regular, personalized communication from your restaurant, keeping you top-of-mind and fostering loyalty.

In conclusion, customer retention is not a one-time effort but a continuous process that requires strategic planning and execution. By implementing these strategies, you can enhance your customer retention rate and reap the manifold benefits that come with it.

Measuring the Results of Your Retention Strategies

Tracking Key Metrics

To understand the effectiveness of your customer retention strategies, it's essential to track key metrics. These metrics provide a quantitative measure of your efforts and can help you identify areas of success and improvement.

The first metric to consider is the customer retention rate, which we discussed earlier. This rate gives you a clear picture of how many customers are returning to your restaurant over a specific period. A high retention rate indicates that your strategies are working, while a low rate may signal the need for adjustments.

Next, consider the repeat purchase rate. This metric measures the percentage of customers who return to your restaurant to make another purchase. A high repeat purchase rate is a good sign that customers are satisfied with your food and service, and are willing to come back for more.

Finally, consider the customer lifetime value (CLV). This metric estimates the total revenue a customer will generate for your restaurant over the course of their relationship with you. A high CLV indicates that your customers are not only returning but also spending more on each visit. This can be a strong indicator of the success of your retention strategies.

Analyzing Data and Adjusting Strategies

Once you've gathered data on these key metrics, it's time to analyze this information and use it to adjust your strategies. Look for trends in customer behavior that may indicate the effectiveness of your efforts. For example, if you notice that customers who participate in your loyalty program have a higher retention rate, this could be a sign that the program is successful.

Use this data to make informed decisions about your retention efforts. If a particular strategy isn't yielding the desired results, consider tweaking it or trying a different approach. Remember, customer retention isn't a one-size-fits-all endeavor. What works for one restaurant may not work for another, so it's important to continually test and optimize your strategies.

Regularly review your strategies and their performance. This will allow you to stay on top of any changes in customer behavior and adjust your efforts accordingly. Remember, customer retention is a dynamic process that requires constant attention and refinement.

Conclusion / Key Takeaways

In conclusion, customer retention is of paramount importance for restaurants. It not only boosts your revenue and reduces marketing costs but also enhances your brand reputation and fosters a loyal customer base. 

Implementing effective customer retention strategies, such as personalizing customer experiences, fostering customer engagement, staying top-of-mind, recovering lost customers, and leveraging technology, can significantly enhance your restaurant's performance and profitability.

However, it's crucial to remember that customer retention is not a one-time effort but an ongoing process. It requires constant monitoring, analysis, and adjustment of your strategies based on key metrics like customer retention rate, repeat purchase rate, and customer lifetime value.

As a restaurant owner, prioritizing customer retention can be one of the most impactful decisions you make for your business. By focusing on retaining your existing customers, you can build a strong, loyal customer base that not only supports your restaurant but also promotes it to others. So, start implementing these strategies today, and watch your restaurant thrive.

Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Customer Retention

June 7, 2024
Read Time: % Min

Effective strategies for customer retention in restaurants. Enhance guest loyalty, improve satisfaction, and boost your business growth with our guide.

View Ultimate Guide

Importance of Restaurant Customer Feedback

In the highly competitive restaurant industry, understanding your customers' needs and wants is paramount. One of the most effective ways to gain this understanding is through customer feedback. This invaluable tool can provide insights into your customers' satisfaction levels, highlight areas in your service or menu that need improvement, and help you build a loyal customer base. 

Value of Customer Feedback

Customer feedback is a goldmine of information that can help you understand how satisfied your customers are with your restaurant. It can provide you with insights into what you're doing right and where you might be falling short. This feedback can be used to improve your restaurant's food, service, ambiance, and overall customer experience. 

Moreover, customer feedback can help you identify areas for improvement. Perhaps your customers love your food but find the service lacking. Or maybe they appreciate the ambiance but find the menu limited. By understanding these pain points, you can take steps to address them and improve your overall offering. 

Lastly, customer feedback can play a crucial role in building customer loyalty. When customers feel heard and see their feedback being acted upon, they are more likely to return to your restaurant. This not only helps retain existing customers but also attracts new ones through positive word-of-mouth.

Types of Customer Feedback

Customer feedback can be broadly categorized into two types: quantitative and qualitative. 

Quantitative Feedback for Restaurants

Quantitative feedback includes surveys and ratings. These provide measurable data that can be analyzed to understand trends and patterns. For instance, a consistently low rating for service could indicate a systemic issue that needs addressing. 

Qualitative Feedback for Restaurants

On the other hand, qualitative feedback includes comments and reviews. These provide a more in-depth understanding of your customers' experiences and perceptions. For example, a comment about a specific dish being too spicy or a review praising your restaurant's cozy ambiance can provide you with detailed insights that can be used to fine-tune your offerings.

Methods of Gathering Customer Feedback

There are several methods to gather customer feedback. 

  • In-person surveys are a traditional method that involves directly asking customers for their feedback. This can be done through comment cards or by having a staff member ask customers about their experience. 
  • Online surveys are another effective method. These can be sent via email or text message, or even hosted on your restaurant's website. They allow customers to provide feedback at their convenience, which can lead to more detailed and thoughtful responses. 
  • Social media monitoring is a modern method that involves tracking what customers are saying about your restaurant on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This can provide you with real-time feedback and help you address any issues promptly. 
  • Review platforms like Yelp and TripAdvisor are a rich source of customer feedback. These platforms allow customers to share their experiences and rate your restaurant, providing you with both quantitative and qualitative feedback. 

Collecting Restaurant Customer Feedback Effectively

Collecting customer feedback is a crucial part of improving your restaurant's offerings and building customer loyalty. However, it's not enough to simply gather feedback; you must do so effectively. Here are some strategies for collecting restaurant customer feedback in a way that is both efficient and insightful.

In-Person Feedback:

Table-side surveys are an excellent way to gather immediate feedback from your customers. This method involves having a staff member, often a server, ask customers about their dining experience before they leave the restaurant. The advantage of table-side surveys is that they allow you to capture feedback while the experience is still fresh in the customer's mind. 

However, it's important to train your staff to conduct these surveys in a non-intrusive manner to avoid disrupting the dining experience.

Receipt check-ins are another effective method of in-person feedback collection. This involves printing a short survey or feedback request on the customer's receipt. Customers can then fill out the survey at their convenience and return it the next time they visit your restaurant. This method has the added benefit of encouraging repeat visits.

Online Feedback:

Website surveys are a convenient way for customers to provide feedback. These can be placed on your restaurant's website, either on the homepage or on a dedicated feedback page. Website surveys allow customers to provide feedback at their leisure, which can result in more detailed and thoughtful responses.

Email surveys can be sent to customers who have provided their email addresses. These surveys can be more extensive than website surveys, allowing you to gather more detailed feedback. Additionally, email surveys can be personalized, which can increase response rates.

SMS surveys are a modern method of feedback collection that involves sending short surveys to customers via text message. This method is particularly effective for reaching younger customers who prefer text communication. However, it's important to obtain customers' consent before sending them text messages to comply with privacy laws.

Join the VIP Club Website, Texas Roadhouse, 25 April 2024

Social Media Feedback:

Monitoring restaurant mentions on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can provide you with real-time feedback. This involves tracking any posts or comments that mention your restaurant and responding to them promptly. Social media monitoring can help you address any issues immediately and show your customers that you value their feedback.

Responding to comments and reviews on social media is another important part of feedback collection. This not only allows you to gather feedback but also provides an opportunity to engage with your customers and build a strong online presence.

Incentivizing Feedback:

Incentivizing feedback can significantly increase response rates. This can be done by offering discounts, promotions, free items, or gift cards to customers who provide feedback. For example, you could offer a 10% discount on the customer's next visit in exchange for completing a survey. This not only encourages customers to provide feedback but also incentivizes them to return to your restaurant.

Using Restaurant Customer Feedback to Improve Services

Once you've collected customer feedback, the next step is to use this information to improve your restaurant's services. This involves analyzing the feedback, addressing any negative comments, and making necessary improvements. Here's how to go about it:

Analyzing Feedback:

The first step in using customer feedback is to analyze it. This involves identifying common themes and patterns in the feedback you've received. For instance, if multiple customers have commented on the slow service, it's a clear indication that you need to improve in this area. Similarly, if a particular dish is consistently praised, it's a sign that it's a hit with your customers and something you should consider highlighting.

Prioritizing feedback based on its importance is also crucial. While all feedback is valuable, some comments may have a greater impact on your restaurant's success than others. For example, issues related to food quality or safety should be addressed immediately, as they can directly affect your customers' health and your restaurant's reputation. On the other hand, feedback about the decor or music may be less urgent, but still worth considering.

Addressing Negative Feedback:

Negative feedback can be challenging to receive, but it's an essential part of improving your restaurant. The key is to respond promptly and professionally. Acknowledge the customer's experience, apologize if necessary, and assure them that you're taking steps to address the issue. This shows customers that you value their feedback and are committed to improving.

Offering solutions and compensation can also help turn a negative experience into a positive one. For instance, if a customer complains about a meal, you could offer to replace it free of charge or provide a discount on their next visit. This not only helps to resolve the issue but also gives you a chance to win back the customer's trust.

Moreover, negative feedback should be seen as an opportunity for improvement. It provides you with firsthand insights into what's not working and gives you the chance to fix it. By addressing the issues raised in negative feedback, you can improve your restaurant's services and prevent similar complaints in the future.

One-Star Review Reply, Etta Chicago, 23 February 2024

Making Improvements:

Once you've analyzed the feedback and addressed any negative comments, it's time to make improvements. This could involve modifying menu items or services based on your customers' feedback. For example, if customers find a dish too spicy, you could adjust the recipe. Or if customers feel that the wait time is too long, you could implement a reservation system or hire additional staff.

Implementing new policies or procedures may also be necessary. For instance, if customers complain about the noise level, you might need to implement a policy about keeping the noise down during certain hours. Or if customers are unhappy with the cleanliness of the restrooms, you might need to introduce more rigorous cleaning procedures.

Training staff on customer service best practices is another effective way to improve your restaurant. This could involve training on how to interact with customers, handle complaints, or provide service that goes above and beyond. By investing in your staff, you're not only improving the service they provide but also showing them that they're a valued part of your restaurant.

Key Elements of Restaurant Services that Customers Value

Understanding what customers value in a restaurant experience is crucial to improving your services and meeting their needs. Here are some key elements that customers often value:

Food Quality and Taste

The quality and taste of your food are paramount. Customers visit your restaurant primarily to enjoy a good meal. Therefore, ensuring that your food is consistently delicious and of high quality is essential. This involves using fresh ingredients, preparing dishes skillfully, and presenting them attractively. 

Service Efficiency and Friendliness

Efficient and friendly service can significantly enhance your customers' dining experience. Customers appreciate prompt service, whether it's taking their order, serving their food, or addressing their concerns. Moreover, friendly and courteous staff can make customers feel welcome and valued, encouraging them to return.

Ambiance and Atmosphere

The ambiance and atmosphere of your restaurant play a significant role in your customers' overall experience. A clean, comfortable, and aesthetically pleasing environment can make dining at your restaurant a pleasure. Additionally, factors like lighting, music, and decor can contribute to the ambiance and influence your customers' perception of your restaurant.

Value for Money

Customers want to feel that they're getting good value for their money. This doesn't necessarily mean being the cheapest option, but rather offering a dining experience that is worth what they're paying. This involves not only providing delicious food and excellent service but also offering generous portions, unique dishes, and a memorable dining experience.

Convenience and Accessibility

Convenience and accessibility are also important to customers. This includes factors like the location of your restaurant, availability of parking, ease of making reservations, and speed of service. Additionally, offering convenient options like online ordering or delivery can enhance your customers' experience and make your restaurant more accessible.

Unique Value Propositions and Differentiators

In the competitive restaurant industry, it's important to differentiate yourself from the competition. Here are some unique value propositions and differentiators that can set your restaurant apart:

Innovative Feedback Collection Methods

Innovating in how you collect customer feedback can set your restaurant apart. For instance, using QR codes or tablet surveys can make providing feedback easy and convenient for your customers, increasing the likelihood that they'll share their thoughts. 

Personalized Feedback Analysis and Reporting

Offering personalized feedback analysis and reporting can also differentiate your restaurant. This involves not just collecting feedback, but also analyzing it in a way that provides you with actionable insights. For instance, you could use customer feedback to identify trends, predict customer behavior, or tailor your offerings to meet your customers' preferences.

Collect and Leverage Guest Feedback more Effectively with Fishbowl

Leverage the power of Fishbowl, a pioneering guest relationship management platform that combines the functionalities of both a CRM and a CDP. Fishbowl can revolutionize how you collect and utilize guest feedback. With its robust data integration capabilities, Fishbowl allows you to seamlessly gather and analyze feedback across multiple channels, ensuring you have a comprehensive understanding of your guests' experiences. By integrating feedback directly into your marketing strategies, Fishbowl helps you tailor your offerings more precisely, enhance guest satisfaction, and ultimately drive business growth.

Conclusion – Guest Feedback Matters

Effective guest feedback collection and analysis are integral to the success of any restaurant. By implementing the strategies discussed in this guide and utilizing advanced tools like Fishbowl, you can transform customer feedback into actionable insights that drive improvement and innovation in your restaurant.

Learn how Fishbowl helps restaurants excel in even the most competitive markets.

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Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Guest Feedback

June 3, 2024
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How to gather and utilize restaurant guest feedback effectively to enhance customer experience and drive business growth.

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In a world where dining options abound and consumers crave experiences tailored to their unique tastes, personalization in the restaurant industry emerges as a critical differentiator. This isn't just about knowing your customer's name or their favorite dish; it's about creating a connection that elevates their dining experience to something memorable, something personal. From the ambiance to the service, and down to the menu itself, personalization can transform a simple meal into a story worth sharing. Real-life examples, such as a café that remembers your coffee preference or a fine-dining restaurant that sends personalized invitations for a wine tasting event, illustrate the power and potential of personalization to foster loyalty and enhance customer satisfaction.lization initiatives

Understanding Customer Preferences

Personalization starts with a deep understanding of your customers. Knowing their preferences, behaviors, and demographics enables restaurants to tailor experiences that resonate on a personal level. This section explores how data collection and analysis can uncover the insights needed to drive successful personalization strategies.

Gathering Customer Data Effectively

The foundation of any personalization strategy lies in effectively gathering and understanding customer data. This process not only illuminates who your customers are but also unveils their unique preferences and behaviors, setting a critical foundation for personalized experiences.

Surveys and Feedback Forms

Surveys and feedback forms are invaluable tools for gathering explicit customer insights. They offer a direct line to customer preferences, satisfaction levels, and areas for improvement. Whether it's through digital platforms post-visit or paper forms at the table, these instruments can capture specific feedback that might not be observable through other means, providing actionable insights for personalization efforts.

Point-of-Sale Systems

Point-of-sale (POS) systems serve as a treasure trove of customer data, tracking every transaction, item preference, and purchase frequency. This data not only reveals purchasing habits but also helps in identifying trends and popular choices among your clientele. By analyzing POS data, restaurants can tailor their menu offerings and promotional strategies to match customer demand.

CRM Software

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is pivotal in aggregating and analyzing customer data. It compiles every interaction, from reservations to meal preferences, into a comprehensive customer profile. This holistic view allows for targeted marketing campaigns, personalized service offerings, and ultimately, a deeper connection with each diner.

Social Media Listening

Social media listening goes beyond tracking mentions and hashtags; it's about tuning into the conversations surrounding your brand. This method can unveil unspoken customer sentiments, emerging trends, and real-time feedback. By engaging with these conversations, restaurants can address concerns, adapt to customer expectations, and even identify brand advocates.

Loyalty Programs

Loyalty programs are not just a mechanism for rewarding repeat business; they're a strategic tool for collecting detailed customer data. From preference patterns to dining frequency, loyalty programs provide a wealth of information that can inform personalized service touches, rewards, and marketing messages that resonate deeply with your customer base.

Each of these sources of customer data acts as a key that unlocks the door to your customers' desires, setting the stage for experiences that are not just tailored, but deeply personal. By leveraging these insights, restaurants can move beyond generic service to create moments of delight that keep customers coming back. This approach doesn't just build loyalty; it turns satisfied diners into passionate advocates for your brand.

Analyzing Customer Data for Insights

With a wealth of data at your fingertips, the next step is to analyze this information to uncover actionable insights. Segmentation of customers based on demographics, preferences, and behaviors allows for targeted marketing and service strategies. Identifying trends and patterns can inform everything from menu design to promotional offers, ensuring that your restaurant remains aligned with customer desires. The goal is to use these insights to make every customer feel like your offerings are curated just for them.

Tailoring the Dining Experience

Creating a dining experience that feels personal and unique to each customer is the essence of restaurant personalization. This section delves into the ways restaurants can customize menus, service, and even the ambiance to meet and exceed customer expectations.

Customization of Menus

Personalizing the dining experience starts with the menu. Offering dietary options caters to specific health or lifestyle choices, while seasonal specials can highlight fresh ingredients that appeal to the food-conscious diner. Customizable dishes empower customers to create their ideal meal, turning dining into an interactive experience. Technology, such as digital menus, can facilitate this customization, allowing diners to filter options according to their preferences seamlessly.

Custom Menu, Subway, 26 March 2024

Personalized Service

The essence of personalized service is making each customer feel recognized and valued. Greeting customers warmly, remembering their preferences, and making tailored recommendations are all practices that contribute to a memorable dining experience. Follow-up communications, such as thank-you emails or invitations to special events, reinforce the personal connection between your restaurant and your customers.

Enhancing the Experience with Technology

Technology plays a pivotal role in personalizing the dining experience. Online ordering systems offer convenience and efficiency, while table-side ordering and digital menus add a modern touch to service. AI-powered recommendations can suggest dishes based on a customer’s past choices, and virtual reality can offer immersive experiences for those looking to explore their culinary options in a novel way. AI chatbots for customer service can provide instant, personalized responses to inquiries, further enhancing the customer experience

Building Customer Loyalty

The ultimate goal of personalization is to build a base of loyal customers who feel a strong, personal connection to your restaurant. Rewards and recognition programs, tailored promotions, and VIP experiences are all strategies that can increase customer loyalty. By continuously seeking feedback and making improvements based on customer data, restaurants can ensure that their personalization efforts remain effective and appreciated.

Birthday Reward, Longhorn Steakhouse, 26 March 2024

Rewards and Offers Programs

Restaurant loyalty programs are a powerful tool for encouraging repeat business and deepening customer relationships. Offering rewards can incentivize frequent visits, while personalized gifts or surprise treats on special occasions can make customers feel valued. Providing VIP experiences and exclusive access to events or promotions can further enhance customer loyalty. Implementing a referral program can also leverage satisfied customers to act as brand ambassadors, expanding your customer base through trusted word-of-mouth marketing.

Learn how developing rewards programs and offer management campaigns can enhance guest engagement for your restaurant.

Continuous Improvement

The pursuit of personalization is an ongoing journey requiring regular evaluation and adaptation. Soliciting customer feedback through surveys can provide direct insights into areas for improvement. Analyzing customer data helps identify trends and preferences, guiding the development of initiatives that resonate with your audience. Training staff to deliver personalized experiences ensures that your service continually meets and exceeds customer expectations. Additionally, keeping an eye on the competition and industry trends can inspire innovative approaches to personalization, ensuring your restaurant remains a preferred choice for diners.


Personalization in the restaurant industry represents a powerful strategy for engaging customers, enhancing their dining experience, and building lasting loyalty. From gathering and analyzing customer data to tailoring every aspect of the dining experience and recognizing customer loyalty, personalization touches every facet of the restaurant-customer relationship. As we look to the future, the possibilities for personalization will continue to evolve with advancements in technology and changing customer expectations. Restaurants that embrace personalization not only set themselves apart in a competitive market but also forge deeper connections with their customers, laying the foundation for sustained success.

Embracing personalization requires a commitment to understanding your customers and continuously adapting to meet their needs. With the right approach and tools like Fishbowl GRM, restaurants can unlock the full potential of personalization, transforming every meal into a personalized dining journey.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can small restaurants with limited budgets implement personalization?

Small restaurants can start personalization efforts by utilizing cost-effective tools and focusing on areas that have a direct impact on customer experience. Personal touches, such as greeting customers by name or remembering their favorite dishes, can make a big difference. Utilizing social media to engage with customers and gather feedback is another low-cost strategy. Small-scale loyalty programs, such as punch cards for repeat visits, can also foster loyalty without a significant investment.

Can personalization improve online ordering experiences?

Absolutely. Personalization can significantly enhance online ordering by providing tailored menu recommendations based on past orders, remembering customer preferences (like dietary restrictions), and offering targeted promotions. Integrating a CRM system with your online ordering platform can automate these personal touches, making the ordering process more efficient and enjoyable for customers.

How do restaurants ensure they're not infringing on customer privacy with personalization efforts?

Transparency and consent are key to respecting customer privacy. Restaurants should clearly communicate what data is being collected and how it will be used to enhance the dining experience. Offering customers the option to opt-in or out of data collection and personalization efforts is crucial. Adhering to data protection regulations, such as GDPR for European customers, ensures that personalization efforts are both ethical and legal.

Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Personalization

March 27, 2024
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Maximize dining delight with tailored experiences. This guide offers strategies for using customer insights to personalize and elevate the dining journey.

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Operating a successful restaurant in the 2024 landscape requires more than just an exceptional menu and a prime location—it demands a deep understanding of who your customers are. 

In this guide, we’ll explore the science of restaurant customer demographics, unraveling the layers of customer data to reveal how targeted insights can significantly enhance your sales and marketing strategies. By harnessing the power of demographics, restaurants can craft personalized experiences that resonate deeply with their audience, turning casual diners into loyal patrons.

Delving into Restaurant Customer Demographics: A Comprehensive Guide

Definition and Significance of Restaurant Customer Demographics

Customer demographics encompass the statistical aspects of your restaurant's clientele, including age, income, location, and spending habits. Understanding these elements is crucial for tailoring your restaurant's offerings and marketing messages. Demographics provide a lens through which you can view your market, allowing you to identify which customer segments are most likely to frequent your establishment. This knowledge not only helps in customizing the dining experience to meet the preferences of your guests but also in optimizing your marketing efforts to attract the right audience.

Key Demographic Indicators for Restaurant Analysis: Age, Income, Location, Spending Habits

Age, income, location, and spending habits stand as the pillars of demographic analysis. Age can influence menu preferences and dining times; income levels can determine spending capacity and frequency of visits; location can affect the choice of cuisine and accessibility; and spending habits can provide insights into the types of dining experiences customers value. By analyzing these indicators, restaurants can make informed decisions on menu design, pricing strategies, and promotional activities, ensuring they meet the specific needs of their target demographic segments.

Demographic Trends and Patterns in the Restaurant Industry

Recent trends show a shift towards healthier eating options among younger demographics, while convenience and speed of service are prioritized by working professionals. There's also an increasing demand for experiential dining among higher income groups, looking for unique and Instagrammable dining experiences. Understanding these patterns allows restaurants to align their offerings with the evolving preferences of their customers, ensuring they stay relevant and competitive in a rapidly changing industry.

Identifying Ideal Customer Profiles for Targeted Marketing

Crafting a marketing strategy without a clear understanding of your target customer is like navigating a ship without a compass. The first step in any successful restaurant marketing campaign is identifying your ideal customer profiles. This segmentation enables you to tailor your marketing efforts more effectively, ensuring that your message reaches the right ears and eyes.

Market Segmentation Based on Customer Demographics

Dividing your market into distinct segments based on demographics allows for more targeted and effective marketing strategies. For instance, a family-friendly restaurant might focus on households with children, offering kid-friendly menus and amenities. On the other hand, a high-end restaurant might target higher-income individuals seeking gourmet dining experiences. By identifying these segments, restaurants can more accurately tailor their offerings and marketing messages to meet the expectations of each group.

Creating Personalized Marketing Campaigns for Specific Customer Groups

With the identified segments in hand, restaurants can craft personalized marketing campaigns that speak directly to the interests and needs of each group. For example, email campaigns for young professionals might highlight quick lunch options or happy hour deals, while marketing for families might focus on weekend specials or family meal deals. Personalization enhances the effectiveness of your marketing efforts, increasing engagement and, ultimately, customer loyalty.

Leveraging Customer Demographics to Enhance the Dining Experience

Understanding your customers' demographics is the key to crafting dining experiences that not only meet but exceed expectations. By tailoring every aspect of the dining journey to fit the preferences and needs of different demographic segments, restaurants can create memorable experiences that drive loyalty and word-of-mouth recommendations.

Tailoring Menu Recommendations According to Customer Preferences

Menu customization based on demographic insights can significantly enhance the dining experience. For example, younger demographics may prefer adventurous and Instagram-worthy dishes, while older customers might appreciate classic, comfort food offerings. Analyzing spending habits and popular choices can also guide seasonal menu adjustments or specials aimed at attracting specific customer segments, ensuring that every guest finds something to love on your menu.

Optimizing Service and Hospitality Based on Demographic Insights

Service styles and hospitality can also be adapted to suit the expectations of different demographic groups. Busy professionals might value quick and efficient service for a lunch break, whereas families with children might appreciate a more patient and engaging approach. Training your staff to recognize and adapt to these subtle cues can significantly enhance customer satisfaction and encourage repeat visits.

Enhancing Ambiance and Atmosphere to Suit Customer Expectations

The ambiance of a restaurant plays a crucial role in attracting specific demographics. For instance, a vibrant and trendy atmosphere might appeal to millennials and Gen Z, while a quiet and refined setting could attract older demographics or business clientele. Incorporating demographic insights into the design and atmosphere of your restaurant can create an environment that resonates with your target audience, making them feel right at home.

Maximizing Sales and Revenue Through Demographic Analysis

Demographic analysis offers a roadmap to not only understand but also effectively engage with your target market. By identifying and catering to high-value customer segments, optimizing pricing strategies, and fostering loyalty, restaurants can significantly boost their bottom line.

Identifying High-Value Customer Segments for Targeted Promotions

Dive into your customer data to pinpoint segments that offer the highest revenue potential, such as affluent professionals or large family groups. Tailored promotions, such as corporate event packages or family dining discounts, can attract these high-value segments, maximizing revenue and efficiently utilizing marketing resources.

Optimizing Pricing Strategies Based on Demographic Factors

Demographic analysis can also inform dynamic pricing strategies. For example, offering lunch specials at a lower price point might attract young professionals looking for affordable dining options, while premium dinner experiences can be priced higher to appeal to affluent diners seeking luxury dining experiences. This approach ensures optimal pricing that matches the value perceived by different demographic groups.

Increasing Customer Loyalty and Repeat Visits Through Demographic-Driven Strategies

Loyalty programs and personalized marketing campaigns designed with demographic insights encourage repeat visits and foster a sense of belonging among your customers. For instance, a rewards program offering discounts on family meals can endear your restaurant to family segments, while exclusive wine tasting invites can cater to the interests of affluent clientele, enhancing loyalty and encouraging frequent visits.

Competitive Edge through Unique Demographic Insights

In a fiercely competitive landscape, unique demographic insights can be your secret weapon. By exploring unconventional segments, conducting thorough market research, and forecasting trends, restaurants can discover new opportunities for growth and innovation.

Exploring Unconventional Demographic Segments for Market Differentiation

Look beyond traditional demographic categories to identify niche markets that are underserved. For instance, catering to night shift workers with late-night dining options or creating a pet-friendly patio area can attract unique customer segments, setting your restaurant apart from competitors.

Conducting Market Research to Identify Untapped Opportunities

Regular market research, including surveys and focus groups, can uncover untapped demographic segments and emerging dining trends. This proactive approach allows restaurants to innovate and adapt their offerings, capturing new markets before competitors.

Utilizing Demographic Data for Innovation and Trend Forecasting

Leverage demographic data to forecast upcoming trends and innovate your offerings accordingly. For example, if data shows an increasing interest in plant-based diets among your customer base, introducing a range of innovative vegan dishes could position your restaurant as a forward-thinking leader in sustainable dining.

Best Practices for Gathering and Analyzing Customer Demographics

The ability to gather and accurately analyze customer demographics is crucial for any restaurant aiming to make data-driven decisions. Adopting best practices in data collection and analysis ensures that your strategies are based on solid insights, leading to more effective targeting and personalization.

Utilizing CRM Systems and Data Analytics Tools

Implementing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems and data analytics tools can provide a wealth of information about your customers. These systems can track customer interactions, purchases, and preferences, offering detailed insights into demographic trends. Utilizing tools like Fishbowl GRM, which are designed with restaurants in mind, can help in segmenting your customer base, personalizing marketing efforts, and ultimately enhancing customer engagement.

Implementing Effective Tactics to Gather Demographic Information

In addition to leveraging CRM systems and analytics tools, employing direct tactics to gather demographic information can significantly enhance your understanding of your customer base. 

Effective methods for collecting this essential data include:

Analyzing Average Check Amounts and Visit Frequency: By tracking the average amount customers spend and how often they visit, you can infer demographic details such as income level and dining preferences. This information can be used to tailor marketing efforts and promotions to suit the spending habits of different customer segments.

Birthday Programs: Implementing a birthday club or offering a birthday special not only drives customer loyalty but also provides an invaluable piece of demographic information – the customer's age. Age is a fundamental demographic factor that can influence dining preferences and purchasing behavior.

Loyalty Programs: Encourage customers to share information such as marital status and whether they have children in exchange for loyalty points or special offers. These pieces of information are critical, as highlighted by Jynessa Mason, VP of Analytics and Insights. Just knowing a customer's age, marital status, and whether they have children can significantly refine your marketing segmentation and targeting.

Conducting Customer Surveys and Feedback Analysis

Customer surveys and feedback are direct channels to understanding your clientele. Regularly engaging with your customers for their opinions on menu items, service quality, and overall experience can reveal valuable demographic insights. Analyzing this feedback helps in identifying patterns and preferences across different customer segments, allowing for more targeted service improvements and marketing strategies.

Survey Reward, Potbelly, 23 February 2024, Direct email from Potbelly.

Maintaining Customer Data Security and Privacy

In the era of data breaches and privacy concerns, maintaining the security and privacy of customer data is paramount. Adhering to standards like SOC2 and GDPR not only ensures compliance but also builds trust with your customers. Fishbowl GRM prioritizes data security and privacy, as evidenced by our certifications and commitments outlined at Choosing platforms that take data protection seriously is crucial for maintaining your restaurant's reputation and customer trust.

Leveraging Advanced Segmentation with Fishbowl's AI-Driven Features

Embracing advanced technologies in customer data analysis can significantly streamline your marketing efforts and enhance your understanding of customer demographics. Fishbowl's platform stands out with its Smart Segmentation, powered by AI, which allows marketers to quickly create audience segments without needing to rely on spreadsheets or manual processes. This innovative feature enables a more intuitive and efficient approach to market segmentation:

Ask Harmony: Utilizing natural language search capabilities, this feature allows you to query your customer database as if you were asking a colleague. This means you can obtain insights and segment data simply by asking questions in plain English, bypassing the need for complex queries or extensive campaign recall.

Suggested Segments: Fishbowl offers a curated selection of frequently-used segments specifically tailored for the restaurant industry. This feature is designed to help marketers identify and target key audience segments effortlessly, ensuring that your campaigns are always on point and relevant.

My Segments: This personalization feature keeps track of your previously used campaigns, allowing for easy access and reuse. By having your past campaigns readily available, you can efficiently build upon successful strategies and maintain consistency across your marketing initiatives.

These AI-driven tools not only set Fishbowl apart from the competition but also provide a distinct business advantage by streamlining the segmentation process. This allows for quicker, more informed decision-making, leading to more effective and personalized marketing campaigns. Learn more about Fishbowl's Smart Segmentation and how it can revolutionize your restaurant marketing.

Conclusion: The Power of Understanding Restaurant Customer Demographics

Customer demographics unlocks the potential for profound business growth for restaurants. By tailoring your offerings and marketing to meet the specific needs of different customer segments, you can create more meaningful dining experiences and foster lasting customer loyalty.

  • Insightful segmentation leads to more personalized and effective marketing.
  • Understanding customer preferences enhances the dining experience and service quality.
  • Data-driven strategies optimize menu design and pricing for maximum appeal.
  • Demographic analysis identifies new market opportunities for expansion and innovation.

CTA – Embracing Customer Demographics for Business Growth

To truly leverage the insights customer demographics offer, embracing a platform like Fishbowl GRM is essential. Our suite of tools is designed to help restaurants gather, analyze, and act on customer data, ensuring that every decision you make is informed and impactful. Start harnessing the power of your customer demographics with Fishbowl and transform your restaurant into a customer-centric powerhouse.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How can I start collecting customer demographic data?

Begin by utilizing every customer touchpoint — from in-restaurant interactions to online orders. Implementing a CRM system like Fishbowl GRM can automate this process, making data collection seamless and integrated into your daily operations.

What's the most effective way to use demographic data for marketing?

The most effective approach is segmented marketing campaigns tailored to the preferences and behaviors of specific customer groups. This ensures that your marketing messages are relevant and engaging to each segment of your audience.

How often should I analyze demographic data?

Regular analysis is key to staying ahead of trends and adapting to changing customer preferences. Quarterly reviews can help you adjust strategies in a timely manner, though some aspects may require more frequent monitoring.

Can demographic data help in menu planning?

Absolutely. Demographic insights can guide menu development by highlighting popular items among different age groups, income levels, or dietary preferences. This allows you to tailor your menu to appeal to the tastes and needs of your target customer segments.

The Ultimate Guide to Customer Demographics for Restaurants

March 25, 2024
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Unlock the secrets of restaurant customer demographics with Fishbowl's guide. Learn strategies for culinary success and customer satisfaction.

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In today's competitive restaurant landscape, attracting and engaging potential customers is not just important—it's vital for the survival and growth of your business. The crux of successful restaurant operations lies in effective marketing strategies that not only drive visibility but also foster a unique brand identity, setting your establishment apart from competitors. This guide delves deep into the essence of restaurant marketing, exploring innovative strategies, practical tactics, and industry best practices designed to elevate your restaurant's presence. Emphasizing the importance of adaptability and the strategic use of technology and data, we aim to equip you with the insights necessary for crafting compelling marketing campaigns that resonate with your audience.

What is Restaurant Marketing?

Restaurant marketing represents a comprehensive approach to promoting your dining establishment, designed to attract and retain customers. This multifaceted domain encompasses both traditional offline and modern online strategies, evolving continuously to adapt to consumer behaviors and technological advancements. In this section, we define restaurant marketing in the context of current industry trends and outline the scope of topics covered in this guide, emphasizing the critical balance between online presence and offline engagement for maximum impact.

Benefits of Restaurant Marketing

Increased Brand Awareness:

Effective marketing efforts can significantly enhance brand awareness, ensuring that your restaurant stands out in a crowded marketplace. By deploying compelling campaigns and engaging content, you can boost recognition and recall among potential patrons, driving foot traffic and loyalty.

Competitive Edge:

In today's saturated market, a strategic approach to marketing can give your restaurant a distinct competitive advantage. By crafting unique campaigns and leveraging innovative strategies, you can differentiate your brand and attract new customers, positioning yourself as a leader in the industry.

Enhanced Customer Engagement:

Marketing enables direct communication with your audience, fostering a deeper connection with your patrons. Through social media, email campaigns, and interactive content, you can engage customers in meaningful ways, encouraging feedback and fostering a community around your brand.

Data-Driven Insights:

Leveraging marketing analytics allows you to gain valuable insights into customer preferences and behavior. This data-driven approach enables targeted campaigns, menu optimizations, and personalized promotions, enhancing the overall dining experience and boosting customer satisfaction.

Operational Efficiency:

Marketing technologies streamline operations, from reservation systems and order management to customer feedback loops. This operational efficiency not only improves the customer experience but also optimizes resource allocation, contributing to the restaurant's bottom line.

How to Market a Restaurant

Establish/Develop Your Restaurant’s Brand Identity:

Creating a strong brand identity is fundamental to any successful marketing strategy. This involves more than just a name or a logo; it encompasses your restaurant's values, mission, design, tone, and overall feel. These elements should be professionally crafted to match your brand promise, ensuring consistency across all touchpoints. A well-defined brand identity establishes a framework of trust and provides a set of tools to consistently deliver your message to the target audience. When executed correctly, your brand’s visual and communicative elements, such as logos, color schemes, and messaging, should resonate with your target demographic, reinforcing your establishment's character and values. This consistency helps to build recognition and loyalty, ensuring that every interaction with your brand reinforces the customer's perception and expectation of quality.

Define Your Target Audience:

Understanding your target audience is essential for crafting effective marketing campaigns. In this section, we'll discuss the importance of defining your ideal customer profile and provide practical tips for identifying commonalities, characteristics, and preferences among your clientele.

Identify Your Marketing Channels:

Choosing the right marketing channels is crucial for reaching your target audience effectively. We'll explore how to determine which channels are best suited to your restaurant's unique offerings and audience demographics, as well as how to create engaging content tailored to each platform.

Identify/Determine Your Restaurant’s KPIs:

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are essential metrics for evaluating the success of your marketing efforts. We'll discuss how to identify the most relevant KPIs for your restaurant, such as sign-ups, phone calls, and online purchases, and how to track and analyze them effectively.

Determine Your Marketing Budget Strategically:

Allocating your marketing budget strategically is vital for maximizing ROI and achieving your business objectives. We'll provide guidance on how to set a realistic budget based on your restaurant's goals, audience, and competitive landscape, ensuring that your resources are allocated wisely.

Develop a Formal Marketing Plan for Your Restaurant:

Formalizing your marketing strategy with a comprehensive plan is essential for ensuring consistency and coherence across your campaigns. We'll outline the key components of a successful marketing plan and discuss the importance of setting clear objectives, defining tactics, and establishing metrics for measurement.

Leverage User-Generated Content (UGC):

Encouraging customers to share their experiences on social media can amplify your brand's reach and credibility. We'll explore the power of user-generated content and provide tips for soliciting and showcasing customer reviews, photos, and testimonials.

Collaborations and Partnerships:

Partnering with influencers, local businesses, or events can expand your restaurant's visibility and attract new customers. We'll discuss the benefits of collaboration and provide guidance on how to identify and cultivate strategic partnerships that align with your brand values and objectives.

Build & Launch a Website:

Today, a modern, responsive website acts as the cornerstone of your restaurant's online presence, serving as a virtual storefront that welcomes potential customers. Emphasizing a mobile-responsive design is crucial, considering the growing propensity for consumers to use their mobile devices for everything from browsing menus to placing orders. A mobile-optimized website ensures that visitors have a seamless experience, regardless of the device they're using, which can significantly enhance user engagement and increase the likelihood of converting visitors into customers. In this section, we'll delve into the importance of creating a website that not only looks professional but is also optimized for mobile usage, providing practical tips for enhancing user experience, driving traffic, and facilitating online conversions. By focusing on mobile-first design, your restaurant can cater to the modern consumer, ensuring accessibility and convenience at every touchpoint.

Show Dad You Care, Perkin's, 29 February 2024

Create Profiles & Establish a Presence on Relevant Channels/Platforms:

Establishing a presence on social media channels, local listings, and email marketing platforms is essential for reaching and engaging your target audience. We'll discuss the importance of optimizing your profiles and content for each platform and provide insights into effective email marketing strategies for restaurants.

Restaurant Marketing Strategy Examples

Loyalty Programs & Offers:

Creating a loyalty program is more than just a tactic to increase visits; it's about building a community around your restaurant. Successful loyalty programs offer a mix of rewards, exclusive deals, and personalized experiences that resonate with your customer base. For instance, points-based rewards systems can incentivize frequent visits, while exclusive offers for members can enhance the perceived value of joining the program. The key is to ensure that the rewards are both attainable and desirable, encouraging ongoing engagement. Additionally, leveraging technology to track customer preferences and purchase history can enable more personalized offers, further enhancing loyalty and satisfaction.

Rewards Exchange, Chipotle, 27 February 2024

Design & Publish a Landing Page for Your Menu:

A menu landing page is your digital showcase, inviting potential patrons to explore your culinary offerings. High-quality images, detailed descriptions, and an easy-to-navigate layout are essential components. Including customer reviews and ratings for dishes can also provide social proof, encouraging new visitors to try your restaurant. To drive conversions, integrate reservation tools or online ordering systems directly into the page. Remember, your landing page should reflect your restaurant's ambiance and brand identity, creating a seamless experience from digital to dining.

Create a Welcome Campaign for Email Marketing:

A welcome email series is a critical touchpoint for engaging new subscribers. It should introduce your brand story, highlight your unique selling propositions, and offer a special incentive for their first visit. The goal is to make a strong first impression that sets the tone for your relationship with the subscriber. Personalization plays a crucial role here; use the customer's name and preferences (if known) to tailor the message. A series of 2-3 emails spaced over a few weeks can effectively keep your restaurant top-of-mind, culminating in a call-to-action that drives the subscriber to make a reservation or visit.

Collect, Store, and Leverage Guest/Customer Data in Your Marketing Campaigns:

In today's data-driven marketing landscape, collecting and utilizing guest data can significantly enhance the effectiveness of your campaigns. Utilizing a Customer Data Platform (CDP) allows for the aggregation of customer data across multiple touchpoints, providing a unified customer view. This holistic understanding enables more targeted and personalized marketing efforts, from customized email marketing campaigns to tailored social media ads. Ensuring data privacy and security is paramount; transparent communication about how data is used can foster trust and loyalty among your patrons.

Leverage Segmentation for Your Email/Marketing Campaigns:

Segmentation involves dividing your audience into groups based on characteristics such as dining preferences, visit frequency, or spending behavior. This enables more targeted communications that resonate with each segment's specific interests and needs. For example, casual diners might receive promotions for happy hour, while high spenders could be invited to exclusive tasting events. Effective segmentation leads to higher engagement rates, as messages are more relevant to the recipient. Utilizing segmentation tools within email marketing platforms can automate this process, making it both efficient and scalable.

Reach Customers at the Right Time with Restaurant SMS Marketing:

SMS marketing's power lies in its immediacy and open rates, which significantly surpass those of email. Timely promotions, such as a same-day discount or a reminder about a special event, can spur on-the-spot decisions to visit your restaurant. Personalization, based on past behavior or preferences, can increase the effectiveness of these messages. The key is to balance frequency and value; too many messages can lead to opt-outs, so focus on sending offers that are truly compelling and relevant.

Community Engagement and Events:

Participating in or hosting community events can dramatically increase your restaurant's visibility and deepen local connections. From sponsoring a local sports team to organizing charity events, these activities underscore your commitment to the community. Engaging your audience through social media or email marketing before, during, and after the event can amplify its impact, turning attendees into advocates for your brand.

Sustainable Practices:

Marketing your restaurant's commitment to sustainability not only showcases your dedication to environmental stewardship but also significantly boosts your brand appeal to a growing demographic of eco-conscious consumers. By integrating sustainable practices, such as local sourcing, energy efficiency, and waste reduction, you can differentiate your brand in a competitive market. This approach not only reflects positively on your restaurant's image but also attracts patrons who value ethical and environmentally responsible businesses. Effectively communicating your sustainability initiatives can enhance customer loyalty, attract positive media attention, and ultimately contribute to increased profitability through a stronger, values-aligned customer base.

What Makes a Good Restaurant Marketing Strategy?

A good restaurant marketing strategy is holistic, encompassing various digital and traditional channels to build brand awareness, engage with customers, and drive sales. Effective strategies are customer-centric, designed around a deep understanding of the target audience's preferences, behaviors, and needs. They are also adaptable, ready to pivot based on market trends, customer feedback, and performance metrics. For restaurant leaders and marketing team members, due diligence involves market research, competitive analysis, and ongoing performance evaluation to refine and optimize marketing efforts continuously.

Key elements of a great marketing strategy include:

  • Understanding Your Audience: Know who your customers are, what they value, and how they like to communicate.
  • Brand Consistency: Ensure your messaging, visuals, and customer experience are cohesive across all channels.
  • Data-Driven Decision Making: Use insights from customer data to inform your strategies and personalize your marketing efforts.
  • Engagement and Community Building: Foster relationships with your customers through loyalty programs, social media interaction, and community involvement.
  • Innovative Use of Technology: Leverage the latest marketing technologies to enhance customer engagement and streamline operations.
  • Measurable Objectives: Set clear, achievable goals for your marketing activities, with KPIs to measure success.
  • Flexibility and Adaptability: Be prepared to adjust your strategy based on feedback and changing market conditions.

Restaurant Marketing Ideas

Chef’s Table and Exclusive Tastings:

Transform your guests’ dining experience into an unforgettable event with an exclusive chef’s table or special tasting events. These intimate gatherings not only allow diners to sample exquisite, off-menu items but also provide an opportunity to interact directly with the chef, creating a personal connection. For instance, a chef's table event could highlight the journey of a particular ingredient from farm to table, paired with the perfect wines. Promote these events through your newsletter and social media, encouraging attendees to share their experiences online. This not only drives word-of-mouth marketing but also elevates your restaurant's status as a destination for culinary exploration.

Interactive Social Media Campaigns:

Engage your audience and expand your reach with interactive social media campaigns. For example, a recipe contest inviting followers to create their own version of a dish from your menu encourages participation and generates buzz. Alternatively, a hashtag challenge related to a seasonal theme or menu item can spark user interest and drive content creation. Highlighting entries on your platforms not only rewards engagement but also showcases the community around your brand, attracting new customers intrigued by the interactive and inclusive nature of your restaurant's online presence.

Collaborative Promotions with Local Businesses:

Forge partnerships with local businesses to create cross-promotions that benefit both parties and the community. A collaboration might involve a coffee shop and a bakery offering a discount when customers purchase from both on the same day, or co-hosting events like wine and cheese nights with local vintners and cheesemongers. These partnerships not only broaden your customer base but also strengthen community ties, creating a network of local support that can boost visibility and patronage through combined marketing efforts.

Virtual Cooking Classes or Food Demos:

Capitalize on the growing interest in home cooking and food preparation by offering virtual cooking classes or food demos. These sessions can showcase your culinary team's expertise and your restaurant's signature dishes, providing value to both local patrons and a broader online audience. Use platforms like Instagram Live, Facebook, or Zoom to host these events, making sure to include interactive elements such as Q&A sessions. This strategy not only reinforces your restaurant's brand as an authority in the culinary world but also maintains engagement with your audience, keeping your establishment top of mind even when they're dining at home.

Seasonal or Themed Menu Launches:

Seasonal or themed menu launches create a sense of novelty and anticipation, drawing in patrons eager to experience new flavors. Whether it’s a summer seafood fest or a winter comfort food menu, these themed offerings can refresh your menu and attract attention. Promote these special menus through enticing visuals and descriptions on social media, your website, and through email marketing. Hosting a launch event or offering a limited-time discount can further incentivize visits, making your restaurant the go-to place for seasonal specialties.

Email Newsletters with Exclusive Offers:

Utilize email newsletters to keep your restaurant in the minds of your patrons. Beyond general updates, include exclusive offers, sneak peeks of upcoming menus, or first-access reservations to special events. Personalization can enhance the impact of these newsletters, tailoring content to the recipient's dining history or preferences. This approach not only boosts customer engagement but also fosters a sense of belonging among your patrons, encouraging loyalty and repeat business.

User-Generated Content Contests:

Encourage your diners to become brand ambassadors through user-generated content contests. Invite customers to share their dining experience with a specific hashtag or submit stories about their favorite meal. Offering incentives, such as a meal voucher for the best post, can increase participation. Feature winning entries on your social media and in your restaurant, celebrating your community's creativity. This strategy not only enriches your content but also enhances credibility, as prospective customers view genuine experiences shared by their peers.

Each of these marketing ideas offers a unique opportunity to engage with your audience, build brand loyalty, and attract new customers. By incorporating these strategies into your marketing plan, you can create a dynamic and interactive presence that stands out in the competitive restaurant industry.

Challenges in Restaurant Marketing & How to Overcome Them

Navigating the world of restaurant marketing presents a unique set of challenges, but with the right strategies, these obstacles can turn into opportunities for growth and engagement.

Engaging with Customer Reviews:

Engaging with customer reviews, both positive and negative, presents a challenge but is crucial for maintaining a positive brand image. Respond promptly and professionally to all feedback, viewing negative reviews as a chance to improve and showcase your commitment to customer satisfaction. Implement changes based on consistent feedback and highlight these improvements in your communication channels.

Maintaining Consistent Brand Messaging:

Ensuring consistent brand messaging across all platforms can be a daunting task. Develop a brand guideline document that outlines your restaurant's voice, tone, and visual style. Regularly review your marketing materials and social media posts to ensure they align with your brand identity. Consistency in messaging builds trust and reinforces your restaurant's character.

Adapting to Changing Consumer Trends:

The restaurant industry is fast-paced, with consumer preferences constantly evolving. Stay ahead by regularly researching market trends and customer feedback. Adapt your menu, services, and marketing tactics to meet these changing needs. Engage with your customers through social media polls, feedback forms, and direct conversations to understand their desires and expectations.

Balancing Digital and Traditional Marketing:

Finding the right mix between digital and traditional marketing can be challenging. Identify your target audience and determine where they spend their time. For younger demographics, focus more on digital platforms; for older customers, consider traditional methods like flyers and local ads. Utilize analytics to measure the success of different channels and adjust your strategy accordingly.

Restaurant Marketing Tools & Software

Social Media Management Tools (e.g., Hootsuite, Buffer):

These tools streamline social media strategy, allowing for efficient scheduling, posting, and analytics across multiple platforms.

Email Marketing Platforms (e.g., Mailchimp, Constant Contact):

Email marketing software facilitates the creation and distribution of newsletters, promotional emails, and personalized communications to engage your audience effectively.

Reservation and Order Management Systems (e.g., OpenTable, Toast):

These systems optimize reservation handling and order processing, improving operational efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Review Management Software (e.g., ReviewTrackers, Yotpo):

Managing online reviews is crucial for reputation management. These tools help monitor and respond to reviews across various platforms, maintaining a positive brand image.

Fishbowl GRM:

When selecting your tech stack, it’s increasingly important to ensure that your tools and existing systems are well-connected to one another, enabling you to share and sync your guest data from platform to platform.

Fishbowl GRM is a comprehensive Guest Relationship Management (GRM) platform designed to seamlessly integrate with your existing tools, including email, SMS marketing, online ordering, loyalty programs, or gift cards.

The innovative platform enhances your marketing mix with powerful features that synergizes and enriches your existing toolsets by tying all customer interactions and data points together. Even if you utilize different systems for email, reservations, or orders, Fishbowl GRM serves as the central hub, ensuring all data informs your marketing strategies. 

Final Tips & Takeaways

Mastering restaurant marketing is an evolving journey that demands creativity, strategic thinking, and a deep understanding of your unique brand and target audience. By weaving together innovative strategies, engaging your community, and making the most of digital tools, you can create captivating marketing narratives that resonate deeply with your customers. The essence of effective restaurant marketing lies in fostering genuine connections, providing exceptional experiences, and nurturing a loyal customer base.

Adaptability is the cornerstone of thriving in the ever-changing landscape of restaurant marketing. It's essential to continuously evaluate and refine your strategies based on robust and reliable customer feedback and performance data. Remember, marketing is a process; you'll experiment with various tactics, some more successful than others. However, by consistently collecting data, you ensure there's always a path forward, guiding your decisions and helping to refine your approach.

Implementing the diverse strategies and insights shared in this guide can significantly elevate your restaurant's profile, meaningfully engage customers, and drive substantial growth. Always keep an eye out for emerging technologies and trends that could amplify your marketing efforts. And remember, the essence of impactful marketing lies in leveraging robust data to inform your strategies, ensuring every move you make is data-driven and aimed at fostering lasting relationships with your customers.

Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Marketing

March 22, 2024
Read Time: % Min

Explore Fishbowl's ultimate restaurant marketing guide to boost your business with effective strategies, tips, and industry insights.

View Ultimate Guide

In today's digital age, the restaurant industry is undergoing a transformative shift, propelled by the rise of technology and changing customer behaviors. Omnichannel marketing has emerged as a vital strategy for restaurants aiming to thrive in this dynamic landscape. By offering a seamless customer experience across multiple channels, from in-house dining to online interactions, restaurants can meet the modern diner's expectations for convenience, personalization, and engagement. This guide delves into the essence of omnichannel marketing within the restaurant sector, highlighting its significance and outlining strategies for effective implementation.

Understanding Omnichannel Marketing for Restaurants

Omnichannel marketing transcends traditional and digital boundaries, creating a unified brand experience for customers, whether they're placing an order through an app, browsing your website, or enjoying a meal in your establishment. This evolution from single-channel and multichannel approaches to a comprehensive omnichannel strategy reflects a broader shift towards integrating physical dining experiences with various digital touchpoints. Such integration ensures that every interaction with your brand, regardless of the medium, is consistent, personalized, and reflective of your restaurant's values and offerings.

The Role of Mobile in Omnichannel Marketing

The surge in mobile usage has revolutionized how customers interact with restaurants. Mobile ordering, app-based reservations, and QR code menus have become commonplace, offering convenience and efficiency to the dining experience. To capitalize on this trend, restaurants must ensure their mobile experiences are optimized, user-friendly, and integrated with other marketing channels, providing a cohesive journey from the first tap to the final taste.

Why Restaurants Should Embrace Omnichannel Marketing

Personalized Email Examples, Alaska Airlines; Sephora; Spotify, 5 March 2024

Expanding Reach & Accessibility: 

In today’s digital age, consumers expect to interact with restaurants in a variety of ways: browsing menus online, placing orders via mobile apps, sharing dining experiences on social media, and more. Omnichannel marketing ensures that your restaurant meets customers on their preferred platforms, from Instagram and Twitter to email and your own website. For instance, a customer might discover your restaurant through a Facebook post, explore your menu on your website, and finally make a reservation through an app. Each touchpoint is an opportunity to engage and convert, making omnichannel marketing indispensable for broadening your restaurant's reach and ensuring it remains accessible and appealing to a diverse customer base.

Personalized Customer Experiences: 

Leveraging data across channels enables restaurants to understand customer preferences and tailor marketing messages accordingly. Imagine a customer who frequently orders vegan dishes; omnichannel marketing allows you to send them personalized offers for your new vegan menu items or invite them to a special event featuring a guest vegan chef. This level of personalization not only delights customers but also builds a sense of loyalty and connection to your brand, encouraging repeat visits and positive word-of-mouth.

Boosting Customer Loyalty & Retention: 

Seamless experiences across all channels — whether it’s making a reservation, ordering food, or posting feedback — contribute significantly to customer satisfaction. A customer’s journey that begins with an easy-to-navigate website and ends with a satisfying meal and prompt service can turn a first-time guest into a loyal patron. Loyalty programs integrated across in-house dining, online ordering, and social media further incentivize repeat business and foster a community of dedicated followers.

Real-time Data & Insights: 

The omnichannel approach generates a wealth of data, providing deep insights into customer behaviors and preferences. This real-time information allows restaurants to make informed decisions about menu adjustments, marketing strategies, and customer service improvements. For example, analyzing data from your online ordering system can reveal popular dishes, optimal delivery times, and even geographic areas with high demand, enabling targeted marketing efforts and operational enhancements.

Enhancing Online Visibility: 

In a crowded digital landscape, a strong omnichannel presence boosts your restaurant’s online visibility. By actively engaging customers across various digital platforms — including Google My Business, Yelp, and TripAdvisor — you enhance your restaurant's search engine rankings, making it easier for potential customers to find you. High-quality, consistent content across these channels not only improves visibility but also establishes your restaurant’s reputation as a top choice for diners.

Streamlining Customer Feedback: 

Omnichannel marketing opens multiple avenues for customers to share their feedback, from social media comments to online reviews and direct feedback through your website or app. This constant stream of feedback is invaluable for identifying areas of improvement, adjusting your offerings to meet customer expectations, and acknowledging and rewarding customer loyalty. Engaging with customers across these channels demonstrates your commitment to excellence and customer satisfaction, further enhancing your brand’s reputation.

Crafting Your Restaurant's Omnichannel Marketing Strategy

Start with Your Customer in Mind: 

Creating detailed customer personas involves more than just demographic information; it requires an understanding of your customers’ dining habits, preferences, and expectations. Use data analytics to uncover patterns in ordering behavior, preferred dining times, and favorite menu items. Mapping out the customer journey then allows you to identify key touchpoints where you can engage customers, such as through personalized email marketing following a reservation or targeted ads for customers who’ve shown interest in specific dishes.

Consistency is Key: 

Brand consistency across all channels reinforces your restaurant’s identity and values. This means ensuring that your visual branding, tone of voice, and messaging are harmonious whether a customer is reading an email, browsing your website, or scrolling through your social media feeds. For example, your Instagram posts should reflect the same brand personality as your menu descriptions and email communications, creating a cohesive and recognizable brand experience.

Invest in Seamless Technology Integration: 

Beyond integrating your POS, CRM, and CDP systems, consider the broader ecosystem of technology solutions that support omnichannel marketing, including reservation systems, delivery platforms, and payment processors. Seamless integration of these technologies ensures a frictionless experience for customers, whether they're making a reservation, placing a delivery order, or completing a payment. For example, integrating your reservation system with your CRM can enable personalized greetings and service based on a customer's previous visits and preferences, enriching the dining experience and fostering loyalty.

Utilize Customer Feedback for Agile Adaptation: 

Incorporating customer feedback into your omnichannel strategy is crucial for maintaining relevance and satisfying customer needs. Regularly soliciting feedback through surveys, comment cards, social media interactions, and review platforms provides invaluable insights into customer satisfaction and areas for improvement. Use this feedback to make agile adaptations to your services, menu offerings, and marketing messages, ensuring your restaurant stays aligned with customer desires and expectations. For example, if feedback indicates a demand for more plant-based options, you can highlight these choices in your marketing channels and monitor the response to further tailor your approach.

Leverage Technology for Personalized Marketing: 

Advanced technology, like AI and machine learning, can significantly enhance personalization in your marketing efforts. These tools analyze customer data to predict preferences and behaviors, enabling you to send personalized recommendations, promotions, and content that resonate with each customer. For instance, a customer who frequently orders spicy dishes might receive targeted emails highlighting your latest spicy menu additions or exclusive offers on their favorites. Investing in technology that facilitates deep personalization will set your restaurant apart in a crowded market and deepen customer relationships.

Cross-Train Your Team on Omni Channel Initiatives: 

Ensuring your staff is well-versed in your omnichannel strategy and how it translates to customer interactions is key. Cross-training your team across different roles and channels enhances their understanding of the customer journey and how each touchpoint contributes to the overall experience. This knowledge enables staff to provide consistent, informed service, whether they're interacting with customers in person, over the phone, or through digital platforms. Regular training sessions can update the team on new marketing campaigns, technological tools, and how to deliver a cohesive brand message, fostering a unified approach to customer service.

Monitor and Manage Online Reputation Actively: 

Your online reputation is a critical component of your omnichannel strategy. Actively managing your presence on review sites, social media platforms, and your own website ensures that the narrative around your brand remains positive. Responding promptly and professionally to both positive and negative feedback demonstrates your commitment to customer satisfaction and can significantly influence public perception. Moreover, leveraging positive reviews in your marketing materials and on your digital platforms can enhance your restaurant's credibility and appeal.

Engage Across Multiple Channels: 

Utilizing various channels for engagement means adapting your content and interactions to fit each platform’s unique features and audience. For example, while Instagram may be ideal for showcasing high-quality images of your dishes, email marketing might be more suited for sharing detailed stories about your ingredients’ origins or chefs’ backgrounds. Tailoring your approach to each channel maximizes engagement and connects with your audience in meaningful ways.

Continuous Learning & Optimization: 

The digital landscape is ever-evolving, and so are customer expectations. Regularly analyzing engagement and sales data across all channels enables you to understand what resonates with your audience and what doesn’t. This ongoing analysis should inform your marketing strategy, allowing you to make data-driven adjustments that enhance customer engagement and drive sales. For instance, if data shows that email campaigns featuring behind-the-scenes content generate high engagement, you might consider increasing the frequency of such emails or replicating the approach on other channels.

Challenges in Omnichannel Marketing for Restaurants

Website Homepage, Texas Roadhouse, 5 March 2024

Maintaining Consistent Branding & Experience:

One of the primary challenges in omnichannel marketing is ensuring consistent branding and customer experience across all channels. Discrepancies in messaging, offers, or even the tone of communication can confuse customers and dilute your brand identity. For instance, if a promotion is available through your app but not recognized in-store, it can lead to customer frustration and a perceived lack of reliability in your brand. Overcoming these challenges requires meticulous coordination and a centralized content management system to ensure all channels reflect the same brand values, offers, and messaging. Despite these hurdles, achieving consistency solidifies your brand's reputation and enhances customer trust, making the effort well worth it.

Data Overload:

Restaurants today have access to an unprecedented amount of customer data, from dining preferences to order history and interaction logs across various platforms. Managing and making sense of this data can be overwhelming, posing significant challenges in data consolidation, analysis, and practical application. The key to navigating this data overload is to invest in robust Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Customer Data Platform (CDP) systems that can aggregate, analyze, and provide actionable insights from your data. Although daunting, mastering data management is essential for personalizing customer experiences and making informed business decisions, ultimately unlocking the full potential of omnichannel marketing.

Technology & Integration Issues:

Ensuring seamless communication between various digital platforms and operational systems is a major technical challenge in omnichannel marketing. Restaurants often use a mix of solutions for reservations, orders, CRM, and marketing, which may not naturally integrate. This can result in disjointed customer experiences and operational inefficiencies. Overcoming these challenges requires careful selection of compatible technologies and possibly custom integration work. The investment in integration ensures that data flows smoothly across systems, enabling a truly unified and efficient omnichannel operation.

Training & Team Alignment:

Aligning every team member, from marketing to front-of-house staff, with the omnichannel vision is crucial yet challenging. Each team member plays a role in delivering the omnichannel experience, whether they are directly interacting with customers or supporting backend operations. Comprehensive training programs and regular communication about omnichannel strategies and goals are essential to ensure that everyone understands their role in executing the omnichannel experience. Customizing training for the specific needs of the restaurant industry, focusing on scenarios staff are likely to encounter, helps in creating a cohesive team aligned with the omnichannel vision.

Other Relevant Challenges:

Customer Privacy Concerns:

In an era where personal data is a valuable commodity, restaurants face the challenge of balancing personalized marketing efforts with the need to respect and protect customer privacy. Ensuring that data collection and usage comply with regulations like GDPR and SOC2 is paramount. Transparent communication about how customer data is used and providing options for customers to control their data can help mitigate privacy concerns and build trust.

Channel Preference Diversity:

Customers have varied preferences for how they wish to interact with restaurants, from traditional phone reservations to social media engagement and everything in between. Catering to this diversity requires restaurants to maintain an active and responsive presence across a wide range of channels, which can be resource-intensive. Understanding your customer base and prioritizing the channels they most frequently use can help focus your efforts and resources effectively.

Adapting to New Technologies:

The digital landscape is constantly evolving, with new platforms and technologies emerging regularly. Keeping pace with these changes and integrating new tools into your omnichannel strategy can be challenging but is necessary to stay relevant and competitive. Continuous learning and a willingness to experiment with new technologies can help restaurants maintain an edge in the omnichannel space.

Integral Technologies for Omnichannel Restaurant Marketing

Selecting the right technological tools is crucial for navigating the complexities of omnichannel marketing. A well-chosen suite of tools enhances customer engagement, fosters loyalty, and maintains a consistent brand voice across all platforms, while also yielding valuable insights into customer behaviors and the effectiveness of marketing strategies. Below, we outline essential technologies that should be part of your restaurant's omnichannel marketing toolkit.

Unified Email & SMS Solutions:

In today’s fragmented media environment, cohesive management of email and SMS platforms is non-negotiable. These tools should enable synchronized messaging that aligns with your restaurant's branding and promotional calendar, ensuring a consistent message across all touchpoints. They should also offer automation features to trigger messages based on customer behavior, making your marketing efforts both efficient and personalized.

Integrated Loyalty Systems:

A robust loyalty program bridges the gap between digital engagements and in-restaurant experiences, encouraging repeat business. Your loyalty system should integrate seamlessly with other platforms, tracking customer interactions both online and offline to deliver tailored rewards and offers. This integration helps in creating a seamless customer experience that reinforces their connection to your brand.

Comprehensive Digital Reservation Tools:

Digital reservation systems should do more than just book tables; they should serve as an extension of your omnichannel strategy. Look for systems that integrate with your CRM, loyalty program, and marketing platforms, enabling personalized guest experiences from the moment a reservation is made. This approach ensures each customer interaction is informed by their history and preferences, leading to higher satisfaction and repeat visits.

Advanced Analytics & Reporting:

Centralized analytics and reporting are indispensable for omnichannel success. Your chosen platforms should offer detailed insights into customer journeys across all channels, from initial contact through post-dining follow-up. Look for tools that provide real-time data and customizable reports, enabling you to make informed, agile marketing decisions based on actual customer behavior and campaign performance.

Parting Thoughts on Omnichannel Marketing

The future of restaurant marketing is unequivocally omnichannel. As technology continues to evolve and customer expectations rise, embracing an omnichannel approach is no longer optional but a necessity for restaurants aiming to succeed in the digital era. By prioritizing customer experience, consistency, and data-driven insights, restaurants can navigate the complexities of omnichannel marketing and emerge as leaders in the new dining landscape.

The Future of Omnichannel Marketing for Restaurants

Emerging trends, such as augmented reality dining experiences, chatbots for instant customer service, and AI-driven personalization, hint at an exciting future for omnichannel marketing in the restaurant industry. Staying ahead of these developments and continuously adapting your strategy will be key to maintaining relevance and delivering the ultimate dining experience, both offline and online.

Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Omnichannel Marketing

February 23, 2024
Read Time: % Min

Explore Fishbowl's guide on integrating digital and physical marketing for restaurants to improve customer experience.

View Ultimate Guide

These days, reaching new patrons is a steep climb, especially as paid digital media costs soar. Restaurants have traditionally leveraged email, SMS, and loyalty marketing to attract loyal customers without breaking the bank—with email marketing as the cornerstone. But what’s the secret to getting customers to sign up for your email campaigns? What makes them opt into SMS messages? How can you persuade them to join your loyalty program? And once someone enrolls, how do you continue to grow your opt-ins, while reducing the number who decide to opt-out? If you're curious about how rivals are boosting their traffic, remember that it's never too late to harness targeted, data-driven marketing for instant impact. The silver lining? Advanced analytics tools are now accessible, leveling the playing field. These tools can pinpoint your most valuable patrons, enabling you to sharpen your marketing strategies for maximum effect. So, let's dive into the how-to of these powerful marketing tools.

Understanding Customer Data in Restaurant Guest Acquisition

The better your data, the better your insights.

It’s been estimated that 80% of a restaurant’s business comes from 20% of its customers. So, it makes sense to focus on those customers that will provide the highest lifetime value (LTV) rather than targeting infrequent visitors. The first step in doing this is to gain a deeper understanding of those guests, so you can continue to market to them, and find others like them. This requires more than just understanding how they interact with you. You’ll want to know their habits and preferences outside the restaurant: where they’re from; what they do when they aren’t with you; and what interests they have. CRMs like Fishbowl GRM can capture and track essential first-party customer data such as:

  • Visit Recency and Frequency: Measured by date of last visit or online order; when and how often the guest chooses your restaurant; etc.
  • Visit Details: Reservation details, Wifi signup, waitlist information
  • Personal Info: Name; email addresses; ZIP code; important dates (like birthdays or anniversaries)
  • Engagement: Email opens & clicks; SMS responses
  • Average Spend: Check summaries; average tip amount; online order details
  • Order Details: What the guest typically orders
  • Platform Details: How the guest placed an order
  • Other Preferences: Preferred location, last location visited

For most restaurants, these data points originate from systems already in use. Whether you realize it or not, every interaction with every guest or potential customer creates information that you can access to glean new insights.

First-party data is essential because it’s information you already own.

It’s critical that your CRM can integrate with your existing tech stack to access your data and avoid silos—multiple databases with different logins, passwords and reporting. The ideal Customer Relationship Management system streamlines your workflow with a dashboard that contains these inputs in one easy-to-understand interface.

When all your data is in one place, you can begin to create a 360° view of your guest.

Audience Segmentation: Slice and dice before you cook.

Once you can connect and compile your restaurant’s data onto a CRM, you can segment your audiences in various ways, and use those micro targets to develop specific marketing programs. What might those segments look like? Try sorting them by:

  • Most loyal customers: Reward your regulars, who have a high lifetime value, with exclusive recognition, not just financial incentives. Show appreciation for their loyalty to cultivate their continued support.
  • Local customers: Neighborhood locals need minimal encouragement to visit. A simple reminder of your proximity and open doors may be all that's needed to draw them in.
  • Engagement metrics: Monitor email opens, clicks, bounce rates, and SMS deliverability. This data differentiates between one-time visitors and repeat customers who are engaged and expect communication from you.
  • Average spend: Categorize guests by spend patterns and tipping behavior. This guides both operational choices and the development of targeted marketing messages.

Understanding data types.

When delving into your data, categorize the information to spot trends and identify opportunities. This organization also aids in creating 'lookalike' audiences with similar characteristics and behaviors. Consider these various data types:

  • Demographic: Use this for basic segmentation, such as categorizing customers by age, income, and education level.
  • Personal data: Specific to individuals, including details like birthdays, emails, or mailing addresses.
  • Psychographic data: Defines customers by interests, worldviews, and activities, offering insights into their hobbies and preferences.
  • Behavioral data: Reveals customer actions, from visit frequency to menu preferences and online behavior.
  • First-party data: Directly collected information from your systems or provided by customers, like birthdays and anniversaries.
  • Second-party Data: Obtained from partners, such as purchased mailing lists or survey results, where legal and ethical collection is crucial.
  • Third-party Data: Gathered by external entities, compiling various sources for a broader view of target segments. This is data you can use for simple segmentation. It includes the broad impersonal categories customers can be defined by like age range, income and education.

Leveraging Data with Fishbowl’s CDP

Fishbowl works with more than 50,000 restaurants to power marketing campaigns and develop strategies that increase customer engagement. With a powerful platform like Fishbowl GRM, you can scale efficiently and effectively. Nowhere is this more evident than with our partnership with Texas Roadhouse, the fastest growing restaurant brand in the United States. Working with Fishbowl, Texas Roadhouse has seen exponential database growth, and has the analytics required to understand that expansion down to the local level. Powered by this data, we help a 670-location restaurant chain grow their local databases and acquire new customers through local contesting, website signups and more.

Collecting and Managing Customer Data

Strategies for how to collect, manage and use your data for better restaurant marketing.

Join the VIP Club Website, Texas Roadhouse, 25 April 2024

Strategies for Collecting Customer Data

Before you can use data, you need to get that information in the first place. There are many novel ways to start, such as:

  • Website Opt-in Forms: Use subtle opt-in forms with compelling CTAs on your website to capture interest seamlessly as visitors interact with your brand.
  • Loyalty Programs: Encourage customers to join your 'club' to foster emotional connections. Loyalty isn't just about financial incentives; it's about exclusive experiences and insider perks that tie people closer to your restaurant.
  • Feedback Surveys: Collect valuable first-party data through surveys post-dining. Distribute them via receipts, table drops, QR codes, social media, website, or direct communication, and use the insights for immediate improvement.

Data-Driven Marketing Strategies for Guest Acquisition

You can’t buy engagement, but you can build it, and there are lots of ways to reach would-be customers on any number of platforms. Every channel has its own pros and cons. As the adage goes: Go where your customers are or lose them for good.

Some of the many places to spend your marketing dollars:

  • Website & Apps
  • Search Engine Optimization (organic search)
  • Paid digital advertising (search marketing, retargeting, display)
  • Social media (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, depending on your objective)
  • Traditional advertising (Print, TV, radio, OOH)
  • Events and tradeshows

Putting your business in so many places can stretch your budget, be time-consuming, and deplete precious manpower. But there are at least two highly efficient channels that can drive significant ROI with even the most modest investments: email and SMS.

Personalize Email and SMS Marketing with Fishbowl

For restaurant marketers, there is no better tool than email. As a longstanding communications platform, email offers restaurants stability, control and affordability.

A vast audience of 4 billion daily users relies on email—and it’s the preferred method of communication for many.

Moreover, the impressive ROI from email marketing outshines other channels, and with Fishbowl’s automation capabilities, crafting targeted campaigns has never been more streamlined or impactful for restaurant operators.

SMS Marketing (texting) is another potent channel from Fishbowl. With text, restaurants can get guests’ attention immediately by delivering messages straight to the device they use the most– their phones. And SMS marketing can often be more rewarding:

  • 90% of consumers prefer text messaging to communicate with businesses.
  • Consumers are 8X more likely to redeem mobile coupons than printed ones.
  • 90% of smartphone owners see value in SMS loyalty programs.
  • Texts have a 99% open rate.
  • 90% of coupon users accessed theirs through a smartphone last year.
  • Business texts generate a 45% response rate.
  • It typically takes just 90 seconds for the average recipient to respond to a text.

Fishbowl GRM enables you personalize email and SMS messages, because audiences respond better to personalization:

The importance of personalization cannot be understated, and for good reason:

  • Marketers see an average increase of 20% in sales when they use personalized experiences.
  • 97% of marketers report a rise in business outcomes because of personalization.
  • Personalized emails achieve an impressive open rate of 29% and an outstanding click-through rate of 41%.
  • Marketers report an astonishing 760% increase in email revenue from adopting personalized and segmented campaigns.

Personalization is more than simply using a recipient’s name in a subject line or as a salutation. It means using your CRM’s ability to identify and segment audiences based on individuals, preferences and behaviors; and then use those traits to create content audiences will engage with. Examples of personalization may include how an offer is created; what images to show in different emails; or the language used in the call to action (CTA).

The Fishbowl team helps restaurant clients to sort through the nuances of personalization to create compelling content that resonates with each audience.

Tips for Successful Marketing Campaigns for Restaurants

  1. Make your message worth it: Your messaging should be a combination of value, exclusivity, and clarity. With every message, it’s essential to think about: what value can guests derive from, how exclusive is it, and is the message clear? The more campaigns you run over time, the more trends will emerge to help you further refine your messaging.
  2. Stay relevant: Keeping relevant and creating content that recipients enjoy will help boost engagement. You can accomplish this by providing real-time information and compelling promotions. Express your brand’s personality with vision, humor and spot-on emojis to make your campaigns more interesting.
  3. Personalize whenever possible: Create content that reflects the identity, choices and behaviors of your highest-valued guests. This will go a long way in boosting engagement and conversions across all your campaigns.

Measuring Success in Data-Driven Guest Acquisition

Without Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and a way to measure them (metrics), it’s impossible to know how well your campaign is doing, or how much revenue can be attributed to specific channels.

Everything you publish or send should have a purpose. Ask yourself, “what is the objective, and how will I know if we succeeded?”

A CDP lets you establish what you want to measure, and how, so you can instantly identify strengths in your marketing program, as well as areas that need improvement.

Key Metrics and KPIs with Fishbowl

Lifetime Value (LTV: A Customer Data Platform (CDP) can quantify LTV, a critical metric for refining customer acquisition. It's not just for creating lookalike audiences; it assesses if new customers match the value of your best patrons.

Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC): CDPs clarify CAC by tracking multiple touchpoints across channels, offering insights to streamline customer journeys and enhance ROI. Continually evaluate LTV and CAC to optimize media spend.

Conversion Rate: Define what conversion means for your marketing—be it a click, information share, or restaurant visit. Nurture customer relationships to progress from simple interactions to regular dining experiences.

Drop-off Rate: Identify and resolve technical barriers in the customer journey, such as website navigation issues or reservation system glitches, to prevent potential losses.

Churn Rate: Personalization is key, but ensure it reflects the actual dining experience. A rising churn rate suggests a disconnect between customer expectations and reality, signaling a need for adjustment.

Embrace Continual Learning and Shift on the Fly

One of the big benefits of a CRM is real-time reporting. That means that you can quickly find what’s proving to be most successful and use that knowledge to fuel your next approach, or double-down on your existing one.

Likewise, it quickly lets you know which approaches aren’t generating the results you’d hoped for so you can move those resources to the places that are serving you better.

However, this only applies if you’re paying attention, so set aside time regularly to see how your current initiatives are performing and optimize them.

Legal and Ethical Considerations in Using Customer Data

In the restaurant industry, the intersection of data protection and privacy is not only a legal imperative but also an ethical one. As establishments collect more personal information from guests than ever before, they must navigate a complex web of regulations. Ethically, restaurants are stewards of sensitive data, requiring a commitment to transparency and integrity in how they gather, use, and safeguard customer information. This delicate balance is crucial for building customer relationships and upholding your reputation.

Data Privacy and Compliance

When someone provides personal information, they are trusting you to use that information for the exact purpose that you stated at the outset. Falling short of that goal breaks customer trust, and will forever spoil that customer relationship.

As a business in good standing, it is essential to maintain goodwill with your clientele. So, ensuring your guests’ comfort and safety should be your priority. Remember that data ethics means asking “is this the right thing to do?” and “can we do better?” If the answer is no, then you’re not using data the right way.

There are many established and evolving legal issues around data privacy and data protection. Tapping into data requires navigating the complexity of regulations like GDPR and CCPA, which empower consumers with rights over their personal information. There may also be local and state guidelines to consider; and if you have multiple locations different rules could apply.

Most third-party solutions (like Fishbowl GRM) are continually improved as rules and regulations change.

Recap / Key Takeaways

Today, mastery of guest acquisition is not just an art; it's data-driven science. At the heart of this pursuit is the pivotal role of customer data—a treasure trove that can unlock boundless opportunities for growth and customer loyalty. As we've explored, this power comes with a responsibility to adhere to stringent legal and ethical standards, ensuring that trust is the foundation of every customer interaction.

Enter Fishbowl's Customer Data Platform (CDP), a transformative tool that can elevate the guest acquisition game. With Fishbowl GRM, the complexity of customer data becomes a streamlined pathway to personalized marketing strategies that resonate with diners and cultivate memorable experiences. It's not just about collecting data; it's about harnessing it to create connections that turn first-time guests into regulars, and regulars into advocates.

In closing, the ultimate guide to restaurant guest acquisition is about embracing the tools and practices that make your data work for you. Fishbowl is at the forefront of this revolution, providing the insights and capabilities necessary to navigate the competitive landscape with confidence and creativity. For restaurants looking to thrive, it's time to think outside the bowl and dive into the data-driven strategies that promise a future of full tables and satisfied customers.

Get Higher ROI with Fishbowl

Fishbowl GRM is a Guest Relationship Management platform (a mighty GRM) that offers all the features restaurants need.

Created specifically for the industry by a company with more than two decades of experience in analytics, marketing and customer acquisition tactics, Fishbowl GRM is designed to give the edge you need to compete in today’s tough market.

Restaurant Guest Acquisition

February 9, 2024
Read Time: % Min

It’s critical that your CRM can integrate with your existing tech stack to access your data and avoid silos—multiple databases with different logins, passwords and reporting.

View Ultimate Guide

Everything You Need to Know to Create a Successful Restaurant Loyalty Program

Keeping your existing customers coming back is key to the success of any restaurant venture. That’s because acquiring a new customer costs on average about five times more than keeping a current one. In fact, increasing customer retention rates by just 5% with a restaurant customer loyalty program translates into a profit increase of anywhere from 25-95%, which is why they are crucial to a restaurant’s success.

What is a restaurant loyalty program?

A restaurant loyalty or rewards program is simply a program that incentivizes your existing customers to come back more frequently and spend more with you when they do. There are a variety of ways that a loyalty and rewards program can be structured. It can be as simple as a card that gets stamped or punched any time a guest patronizes your establishment; or a tiered points system with rewards that increase based on the amount of spend or number of visits. This flexibility ensures that there is a rewards program that will make sense for almost any type of restaurant.

Understanding the benefits of a restaurant loyalty program

Encouraging repeat visits can have a significant effect on your profitability, but a loyalty or rewards program can impact more than just margins. Loyalty programs can also increase customer satisfaction; provide you with valuable data you can use to improve your business; generate larger guest checks; and even function as a way to test new initiatives and menu items. Understanding what benefits you’re interested in will help you ensure that you’re choosing the right type of loyalty program for your restaurant’s needs.

Increased customer retention, spend and frequency

The rising costs of digital and social media are pushing customer acquisition costs higher than ever before, so it’s vital to ensure that you’re doing everything you possibly can to retain your existing customer base. Instituting a loyalty program has been shown to boost customer retention rates by as much as 25%, and customers who belong to loyalty programs have a 20% higher purchase frequency rate than those who don’t. Plus, loyal customers have been shown to spend 60% more than other customers. It’s hard to argue with those kinds of numbers.

Promote customer satisfaction and word of mouth

People are predisposed to value the things that make them feel valued. It’s just human nature. A well-designed loyalty program will make your customers feel appreciated, which leaves them likely to share their positive feelings with others. 73% of loyalty program members recommend their loyalty program brands to others.

Friends Earning Star Rewards, Starbucks, 27 February 2024

Provide valuable business insights

Guests who join your restaurant loyalty program tend to also be your highest lifetime value (LTV) customers. The more you know about their likes and dislikes, the more ways you will find to attract others like them. This also makes them a perfect test market. A successful restaurant rewards program can help with everything from innovating new menu items to vetting event ideas. Imagine a loyalty program that rewards your most fervent fans with a limited edition secret menu or promotional swag gear. They feel like VIPs, and you can test new creations. In other words, don’t be afraid to think beyond the discount for best results.

Understanding the different types of loyalty and rewards programs

Loyalty program options have become increasingly sophisticated and customizable. While some broad mechanics that are commonly featured, there is an incredible amount of freedom to choose how customers earn rewards, and what kind of rewards your restaurant offers. Nearly every loyalty program is really a rewards program that is transactional in nature: the restaurant offers certain incentives in exchange for continued patronage. A good rule of thumb is to create a loyalty program that reflects your brand. While a top-tier restaurant might not want to offer a financial discount as an incentive, perhaps access to a special wine library or an exclusive event might fit perfectly, and could be a huge draw for a certain type of clientele.

Stamp or punch card

This is the simplest type of loyalty program to implement, requiring no investment in infrastructure or technology. However, it also offers very little in the way of insight or operational intelligence. That being said, if you’re looking to incentivize return visits in the simplest way possible, a “buy x, get x” printed card solution might be a good option.

How it works

Customers get a custom stamp or punch each visit. When they reach a set amount (usually 10 or 20) they receive a free item. Because of the low barrier to entry, this kind of promotion is often used in small, independent QSR operations.

Buy 5, Get 1 Free McCafe, McDonald’s, 27 February 2024

Points-based loyalty program

If you’re looking for flexibility, a points-based restaurant loyalty program might be a better solution to implement. Customers earn points by visits, dollars spent or any other metric you desire, and then redeem those points for rewards. As this type of program is managed digitally; and it’s easy to change incentives, reward levels or other aspects of the program on the fly, so you can adjust it as your restaurant’s business needs shift. To implement it, you’ll need to have a tech solution that tracks customer actions, and that empowers them to check their balances and understand rewards levels easily. Most reward program software integrates directly with your POS, to help you streamline implementation and track loyalty values. This also means you’ll glean a lot of data about their preferences, frequency of visits and common actions, and measure how those events directly impact sales.

How it works

This type of rewards program awards a set number of points for a given action, usually per visit or customer spend. Those points can then be redeemed for items, merchandise, experiences, or whatever else you think your customers will value.

Tiered loyalty program

Want to ensure your best customers are also the most highly rewarded? A tier-based loyalty program is the answer. As a valued guest, growing or keeping your status is a powerful motivator for return visits. This type of program lets operators provide high-incentive rewards that are scaled to the value of each customer. Like the points-based system, you’ll also gain valuable data on what motivates your customers to return, and what they love most. Run digitally, it is easy to shift rewards structures as your needs or your customers’ preferences change, so it provides a lot of flexibility in implementation.

How it works

Tiered loyalty programs segment customers into different levels based on their spend or visit frequency. Moving up a tier usually requires some level of consistency and in return provides the customer with more covetable incentives.

Tiered Loyalty Program, Subway, 27 February 2024

Subscription-based loyalty program

In this type of rewards program customers pay a yearly or monthly fee for exclusive access to discounts, menu items, events, or other special benefits. Subscriptions can be used for anything from a members-only VIP dining room or lounge, to a special plus-up with every meal. The restricted nature of the program can be a powerful draw for high-end customers seeking ultimate rewards: imagine food items that wouldn’t be otherwise practical to include on a standard menu, limited edition spirits or wine varietals or vintages, or access to very special seating for meals or special events. Subscription-based loyalty programs can become a VIP showcase for your kitchen or wine program’s creativity.

How it works

Guests pay monthly or yearly to unlock benefits, providing the restaurant with a dependable revenue stream; in return the customer receives exclusive premiums.

Unlimited Sip Club, Panera, 27 February 2024

Personalized loyalty programs

Advancements in technology mean that it’s possible to know more about your best customers’ preferences, milestones and needs than ever before. With the right tech stack, it’s possible to create a loyalty program where the rewards and incentives are tailored to the individual and accurately scaled to each customer’s value to your restaurant. Imagine an incentive program where everything you receive is something that is sure to delight. Current technology can help make that level of personalization happen.

How it works

Data analysis tools are used to parse customer preference and visiting habits, resulting in dynamic customized rewards that reflect who they are as individuals, and the current business goals of your restaurant.

Tips for building a more rewarding rewards program

A loyalty program can do more than just incentivize return visits. Loyalty programs are incredibly versatile, so start with your broader business goals, and then ask yourself if there is a way to structure your restaurant’s loyalty rewards program to help you achieve them. As a bonus, the more unique your program is, the more it will feel like a personalized model for your guests, and the more memorable and enticing it will be. There are a few principles to keep in mind as you get started.

Be strategic

Before you decide which restaurant loyalty program is right for you, spend some time thinking about your business needs and see if there is a way to structure your program to help you achieve them. Do you want to use your rewards program solely to build incremental revenue? Or do you need it for market research? As a test market? To build your online reviews? As a social media incubator? All of these things are possible if you carefully think through your strategy and define your goals first.

Think of how it can help you build your brand

Everything you do contributes to the way your restaurant’s brand is perceived. A loyalty program is no different. If you want your restaurant to be thought of a certain way, consider how your loyalty program can reinforce that. For example, if you have a chef known for experimentation and creativity, maybe your reward system is a taste of his or her latest culinary experiment. If you’re known for quality ingredients, your reward might be an invitation to a special dinner centered around the produce from one of the local farm suppliers. Find a way to make your loyalty program reflect who you are as a restaurant, so it becomes an instant brand builder.

Don’t be afraid to get creative

Just because most loyalty programs are run a certain way doesn’t mean yours has to be. Get creative with your rewards structure, and you’ll get people talking. An Italian restaurant might have a yearly Medici dinner and ball as a top reward for its most active loyalty program members. A farm-to-table restaurant might offer a farm visit with their chef at the highest reward level. Don’t be afraid to do something original.

Rewards Exchange, Chipotle, 27 February 2024

Learn as you go

The most successful rewards programs are the ones which are highly monitored. Run regular reports, and look for ROI and profitability. Don’t hesitate to shift gears if something isn’t adding up.

How to set your restaurant rewards program up for success

With so many options for creating a successful restaurant rewards program, it’s easy to get lost in the details. A great tech partner will make all the difference. Find one that offers the flexibility you need to create a loyalty program that reflects your individual goals; a platform with the support and ease-of-use necessary to manage the program and understand its ROI. That’s where Fishbowl comes in. Fishbowl GRM integrates with all your existing systems, so your POS and rewards software connect with and inform your customer data. These inputs help you identify your highest LTV customers, as well as the promotions that generate the highest ROI. With these bits of information you have a powerful understanding of what different guests want, and how to segment them into highly-engaged audiences. Fishbowl was developed by industry experts with more than two decades of experience in restaurant marketing, data, analytics, and tech. We know how to help restaurants create news-worthy loyalty and rewards programs. After all, we’ve been helping restaurants create them almost as long as loyalty programs have been around.

Loyalty & Rewards

February 8, 2024
Read Time: % Min

Keeping your existing customers coming back is key to the success of any restaurant venture. That’s because acquiring a new customer costs on average about five times more.

View Ultimate Guide

Does your Restaurant Need CRM, CDP or Both? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Tech ecosystems are constantly evolving, so it’s no surprise that it can be difficult for busy restaurants to keep pace. SaaS platforms, analytics tools, and the very discipline of leveraging data to make business decisions can be daunting to wade through and discern what you need for your restaurant. While there is some overlap between what a customer relationship management (CRM) system can do and what a customer data platform (CDP) can do, they serve distinctly different functions, and more often than not, work best and most effectively in tandem. In fact, a CDP is often referred to as a CRM database, which gives you a clue as to how they work together. Most restaurants have at least a cursory familiarity with CRM tools. The concept and reality of a CDP is a relatively new addition to the tech landscape, and certainly new to the restaurant tech stack. It’s easy to understand why many restaurants have trouble understanding what it is, and whether they need a CDP in conjunction with a CRM. In fact, for most restaurants, utilizing both in concert is key to staying competitive in today's market. In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about Restaurant Customer Data Platforms (CDPs), and help you understand how a CDP is critical to your restaurant’s business needs and how it works in concert with a CRM.

What is a CDP, and Why Would a Restaurant Want One?

A CDP is a platform that aggregates, organizes, and enriches customer data from a wealth of different sources. This includes software you use for table management, reservations, payments, orders, checks – as well as third party systems,reviews, check-ins, social posts, delivery apps, loyalty programs, sites visited, and ad data, for instance. In other words, a CDP takes guest data from your various platforms and organizes it, allowing you to build robust customer (guest) profiles that are surfaced to you in your restaurant CRM. In fact, one of the main purposes of a CDP is to create high-level and actionable business insights, such as understanding which customers provide the most revenue over time and how to find more of them most efficiently, or easily viewing your revenue across platforms and dayparts to identify strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities. Best of all, it does it all without the need to manually collate reports from different sources or enter data by hand, allowing management and staff more time to work on higher level tasks and helping with retention.

What is a CRM, and Why Does My Restaurant Need One?

The purpose of a CRM is all in the name – Customer Relationship Management. It’s a platform or software suite that’s designed to help you foster a better relationship between your restaurant and your guests. It helps collect and organize data to provide you with critical personal details like name, favorite dishes, birthdays and anniversaries, past orders, reservations, loyalty program redemptions and interactions with staff, promotions, communications and events. More advanced CRM platform software can also help you identify broader trends, segment by more than simple demographics and tailor your promotions and offerings to the customers who would be most likely to appreciate them. Alone, CRMs alone are limited because they can’t see beyond your own systems and first-party data, so they don’t allow for the level of insight and personalization you can access when you pair a CRM with a CDP.

CDP vs CRM for restaurants: Understanding the difference.

An easy way to understand how restaurant CRMs and CDPs are different is that a CRM help you manage the one-to-one and one-to-many relationships with your guests, while a CDP is a layer that can add additional context to understanding guest behavior, and is useful for generating large-scale insights that can help you optimize results across your organization.

A CDP offers a deeper understanding of your customers.

A restaurant CDP can access a broader pool of customer data, offering visibility beyond the limitations of your own direct interactions. A CDP can tell you what sites your highest value customers visit, so you can optimize your media spend. It can show you whether your best in-restaurant customers are also your best delivery customers. It offers a much more accurate picture of the lifetime value (LTV) of every customer you acquire, which leads to a more accurate understanding of the cost per acquisition (CPA), and how many steps it really took for you to acquire them. Used in concert with an advanced CRM system, CDPs also help better segment and personalize your outreach efforts. In other words, you can get more accurate insights into who your best customers are, what they love and don’t, and how to optimize your budget to acquire more of them.

A CDP can help you improve your restaurant’s customer experience.

A CDP enables you to track customer feedback, both positive and negative, and connect that information with actual guest behavior. This means that you can understand what your best customers love and what could be improved. This can help you create menu changes that increase frequency; help you fix potential problems such as wait times before they become an issue; give you a deeper understanding of which among your staff are your highest performers; and flag any changes in food quality instantly.

One-Star Review Reply, Etta Chicago, 23 February 2024

A CDP lets you see trends in real time.

As data is automatically updated, you can get an up-to-the-second view of how your business decisions are affecting your sales. This allows you to understand how even small shifts can impact your bottom line. This can be useful to gauge whether changing a supplier impacts your sales, whether your restaurant is over or understaffed or whether there are sudden shifts in a particular dish’s popularity.

A CDP allows you to sharpen your restaurant’s marketing efforts.

If you know your highest-value customers are very interested in farm-to-table, for instance, you’ll know to focus on the quality of your suppliers in your communications to them. While a CRM might tell you that your customers act a certain way, a CDP can help you determine why, and that can make all the difference in ensuring that every communication you send has the greatest impact on the recipient.

A CDP combined with a CRM can have a huge impact on profitability.

According to a recent study, companies using a both platforms saw: 9.1X increase in guest satisfaction 2.9X revenue growth 5.7X increase in customer spend 4.9X annual growth in up-sell revenue

Do I need a CDP and CRM?

We’ve shown you a CDP combined with a robust CRM can be an important tool for restaurants, but are they the right choice for your restaurant? Here are a few questions to ask to help determine whether one might be right for your business.

Do you struggle to understand whether you’re targeting the right customers with your marketing?

A CDP combined with a CRM can help ensure that your marketing and promotions target your highest value customers, rather than those who will visit once and never again.

How well do I understand which guests have the most impact on margins?

Who are your most profitable guests? Who are the ones talking about your restaurant, inviting others, ordering takeout when they can’t visit in person? What do they love about your menu? What entices them to keep coming back? Using a combination of a CDP and CRM will help you answer questions like these.

How much time are employees spending on repetitive tasks that could be automated instead?

Collating reports, manual data entry, combining analytics from different sources – all these repetitive tasks can eat away at employee satisfaction and take away time that could be spent to grow the business. A CDP can address this.

How confident are you that your KPIs are correct?

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are the benchmarks for any restaurant’s success. By helping you see the impact of any changes you make across your business and across a customer lifecycle, a CDP and CRM can revolutionize how you measure and understand what works and what doesn’t.

Can you track the impact of the most important business decisions you make?

A CDP allows you to gauge how everything from menu and supplier changes to employee hourly shifts impact profit margins and guest satisfaction instantly. If you’ve had issues where an improperly vetted decision has cost you in guest receipts, turnover or margins, a CDP is one way to prevent that from happening again.

Key features to look for in a CDP and CRM combo.

A wealth of data sources.

A CDP and CRM are only as good as the information they draw from. A good CDP will allow you to easily connect to data from across your tech stack – POS, marketing automation, online ordering, third party delivery apps, in-restaurant WIFI, reservation systems, loyalty programs and many others.

Sophisticated analytics tools.

A pool of high-quality information can’t help you if your CDP and CRM don’t have the tools you need to turn insights into action. A great CDP/CRM combo will have a wide variety of reports it can generate that will give you the foundation you need to make the strategic and tactical business decisions that really matter.

Ease of use.

An intuitive user interface and a searchable knowledge base can save you hours on the phone to customer support. Make sure your CDP-CRM has both.

Privacy law compliance.

Because both a CDP and CRM track and store data about your customers, choosing a trusted and experienced company with an extensive record in complying with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is key.

The ultimate optimization tool for any restaurant.

Restaurants have had a lot to contend with a lot in the past few years. Rising costs, staff shortages, economic uncertainty – all have made profitability harder to maintain than ever. A CDP+CRM can help ensure that the most important business decisions have the greatest possible impact. This makes either or both an excellent choice for any restaurant looking to grow business and maintain margins, no matter what the future has in store. Want to actually see the difference a CDP+CRM can make in your restaurant today? Try Fishbowl GRM – an all-in-one solution that combines the industry’s best Restaurant CRM and CDP, offering in one easy-to-use and even easier-to-integrate Guest Relationship Management platform.


February 7, 2024
Read Time: % Min

Tech ecosystems are constantly evolving, so it’s no surprise that it can be difficult for busy restaurants to keep pace. SaaS platforms, analytics tools.

View Ultimate Guide

Why develop an email marketing program?

Our email inbox is our digital living room. It’s the place we reserve for one-to-one conversations, which makes email marketing personal in a way even social media marketing can’t match. And that’s why restaurants who want to build better relationships with their customers can’t do better than developing an effective email marketing program. In this guide, we’ll teach you everything you need to know to create restaurant emails that will outperform the industry average and drive repeat visits and customer loyalty.

How effective is email as a marketing channel?

Developing a carefully considered email marketing strategy is still one of the best ways to ensure the success of your restaurant. That’s because email marketing offers better ROI (return on investment) than almost any other marketing channel, netting an average of $36 for every $1 spent. It’s also one of the most affordable digital marketing channels. You can begin developing your program with as little as a few hundred dollars. Best of all, you own the data and the insights, turning your efforts into a valuable resource that can fuel your restaurant’s revenue growth for years to come.

Restaurant email marketing tips: Crafting restaurant marketing emails that resonate.

When a customer gives you their email address, they are inviting you to create a stronger relationship with them. Do this effectively, and you can turn a prospect into an occasional visitor and an occasional visitor into a committed regular.

They are joining your family, so treat them that way

As we noted above, email is altogether personal. The more personalized your message and approach, the more successful you will be. In fact, studies have shown that messages that are specifically-tailored to the recipient can increase open rates by as much as 29%. This goes beyond just calling your customers by name. After all, when your favorite regular walks in, you know just what to recommend. A properly maintained email database allows you to have that relationship with every guest on your list.

The more you know them, the more they’ll know you

Email list segmentation, the process of dividing up your email list by interest group, drives up to 36% of email marketing ROI. This could be as simple as offering new and returning customers different incentives, or as tailored as targeting your emails to interest-based or demographic groups. Keeping your message relevant ensures that your customers won't just open your restaurant emails, they’ll look forward to them.

Think beyond the coupon

While offering incentives such as discounts for sign up or reservations can be effective restaurant email marketing tools, they aren’t the only way to drive loyalty, and aren’t right for every restaurant, target or email. Why not help them feel like insiders with special access to events, secret menu items and seasonal promotions? Or give them a behind the scenes look into the kitchen or the creation of a new menu item? You could even introduce them to your chef or key suppliers to create a stronger emotional connection and highlight the quality of your menu. There are countless ways to encourage repeat visits and significantly increase revenue without sacrificing margins; all it takes is a little imagination.

Think beyond the coupon, Arby's, 29 February 2024

Image is everything

As the saying goes, we eat with our eyes. That’s particularly true for restaurant emails. (After all, what other choice do we have?) Even the most delectable copy can’t take the place of appetizing imagery, so make sure that you always include at least a feature photo that does your subject justice. There are a host of AI tools that can help you create professional-quality imagery for minimal investment, so it’s easier than ever to create crave-worthy pix.

Keep your content as fresh as your ingredients

Most large brands create a content calendar with different themes to ensure that even their most devoted customers are served email that always surprises and delights. And it’s an approach even the smallest restaurant can emulate. Starting at least a couple of months in advance, create a calendar with all the events and themes you want to highlight and which audiences you will target. This will let you see at a glance what every audience segment will receive, and ensure that the proposed content is varied and relevant. Once you’re happy with a calendar, get crafting. Be sure to save any content that isn’t time-dependent into an email and newsletter content library you can draw on when new customers sign up. Before you know it, you’ll have an evergreen content library that will be the envy of your competition.

Turn words into actions

While the average open rate for restaurant emails is a respectable 38.5%, the average click-through rates (CTR) are a dismal .68% (compared to an all-industries CTR average of 1.33%). This means most restaurants are struggling to connect words to actions. This doesn’t just add up to lost revenue. It also makes it difficult to understand what content is resonating and what isn’t, and hard to update your email marketing strategy accordingly. Always have an idea in mind of what action you want your guests to take after they read your email. However, just like with your types of content, it’s important to take a broader view here. This could mean making a reservation or ordering takeout, but it could also mean clicking to learn more about a particular supplier or menu item on your site, or downloading a recipe for a treasured salad dressing that keeps your menu top of mind.

Learning the fundamentals – restaurant email marketing tips, strategies and tactics that make all the difference

The right subject line is worth the effort

When it comes to email marketing subject lines, shorter is better. The ideal length is 17-30 characters, which ensures your subject line will be viewable on both mobile and desktop without getting cut off. That means that every word counts, so make sure you are using every word effectively and that your word and punctuation choice reflects your restaurant’s brand perfectly. The best approach is to distill your restaurant email or newsletter down to its most compelling point and write a subject that highlights that. If you have a limited-time offer, put the offer in the subject or highlight the deadline to create a sense of urgency. If you’re introducing a new menu item, showcase a behind-the-scenes peek to learn about a new technique or unexpected ingredient that went into its creation.

Stand out in the crowd

Just like you want your restaurant to be instantly recognizable from the street, you want your emails to reinforce the brand you’ve so carefully cultivated and stand out at a glance, even in a crowded inbox. The way to do this is to have your design team create a set of branded templates for every type of email or newsletter you plan to send. This will also allow you to create new content much more quickly, with less oversight time and design cost. A typical basic email template package for restaurants would include:

  • Welcome email: Just like you always greet guests who walk in the door, you’ll want to send a greeting email when someone signs up for your list. This could include a thank you for signing up, an offer like a free appetizer or discount as a reward or a preview of the types of content that they might expect.
  • Newsletter email: This is the format you would use to cover multiple different types of content at once. It’s important to set some guardrails in the beginning, so that they feel more curated and less like a random catch-all for things you don’t want to send out individually. An example of this is, if you’re introducing a new menu for the season, you could preview some of the star ingredients, announce a new signature dish, a note from the chef on the stories behind its creation and an invite for a special celebratory event. Ideally, you should restrict yourself to 3-5 pieces of content. As with all email content, being concise is key, so establish character limits for headlines and sections up front and include generous amounts of whitespace to make your newsletters easy to read.
  • Offer email: This template is used for a single offer with a redemption device, such as a coupon code.
  • Special event email: This template is particularly useful for events that occur outside of normal seasonal events, big announcements or that you want to reserve for specific segments of your email list, such as a VIP dinner or meet the chef event. Make sure you include a reservation link or code, so you can track results.
  • Announcement email: To let your guests know about changes in hours, holiday closings or other alterations in operations, a non-promotional announcement email is an excellent thing to have in your toolkit.
  • Holiday emails: Planning ahead by having designs ready for your busiest holiday seasons will save you a lot of headaches and time-spent when you want to be focusing on other things. This could be any holiday where you have busier than usual traffic, so don’t be afraid to think beyond the usual here.

Those are just the basics. The more you can automate your email marketing approach, the more time you’ll save, so if you find yourself creating the same type of email more than once, don’t be afraid to create a standard template for it. Your customers will get a more consistent and polished experience, and you’ll save on design and oversight costs.

Show Dad You Care, Perkin's, 29 February 2024

Get time on your side

No one likes to get bombarded with too many emails. Industry best practices state that you should send out restaurant marketing emails or newsletters no more than once a week. Of course, ideal frequency will depend on both the type of restaurant you are, and the person you’re targeting. If you’re a high-end restaurant, and you’re sending an email to a guest who only comes once a year for their anniversary, once a month might be plenty. OK, so now we know how often, but what about when? Generally, restaurant emails sent Tuesday through Thursday from 1-3 pm are more likely to be read. And, while 23% of emails are read 60 minutes after they are sent, some recipients might wait as long as two or three days, so make sure your event marketing emails and time-gated offers or restaurant email promotions are sent at least three days in advance for the greatest possible response rate.

Test and learn

A/B testing, the process of sending two different emails to a subset of your target before sending to the entire group, can be an invaluable tool for optimizing your restaurant email marketing results It’s important to note that small changes can make a big difference, so try not to test too many things in one A/B test. Some things you might consider are varying your subject line, testing different copy lengths or different subject matter to see which is the most relevant. The more you get to know what works best for each of your email or newsletter target groups, the more you can incorporate those learnings into future campaigns to supercharge your email marketing and newsletters.

Discover the power of now.

Seasonally themed emails and promotions, events and time-gated offers are a great way to entice action when you are looking to boost results. No one likes to think they might miss out on something special, so be sure to work in time-gated emails into your restaurant content calendar for best results. These could be as simple as a special limited-time seasonal dish or an exclusive event for a particular holiday. It could also be an offer that’s only available for a brief time. This reinforces the customer value of being on your email list and allows your guests to feel like they are the first to be in the know.

Summer or Fall Drinks, Starbucks, 29 February 2024

Choosing the right restaurant email marketing platform

There is a wealth of options to choose from when you’re trying to select an email marketing partner. From simple restaurant email marketing tools that can help with design and templates, to restaurant email marketing apps that can cover a variety of functions, the sheer volume of choices can be a bit overwhelming. However, a bit of time and care up-front can save you a lot of headaches later. Restaurants are businesses with very specific needs, so choosing a partner who specializes in restaurants might be a good place to start. Or perhaps you’re more concerned with integration with your existing restaurant software, or the flexibility to serve a wide variety of functions. For instance, a newsletter focused-app might not have the versatility you need to create a drip campaign – an email campaign that would automatically send in pre-scheduled intervals. Some features to consider:

  • A/B testing: Not every app offers this feature, so if you’re looking to optimize your results through testing, you’ll need to ensure it’s part of your chosen company’s feature list.
  • Automation: As noted above, this is essential for any drip campaign and will also allow you to access more sophisticated features like audience segmentation.
  • Restaurant expertise: An easy way to ensure that an app will integrate with your existing restaurant software and will be flexible enough to work for your specific needs is to choose a partner who specifically works with restaurants.
  • Customer database or CRM: If you’re hoping to segment, you’ll need to have a database solution that can integrate multiple streams of data from all your customer touchpoints and ideally incorporate customer data from beyond your own interactions. If you already have this solution or won’t be segmenting, you might only need a CRM partner.
  • Price by volume: Many apps scale their pricing by number of emails sent. If you’re planning to do a lot of audience segmentation or are a restaurant chain looking to send to a large email list, this could be an important factor to consider.
  • Email marketing templates and customization: Some restaurants prefer an all-in-one solution. When you want to use your email platform also as a design tool, you’ll need to ensure that it offers enough variety in its templates to suit your needs. If you’re using an online design tool such as Canva, you’ll need to ensure that the software will integrate with your chosen design platform.
  • Restaurant expertise: Secure data collection and storage is essential to maintaining customer trust, so make sure to choose a partner that can verify how they treat your guests’ personal information.
  • GPDR compliance: Ensuring you’re always on the right side of privacy laws is key, particularly for restaurants. The easiest way to do this is to choose a partner who has robust compliance options to ensure that you will have no issues with regulation.
  • Mobile optimization: Surprisingly, almost 20% of email campaigns aren’t optimized for mobile screens even though more than 60% emails are viewed on mobile. Choose a service that offers a preview of what your emails will look like on mobile as well as desktop so you can be sure that they will always look their best.
  • Customer service: If you run into issues, you’ll want to be sure that you can get help when you need it. Be sure to choose an email marketing partner that will be there when you need them.

It’s easier than you think to develop a winning email marketing strategy

If you don’t have a comprehensive email or newsletter marketing program, you’re losing out on potential revenue.

Email Marketing

February 6, 2024
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Our email inbox is our digital living room. It’s the place we reserve for one-to-one conversations, which makes email marketing personal in a way.

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Everything Restaurants Need to Know About Text Message Marketing

If you’re not using SMS messaging to build your business, you’re missing out on one of the most effective marketing channels for restaurants. The average American checks the phone almost 100 times per day; unlocks it 150 times a day; and actually touches the device more than 2,000 times a day. And 91% of those well-connected users say that they are willing to opt-in to receive text messages from brands. However, for many restaurants, SMS, or text messaging, is a widely underutilized channel. This guide will teach you everything you need to know to change that.

What is text message marketing, and how does it apply to restaurants?

Text message marketing, also known as SMS marketing, is simply the act of sending a message to a specific set of opted-in subscribers. This type of messaging can be used by restaurants and their customers for a variety of purposes:

  • Make and update reservations
  • Place takeout orders instantly and easily
  • Manage curbside pickup
  • Let customers know when their table is ready
  • Promote new menus or items
  • Promotions and discounts
  • Make and update reservations
  • Daily special notifications
  • Interact with your Loyalty program

What makes text different from any other restaurant marketing channel?

When we refer to text message marketing as one of the most effective marketing channels, we aren’t saying that lightly. Text messages boast a 98% open rate, which is five times higher than email, the next most effective channel. What’s more, text messages aren’t just opened, they are acted on. SMS messages average a 45% response rate, which is something no other channel can claim. Plus, it’s instant – 80% of customers will read a business text within five minutes of receiving it. Those numbers alone should make text messaging a key consideration for your marketing strategy. It is also one of the only channels where everyone on it has asked to be there. It’s important to note that you need to get your customers’ specific permission or opt-in before you begin sending them texts. This isn’t just good business practice. It’s required by privacy laws. (You’ll also want to give them the option to opt-out, if only in the first message you send them.) This ability to join and depart at-will makes it particularly important to have a well-thought-out strategy that ensures that every communication provides value, so your customers remain engaged and happy to hear from you. Given the potential rewards, it’s well worth the effort.

Understanding the terminology

As with any type of marketing, text message marketing has its own commonly used terms and acronyms. It helps to have at least a basic understanding of some of the terms and what they mean before you dive in.


An SMS message is the original form of text message. The acronym stands for Short Message Service, and refers to a text-only message, with no images, audio, video or other form of multimedia. There are compensations for the lack of embellishment: SMS is a universal format that works well with any type of mobile phone, and uses a phone’s native messaging app and cellular network, which means that it looks the same for everyone, and isn’t likely to incur technical issues. All text messages should be brief, but with SMS it is essential as messages are limited to 160 characters.


The next level of text message is the Multimedia Messaging Service or MMS. Like an SMS, it uses a phone’s native messaging app and cellular network, but this format supports audio, pictures or other forms of multimedia. There is no character limit as every phone is different, but most phones are incapable of handling messages that are over 300 KB, so simplicity is still key.


The most elaborate message format is known as Rich Communication Services or RCS. It requires a data or Wifi connection and won’t work with every phone model or with compatible phones that are set up to prevent RCS communications. But RCS lacks in accessibility it makes up for in versatility and wow factor. It supports video, locations, transactions, video calling, live chats, and a lot more. It’s almost like combining the features of an app with the ease of a text message.


An opt-in is a text message where a customer gives your restaurant explicit permission to send them marketing messages. This is a legal requirement and is an essential first step before you send a guest any kind of promotional text.


A subscriber is a customer who has given you permission to receive your marketing messages.

Subscriber list

The database of all customers who have agreed to receive marketing messages is known as a subscriber list.


An opt-out is a text message sent by customers to a restaurant to inform them they no longer want to receive marketing messages. Restaurants are required to send opt-out instructions as part of the first text they send a customer. A typical way to handle this is adding the phrase “Reply STOP to unsubscribe.” at the end of the first message.

Short code

This refers to a 5 or 6 digit number that’s used in marketing to replace a standard 10-digit number as it’s easier to remember. An example of this is “Dial 56556 to get notified about future events.”

Long code

A long code is a standard 10-digit telephone number that can be used to send and receive SMS and MMS numbers.


A Uniform Resource Link (URL) is a link to a unique resource on the Web. This can be a page, a document, an image, a survey - anything you can find on a standard web link.

Short Link

Web links or URLs aren’t known for their brevity. Link shortening services were developed as a way to allow links to be included within standard text message character limits. URLs that have been shortened by using a link shortening service are known as Short Links. You might also hear them unofficially referred to as Bitlys after one of the oldest shortening services -

What benefits can text message marketing offer restaurants?

With a low cost of entry, it’s easy to implement an SMS marketing program in even smaller restaurants. However, there are almost as many uses for text message marketing as there are types of restaurants, so it’s important to have a strategy that will work for your specific need before you begin.

Low initial investment

Sending texts can cost as little as $.015 per text and are often available at a flat monthly rate based on a committed monthly volume.

High ROI

While there are many uses specific to the restaurant industry that are difficult to translate into one-to-one sales, texting is low cost and high reward, yielding an ROI of up to $8.11 per message across verticals.

It’s personal

Text is a communication format that is generally reserved for the people and things we truly care about. When someone allows you to text them, they are joining your restaurant’s family. That’s an incredibly powerful thing.

It’s immediate

Text someone, and you know they will see it right away. That allows you to implement strategies you couldn’t in any other form of media. Just got a delivery of a limited supply of something special? You can use text to offer it up to your best customers to reserve first. Has someone canceled a coveted reservation time last minute? Text can help you rebook it instantly and will make your subscriber list feel like VIPs in the process.

It’s the perfect testing lab

Your subscriber list is made up of your restaurant’s biggest fans and best customers as a rule, so if you’re not sure about whether an initiative will be successful, they are also your ideal focus group.

Thinking about adding a new dish to the menu, but not sure how it will go over? Offer it up to your subscriber list as a secret menu item first. If it succeeds with your biggest fans, then you’ll have a good idea whether it will intrigue your wider audience before you shell out for higher-priced broad-reach media.

Best practices for restaurant text message marketing

Your subscriber list is a valuable resource, but it’s also one that’s vulnerable. If you’re not mindful about the quality and frequency of your communications, you’ll find that customers will be quick to unsubscribe. Keeping some industry best practices in mind as you design your program will help ensure your subscriber list stays as robust as possible.

Keep it brief

Text communication is a medium where every word counts.(And as we mentioned above, SMS messages are limited to 160 precious characters.) While you want your texts to have personality, try not to use three so-so words where one great one will do. Plus, shorter communications are more memorable, so keep it succinct and you’ll have more impact.

Make it valuable

If you aren’t offering your customers something they will appreciate with every text, you’re not creating a text worth sending. This doesn't necessarily mean you must offer a discount or a free item necessarily; it might be along the lines of letting them know like a favorite dish that’s back on the menu or an event they might be interested in was just announced. When you send a text, you’re interrupting someone’s day, so make sure you make it worth their while every single time.

Make it easy to act

Every additional step that happens between your invite and the action you want a guest to take translates to a substantial drop-off in results. If you’re sending a text to invite your subscriber list to an event, being able to reserve your place with a simple text response will give you a better result than taking them to a web page where they have to input information you already have. For the best results, do your best to make converting as easy as possible on your guests.

Make it personal

Text is the most personal of mediums, so the more personal you make your approach, the better. Ideally, this will go beyond just using their name. With the right tech stack (such as Fishbowl GRM), you can segment your subscriber list by interest, value, habits, prior campaign engagement or any other useful data and insights. This makes it easy for you to ensure that every contact will be of value to them and will make your subscriber list more valuable to you as well.

Don’t overuse it

How often is too often can vary widely with the type of restaurant you are, the strategy you are using for your text message program and the tolerance of your individual customers. Asking yourself whether every message has value to the person you are sending it to should help ensure that you aren’t being excessive, but we’d recommend starting slow and increasing in frequency as you gain insights from tests, segmentation and engagement data.

Getting started with SMS messaging

Think through your strategy

As outlined at the beginning of this article, text message marketing can take a wide variety of forms. Will you be using text messages to make reservations and ordering seamless? As a promotional channel? Or some combination of the above? Taking the time to think through how you want to use text messaging in your operation will give you the best chance of success, and will make every decision you make after that easier.

Evaluate your current technology

Before you start looking for a tech partner, it’s important to understand the integration capabilities of your current tech stack. If being able to make text reservations is important to you, for instance, you need to understand whether your current reservation system can accommodate that kind of functionality, or whether you will need to upgrade to make that possible. Understanding what you want to accomplish and what your current tech can do will help make choosing the right SMS technology simpler.

Build a subscriber list

There are a lot of techniques for building your subscriber list. You could put an invite with a short code on the bottom of every receipt that offers an incentive for joining; or use a QR or short code on your menu or on a table tent. If your system allows it, you can also add a join option when someone makes a reservation with their phone number.. You can even subscribe guests to your text messaging when they log into your on-premise Wifi.

However, before you start thinking through techniques to build your list, it might be helpful to look at it from your customers’ perspective. Because text is an interruptive medium, it’s important to ensure every text offers your guests something of value. If you’re a QSR, maybe that’s a discount on an order. But if you’re a high-end restaurant, it might be exclusive access to an event, reservation time or special dish. Thinking through the benefits from a customer point of view will also help you imagine unique ways to promote your subscriber list beyond just a free appetizer, and that will also help you reinforce the value of your restaurant’s brand.

Choosing the right SMS tech partner

Restaurants are like no other business, and we’d advocate choosing a text messaging solution that’s built by a company who understands the unique needs of restaurant marketing. That will save you a lot of time wading through features built for other types of industries and trying to explain to reps why their one-size-fits-all solutions don’t fit your needs.

Choose a partner that plays well with others

Dealing with technical integration issues can cost you in time, energy and customer frustration. To avoid all that, choose a partner that integrates seamlessly with not just your existing tech stack, but with a wide variety of restaurant software platforms, so that, if your business needs and technology shift, you can change course without breaking a sweat.

Choose a partner that's easy to work with

All the features in the world won’t help you if it’s impossible to learn how to use them. Make sure your tech partner offers an easy-to-use interface, a robust support library and a real human that is there when you have questions or an issue.

Choose a partner that gives you actionable insights

Reports and analysis are key to ensuring that you can quickly and easily evaluate what strategies are working and what aren’t. Choose a partner who helps you evaluate the results of every initiative in real-time, across platforms with a wide variety of reporting tools.

Choose technology that will grow with you

As your skills with SMS marketing grow, chances are you’ll find new ways to use it that you hadn’t considered initially. That’s why it’s best to choose a partner who offers a wide range of features you can access. Partners with robust features also tend to be quick to onboard new cutting-edge technologies, so you’ll always be able to stay one step ahead of your competition.

Choose technology that will grow with you

As your skills with SMS marketing grow, chances are you’ll find new ways to use it that you hadn’t considered initially. That’s why it’s best to choose a partner who offers a wide range of features you can access. Partners with robust features also tend to be quick to onboard new cutting-edge technologies, so you’ll always be able to stay one step ahead of your competition.

Choose a partner that’s reputable

Text message marketing is subject to an array of ever-shifting privacy laws and ethical considerations. Picking a partner that’s well known and trusted in the industry will help you ensure that you’re always in compliance with current regulations.

Ready to take the next step? Meet Fishbowl GRM.

If you’re looking for the ultimate text message marketing tech partner, we’d love to introduce you to Fishbowl GRM.

Created by restaurant industry experts with more than two decades of experience in restaurant marketing, data analysis, segmentation and technology, Fishbowl GRM offers all the features we’ve outlined above, and a whole lot more.

Visit us to learn more.

SMS/Text Marketing

February 5, 2024
Read Time: % Min

If you’re not using SMS messaging to build your business, you’re missing out on one of the most effective marketing channels for restaurants.

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Constantly refining, testing new approaches, and fine-tuning your marketing can help boost your guest engagement metrics; increase customer satisfaction; generate customer loyalty; and provide valuable data and insights to supercharge your ROI. However, without the right tools, implementing the most advanced strategies and techniques can take away valuable time, energy, and headspace from the important business of running your restaurant. That’s why more than ever, restaurants are turning to marketing automation.

What is Marketing Automation, and What Are its Benefits for Restaurants?

Imagine if welcoming a new customer to your mailing list, letting a regular who hasn’t visited in a while know that her favorite dish is back on the menu, or offering a VIP a coveted reservation time that’s just opened up for the date of his anniversary, all requiring you to do nothing but push a button. That’s just an inkling of what marketing automation can do for your restaurant business.

Put simply, a great restaurant marketing automation platform (MAP) lets you schedule, trigger and send the right message to the right customer at the right time. Once you set it up, a MAP can make even the most sophisticated personalization and segmentation strategies run practically on autopilot.

Taking a highly-targeted and personalized approach can boost recency, frequency and spend, which is why 80% of brands who use personalization have experienced a measurable lift in results.

While you can personalize and segment without automation, it’s more time-consuming and error-prone. Technically it can be done, but you’ll spend more energy and resources than with a platform designed to help you configure, segment, and automate your marketing tasks.

Lenten Specials Email, Lettuce Entertain You, 23 February 2024, Direct email from Lettuce Entertain You.

Restaurant Marketing Automation Software Can Improve Every Aspect of your Business

  • Personalize your guest messaging and campaigns to increase satisfaction, loyalty and spend
  • Segment your audience to send the right message to the right customer and reduce guests opting out because of lack of relevance
  • Employ sophisticated analytical tools that provide greater business insights to help you continually improve your marketing
  • Build a more rewarding loyalty program that includes personalized, triggered messaging and offers, and appropriately rewards your best customers
  • Make your marketing dollars and your time go further and more effectively increase your revenue
  • Fine-tune your multi-channel marketing programs and make adjustments to ensure maximum impact
  • Improve your targeting by understanding the complete picture of how your guests interact with your brand so that you can identify segments, lookalikes, and additional cohorts to target
  • Avoid having to jump around from one software platform to another – manage all your multi-channel marketing and analytics through a single login
  • Save your team valuable time by giving them the tools to easily automate repetitive tasks
Birthday Special, Chili's, 23 February 2024

Automation makes every restaurant marketing channel work harder

A Smarter Way to Handle Marketing Emails

  • Eliminate repetitive tasks: From a triggered ‘Welcome’ email to sending your VIPs updates on their rewards, every automation you create will help save time and effort. Most tasks and actions that you find yourself doing in the same way more than once can be easily set up as scheduled or triggered automations.
  • Be right on time, all the time: With marketing automation, your restaurant’s marketing team can create an entire series of multi-channel campaigns and messaging based on a guest's behavior or qualifying action. You can create journeys that map out each email or text message, and specify what content to send based on their previous engagement actions.
  • Consistency, again and again and again: Email and SMS templates make it easy to maintain brand consistency in your design, copy, and content. Create a template library that you can use for every type of email you regularly send. This will ensure every one of your emails will have a consistent look, feel and tone. With the simplest emails, such as offers, welcome emails, or reservation reminders, once you’ve created the template, your automation tool can handle the rest.
  • Get creative for better results: The benefits of segmenting your customers are endless, but most restaurants either ignore this step or only scratch the surface. A simple example of segmentation is sending a monthly discount offer to customers who haven’t visited within the last month. This offer is intended for past guests, so you don’t cannibalize the margins you’ll get from your regular visitors. A more advanced example is sending a VIP dinner invite to only your highest lifetime value (LTV) customers, or creating a monthly secret menu item that only your most loyal customers from the previous month can access.

A Smarter Way to Handle SMS/Text Messages

It’s a busy world, and few of us have time to talk on the phone. In a recent study, 90% of customers said they preferred text messages from businesses to direct phone calls. SMS/Text message automation allows you to automatically send:

  • Reservation confirmations
  • Reservation reminders
  • Loyalty program alerts and rewards updates
  • Post-visit review requests
  • Offers and promotions

However, much like with email marketing automation, it pays to get creative. If you’re promoting a quiz night, for instance, you might send out a question that, if answered correctly, rewards your regulars with a free appetizer.

Text Messaging Specials, Papa John's, 23 February 2024

A Smarter Way to Handle Restaurant Social Media Marketing

Treating every social media channel the same way can cost you in impact and reach. Tailoring your content and posting time to each channel and ensuring a regular posting schedule can significantly boost your audience engagement.

As audience engagement is key for getting your posts seen by both your followers and others, getting this right is key to a restaurant’s success.

How do you do that and still have time to run a restaurant? It’s easier than you think with Social Media Marketing Automation.

  • Get time on your side: Every channel has its own type of content and its own optimal posting time and frequency. Add in that the most important social posting times for restaurants, such as holidays and the lead-up to high-profile events, also tend to be the busiest staff times, and it can be a lot to manage. Social media marketing automation allows your restaurant to create all your content at once, tailor a version of it to each platform you use for maximum engagement, then auto-post it at exactly the right time for each platform you’re on, all from one centralized platform.
  • Build reputation and reach, one interaction at a time: You wouldn’t respond to a guest complimenting your food by just staring at them. The same principle applies on social media. How and when a restaurant replies to comments says a lot about the restaurant before someone ever walks in your door. A recent study found that restaurants that respond to reviews on social media saw a 15% increase in customer satisfaction (Helpscout). Plus, the more you engage, the more they will, and that can make all the difference in who your posts reach and how much you spend to reach them. Social media marketing automation can ensure that you’re always part of the conversation. By creating multiple specialized messages for every type of potential comment and sequentially releasing them, you can make sure your customers know you’re listening without it feeling canned.
  • Test, learn, and test again: What works for one business or even another restaurant might not work for you. That’s why it’s important to test as much as you can on every platform you are on. A good social media automation platform will have tools that make it easy to A/B test on different platforms and see the results in one place.
  • Be part of a bigger conversation: Some events get everyone talking, and a smart post about something timely can get a lot of attention. Creating posts for every potential outcome of a key event like the Superbowl, then auto triggering the correct version as soon as a result is posted is a fun way to play off whatever is happening in the larger world.
Game Day Instagram Specials, Hooters, 23 February 2024

A Smarter Way to Handle Review Collection

Reviews are the lifeblood of any restaurant, but the process of requesting, collecting and promoting them is a task most restaurants dread. Restaurant review collection automation takes it off your hands.

  • Get along to go along: Good review collection software will integrate seamlessly with your CRM and POS systems, so when a customer visits or orders takeout, the software will already know who they are and will be able to send them a review request instantly via their preferred contact method.
  • Pick a platform, any platform: Automatically guide customers to the review site you want to focus on most. This can be particularly useful when you have a lot of reviews on one site but not much love on another, or when one site indexes higher for your clientele.
  • Address issues before they become issues: Whoever said, “There is no such thing as bad press” must never have owned or managed a restaurant. However, a timely response can turn a negative review into a positive: 45% of customers said they were more likely to visit when a business responds to bad reviews. (ReviewTrackers) Most customers expect businesses to respond within a week, and a portion within three days. How and when you respond to a bad review can have a big effect on your success. Setting up automation software to flag negative reviews immediately lets you stay on top of conversations with ease.
One-Star Review Reply, Etta Chicago, 23 February 2024

A Smarter Way to Handle Loyalty Programs

Loyal customers spend about 70% more on average than first-time customers. (Bloom Intelligence), and 16.1% of customers said they would be more willing to order from restaurants that offer a loyalty program (Restaurant Readiness Index). However, loyalty program automation options can significantly change depending on the software you choose, so it’s important to look carefully to find the features you want.

  • The more flexibility, the greater the rewards for both of you: While a discount might be the right way to entice customers who aren’t regular visitors, a free drink or appetizer might be a better choice for regulars you’re hoping to upsell by introducing new behaviors. The ability to tailor rewards levels to the lifetime value (LTV) of the customer can also help you create the most efficient program for every type of visitor, so consider that the simplest solution might not always be the best one for your bottom line.
  • Your insights are only as good as your analytics: The more detailed the data your system can access, the better you can measure what types of rewards are performing and what aren’t. Having a simple measurement gauge might be easier to handle, but it won’t help optimize your results as effectively.
  • The best way to reach them is their way, not your way: In the era of information overload, customers can be picky about their contact preferences. Ensure your loyalty rewards program automation software has omnichannel support, so you don’t get drop-off by contacting customers through a less-than-ideal channel.
Free Avocado Spread Email, Jimmy John's, 23 February 2024, Direct email from Jimmy John's.

Getting Started with Restaurant Marketing Automation Software

  • Ensure your existing software integrates seamlessly: One of the first things you’ll need to do is check that your automation software is working perfectly with your reservation system and POS. This integration will fuel everything you do, so it’s worth checking that it’s all running together perfectly before you start experimenting.
  • Remember even a small step is a step in the right direction: Trying to implement every tool at your disposal all at once can be overwhelming and can lead to costly errors. Choose software that will accommodate you as your skills grow. Begin with the simplest and easiest changes first, and then add on as you start seeing results. That will also make it easy to see the impact of each change you make so you know what is working well.
  • Learn to segment and personalize effectively: A great automation tool puts a lot of customer data and analytics at your disposal. Again, the best way to start with segmentation is to start simply and grow the sophistication of your efforts over time, once you have a better understanding of how to properly take advantage of all the potential at your fingertips.
  • Set up triggered campaigns based on customer actions: Processes that work automatically in the background offer a huge value in saved time and effort. Begin with the standard automations, such as creating a welcome campaign or lapsed diner series; then expand out from there. These triggers aren’t hard to set up, so a good rule is to automate anything you find yourself doing more than a few times.
  • Always make room for improvement: The fact that a campaign may have a positive effect doesn’t mean that it can’t do even better. Small changes have surprisingly large impacts on results, so don’t be afraid to test, analyze and keep testing to be sure that your automated processes are providing the absolute best results.
  • An unwatched pot tends to boil over: Once you’ve set up your automated processes, and they are running smoothly, it’s tempting to let your attention drift to other things. However, just because a solution is working well today doesn’t necessarily mean it will tomorrow. Make time to review your analytics and reports regularly, so you can catch potential drop-offs before they make too much of an impact on your results.

Ready to get started?

Fishbowl GRM is the ultimate Guest Relationship Management tool crafted specifically for restaurants, and nearly everything on this page can me implemented and managed with it.

Created by pioneering leaders in CRM, analytics and strategic restaurant marketing, Fishbowl GRM seamlessly integrates with the software restaurants use most.

Fishbowl GRM pairs unmatched ease of use with advanced tools and analytics, helping even the most advanced marketers grow their skills along with their restaurant business. Try it for yourself.

Marketing Automation

February 4, 2024
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Constantly refining, testing new approaches, and fine-tuning your marketing can help boost your guest engagement metrics; increase customer satisfaction.

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Perhaps it’s not that surprising that personalization and segmentation are hot topics in restaurant marketing these days. After all, the better you understand your existing and potential customers, the more you can customize your communications and their experiences. The more you speak to what interests your guests, the easier it will be to convince them to get to know your restaurant better.

But, there are many different types of segmentation. So how do you know what’s the most effective one for your needs? This guide will help you learn everything you need to tackle restaurant customer segmentation with confidence.

What is customer segmentation?

Customer segmentation is also called guest segmentation, or more broadly, audience segmentation. Simply put, it’s dividing your guests into specific groups, so you can speak to them in a way that’s most likely to interest them. Much like being introduced to someone at a dinner party, finding common ground is the first step to building a worthwhile connection. Likewise, going into meticulous detail about an interest you have that they don’t share will get you labeled a bore. The same principles apply with segmentation.

How can segmentation help your restaurant business?

Even using simple segmentation strategies can have a huge effect on your bottom line. Not only will existing and potential customers be more interested in reading your communications (and more likely to act when they do), but segmentation will also decrease the cost of reaching them in the first place, increasing your ROI. That’s because broader targets are generally more expensive and less efficient than narrower targets.

In a recent Fishbowl case study¹, one national brand saw an increase from 4.56X ROI to 59.3X ROI simply by personalizing the type of burger featured in their annual promotion based on the guests’ past purchase history.

But that’s just a single case study. Looking more broadly, it’s been shown that personalized campaigns based on guest segmentation can increase revenue by 5-15% and reduce acquisition costs by up to 50%. And a recent McKinsey study found that companies that excel at personalization generate 40 percent more revenue from the same actions.

With these results in mind, the question isn’t whether your restaurant can afford to segment, it’s whether you can afford not to.

Better marketing is just the beginning.

Understanding your customers in a deeper way can help you ensure success in just about every aspect of your business. It can provide ideas to revamp your menu to better appeal to high-value customers; or a way to find a dedicated audience for your more niche dishes. Loyalty programs, staffing, training and even which suppliers you choose can all benefit from knowing what your guests value and what they don’t.

Plus, knowing your customers better can help ensure that you make the most of every decision you make. For instance, if your best guests value farm-to-table, but haven’t promoted local suppliers you already use, you’re missing the full benefit of your existing actions in terms of customer loyalty and retention.

What are the different types of customer segmentation restaurants can use?

The evolution of technology (like Fishbowl GRM) has provided restaurants of any size the means to employ highly-sophisticated segmentation strategies. However, even simple segmentation tools can still provide excellent business results.

If you’re new to customer segmentation, it can be helpful to start with the basics, but choose a technology partner that will grow with you as your skills grow. While there are best practices to follow, every restaurant is unique, so testing and learning is essential.

The value of demographic segmentation for restaurants

Perhaps the best known and oldest form of segmentation is demographic segmentation, which defines an audience based on broad statistical data such as age, income, occupation, education, or household makeup. Even this basic form of segmentation can yield surprisingly sophisticated insights when used correctly.

For instance, if you’re noticing your business is dropping off earlier due to an aging customer base, you might use age-based segmentation to develop a late night menu that would appeal to younger audiences, and a targeted campaign to promote it.

If data tells you your best margins are coming from households in a certain income range, you can specifically target more of those customers through income-based targeting. Or if your best customers tend to be highly educated, perhaps a partnership with local alumni associations would serve you best.

Maybe you’re in an area that indexes highly for a particular profession. One option would be to try to increase your lunch crowd by specifically targeting members of that profession with a discount or by advertising through a professional association. Another would be to target your existing regulars that visit with their colleagues with an incentive to bring their families for dinner.

These are just a few of the myriad of tactics you can employ with demographic targeting. Once you understand what defines your existing restaurant customer base, it’s much easier to create strategies to maximize your existing relationships and develop new ones.

The value of geographic segmentation for restaurants

Customer segmentation based on geography is another simple tool that can be used effectively. A large chain might rely on geographic segmentation to create and promote menu items designed to appeal to certain regions. Or a local restaurant might use it to target a nearby neighborhood where a large percentage of their most profitable guests originates. However, those strategies are just the beginning.

Imagine a sports bar targeting neighborhoods that support a particular team in order to become the unofficial headquarters of that fan base. Or a local restaurant whose menu items and communications are specifically designed to celebrate and appeal to a variety of different local micro-neighborhoods.

Geographical targeting can even be used to target rivals on their home turf. One of the most famous geographic campaigns was Whopper Detour, where Burger King® geofenced every McDonald’s location in the US and rerouted potential McDonald’s customers to Burger King locations with a timely deal coupon sent to their mobile phones.

Spend a little time getting creative with geographic targeting, and you might be surprised at the results.

The value of behavioral segmentation for restaurants

Behavioral segmentation defines groups of people by what they do. This can include things like what dishes they order, the number of times they visit, what time of day they come, whether they eat in or order takeout, how and whether they interact with your loyalty program, and if they visit your website or interact on social media.

Much like the other types of segmenting, getting a deeper understanding of how your customers interact with your restaurant can boost your business in many ways. If you notice more customers are ordering vegetarian dishes, for instance, you could expand your vegetarian menu options or target those specific customers with a communication whenever you add a new vegetable dish to your menu.

Perhaps you want to increase the effectiveness of your loyalty program. Understanding which customers interact with it most could lead to a tiered approach with the most frequent visitors getting the best rewards.

If you know which customers are posting about you on social media, you can incentivize them with a free drink or appetizer. Or lure an occasional visitor more frequently by letting them know about a daily special that others with the same menu preferences enjoy.

Perhaps you notice that a significant group of people are visiting your site, but they never make it into your restaurant. If you understand where that disconnect is happening, you can target them with a campaign that may entice them to make a reservation.

In other words, behavioral segmenting helps you create strategies to alter the way your customers interact with you in order to create a more rewarding relationship.

The value of psychographic segmentation for restaurants

With the rise of online communities, there is a lot of weight to the argument that we have become much more defined by our interests, lifestyles, beliefs and hobbies than we are by traditional demographics. After all, if someone were to ask you what most encapsulates you, how would you respond? Most people would call themselves a fitness junkie or serial knitter rather than a 36 year old certified accountant.

Any psychologist will tell you that talking to people about what they are most passionate about is the easiest way to get their attention, and that’s where psychographic segmentation shines.

Imagine how you might respond if you found that a significant portion of your customers are deeply concerned about climate change and the environment. This knowledge might lead you to introduce and promote recycling and food waste initiatives, highlight your organic menu options, or showcase your lack of chemical additives through targeted communications. The options are endless.

Perhaps you discover there are a surprising number of pop culture aficionados within your audience. You might institute a weekly trivia event to bring in traffic on slow Sunday afternoons. Or offer sports enthusiasts a special incentive that changes depending on whether their team wins or loses as a way to instill loyalty and camaraderie throughout the season.

Fishing enthusiasts might appreciate a content series where your chef lets them in on his secrets for preparing whatever local catch is currently in season as a way to keep your restaurant top-of-mind. Again, there are virtually no limits to the interesting connections you can make when you learn what people are passionate about and use that information to find common ground.

How to get started using customer segmentation

Define your goals

Are you looking to get your feet wet before you invest in new technology? Hoping to solve a particular pain point? Want more high-ticket guests? Ready to optimize your business as a whole? Each of these goals will have different approaches and levels of commitment, so it’s important to think through how to begin and how much time and effort youcan devote to ensuring success.

Take stock of your potential data sources

If you’re looking to get started without investing in new technology, it’s important to have a thorough understanding of what your current systems can and can’t tell you. A good customer relationship management (CRM) system can fuel a demographic or geographic strategy, while a robust POS might give you enough information to tackle a behavioral campaign.

However, a psychographic approach will generally require a customer data platform (CDP) that is able to give you a more thorough picture of what existing and potential customers are interested in and which ones make the most sense to target for your bottom line.

And a Guest Relationship Management platform like Fishbowl GRM can combine all your data sources to build the most robust guest profiles, and then employ smart segmentation to build lots of different audience segments.

Analyze your data

Now it’s time to dig into research. Let’s say your goal is to increase the number of large-ticket, highest lifetime value (LTV) guests. The next step is to define as much as you can about the current guests who spend the most with you, so you can formulate a plan to find more just like them.

Develop your segmentation database

Here is where you divide your highest paying guests into the different segments that seem to set them apart. Then you can easily compare and contrast the different groups to find the ones that deliver the most value.

Establish your tracking metrics

Developing key performance indicators (KPIs) for each potential goal is essential to ensuring that you have an accurate picture of how your initiatives are affecting your business. These KPIs can then be compared with the baseline group outlined in your initial segmentation group.

Test and learn

Now you’re ready to create specific campaigns for your top segments. It's best to do this with a small representative sample audience in the beginning, then optimize as you start to learn what is providing the best result.

Should you invest in customer segmentation software?

If you’re serious about using customer segmentation to grow your restaurant business, the right software can make all the difference. For most restaurants, customer data is siloed across a variety of systems (like POS, online ordering, reservations, social media, etc.), and it’s almost impossible to identify the same guest from one system to another. Even if you manually collate reports across platforms, it’s impossible to scale, and leads to a lot of inaccuracies and blind spots in your knowledge.

Depending on your challenges, the solution can be either a customer relationship management platform (CRM), and/or a customer data platform (CDP). CRMs give insights into the relationship between you and your customers, while a CDP can provide context to understanding guests and their actions outside of your restaurant.

A Better Way

For restaurants, there’s a better way: combining CRM and CDP onto a single platform, built exclusively for the restaurant industry: Fishbowl GRM combines the power of a CRM and the flexibility of a CDP into one intuitive ecosystem that gives an unparalleled understanding of your audience, and offers smart-segmentation so you can reach your customers at scale – with the right language, offers and timing to create meaning engagement and higher ROI.

Crafted by industry experts with more than two decades of experience in data, analytics, software and marketing for restaurants, Fishbowl GRM is the gold standard for any restaurant who wants an easy-to-use, all-in-one solution.

Audience Segmentation

February 3, 2024
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Perhaps it’s not that surprising that personalization and segmentation are hot topics in restaurant marketing these days. After all, the better you understand your.

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Everything Restaurants Need to Know About Reporting and Data

The old adage “knowledge is power” is particularly true for running a restaurant. These days, there is more pressure on margins than ever before, and having an accurate picture of every aspect of your business can make all the difference to ensuring success. However, the proliferation of different analytics tools can make it overwhelming just to get started. This guide will teach you everything you need to know to help you understand the best way to use data to optimize your operation.

Reports and analysis make all the difference to a healthy restaurant business.

There are millions of ways restaurants can ‘bleed’ revenue, and they aren’t always obvious when looking at gross numbers. In fact, data-driven restaurants have a 23% higher survival rate, and data analytics has been shown to boost restaurant revenue by 10% while cutting costs by 5%. So getting comfortable with reporting and analysis is essential for any restaurateur who wants to increase margins and ensure success.

Reports that can help with almost every aspect of your business, so identifying which areas to focus on is the key to getting started.

Manage labor costs

How do you ensure you’re staffed at appropriate levels for every shift, and that your staff is working as efficiently as you need them to be? Who are your best performers, and who could use more training? What’s your ideal ratio of back-of-house to front-of-house staff across your business hours? There are reports that can help you understand all these issues, and will track improvement over time.

Fine-tune your menu options

How can you stay on top of ever-shifting input costs to ensure your price points are where you need them to be? Want to stay ahead of food trends and track shifts in popularity? Is your menu designed as effectively as it can be? Menu optimization has been shown to increase profits by as much as 15%, so if you’re not tracking these, it is likely costing you margin.

Supercharge your marketing

Want to ensure you’re getting the best ROI for every marketing dollar you spend? If you’re not on top of your reporting, you’re missing out. Reports can help you understand where your efforts are best spent in real-time, so you can shift your budget to the initiatives and channels where it will be most effective before you see serious drop-offs in performance.

Improve guest satisfaction

How do you stay current with reviews to see what’s working and what isn’t? Can you identify the factors that most impact frequency and average guest check? What keeps your best customers happy and coming back for more? Data analysis can help you see it all clearly.

Make your loyalty program more rewarding

What strategies should you use to create a loyalty program that’s better for you and your customers? Can you ensure loyalty without sacrificing profitability? How much is your loyalty program really costing you? Are you seeing drop-offs over time, and if so, why? Establishing ROI for your loyalty programs is notoriously difficult, but there are reports that can answer all these questions.

Minimize food waste and empty tables

Being able to see how subtle shifts affect guest visits across dayparts, over time, can help you better predict your inventory and develop strategies to eliminate slow periods.

Track performance across locations

Why do certain locations perform better than others? What learnings can you use from your best performing locations to help those that are struggling? There is nothing more frustrating than seeing one location that consistently underperforms without being able to understand why. Data analysis gives you the tools to identify issues and solutions.

Understanding which reports are the right reports for your operation

Data tools have proliferated to the extent that it’s easy to get lost in the sea of available options, so it’s important to know what type of report you need, and the key performance indicators (KPIs) you should track to get the insights you want.

Restaurant Sales Reports

Sales reports can help you track profitability, see how shifts in costs affect margins, understand whether you need to adjust your price points, and see trends over time.

Sales Profit Report

How much are labor and food costs affecting your restaurant’s profitability? This report will tell you. A Sales Profit Report tracks revenues against expenses to help you understand the health of your business in real time. To be useful, you’ll need to ensure your tracking tool is able to capture every type of expense, from labor to food inputs to marketing. That’s why it’s important to ensure that your analysis technology integrates with every aspect of your restaurant’s tech stack. The more data it can access, the better your insights will be.

Revenue Report

How healthy are your gross sales? Is your overall revenue increasing over time? Monitoring this in real time will help you react quickly to any sudden drop-offs and will also allow you to see how seasons, trends and other shifts affect your overall sales.

Labor Cost Report

Are you staffed at the right levels for each daypart? How is your current staffing affecting your margins? Are you seeing a sudden shift in overtime costs? Is there a need to adjust your staffing approach by season? This report will answer these questions and more.

Reservations and Table Turnover Reports

How many covers are you getting per shift? How does that compare to your own restaurant’s historical data? Are your reservations healthy? Has there been a sudden spike in no-shows? Is your time allotment per table accurate? You can set up KPIs to measure and track these issues with Reservations and Turnover reporting.

Inventory Reports

It’s been estimated that up to 10 percent of the food inventory a restaurant purchases is wasted. Tracking your inventory over time will help you better predict what you really need to have on-hand when, and will help you see if inventory issues are draining your profits.

Inventory On-Hand

Track your current stock levels and see the valuation for each item. Know at a glance when you need to use up your most costly inventory so it doesn’t end up a loss.

Low Inventory Report

There’s nothing more disappointing to customers than finding out their favorite dish has been 86’d early in the night. This report lets you set minimum levels of all your most important items to ensure you’ll never again experience a last-minute inventory emergency.

Purchase Order Report

Know at a glance whether an item you ordered is missing, late or when it’s scheduled to arrive. Get notified when vendors miss a deadline before it becomes a potential issue.

Waste and Spoilage Reports

For restaurant operators, it’s frustrating to see quality ingredients go to waste. This report will let you set benchmarks for food waste so you can see how efficient your back-of-house is at any given moment, and catch any lapses before they hurt your bottom line.

Vendor Reports

Track your relationship with each vendor you work with over time in order to see cost fluctuations, delivery speed and other KPIs. Get an understanding of who your best performing vendors are, get insights that will help you negotiate costs, and know instantly if changes need to be made.

Customer Reports

Having the ability to gain sophisticated insights into customer preferences and habits can be a game-changer for restaurants. It can have a significant impact on everything from marketing ROI to menu development.

Customer Profiles and Metrics

Understand customer behavior and segment by demographics, order history, personal preferences or a host of other factors. If you use a tech solution (like Fishbowl GRM) that lets you integrate all your different data platforms, you can build robust customer profiles that will help you create specialized marketing strategies. Fishbowl GRM helps you identify your highest value (LTV) customers and attract more of them.

Sentiment and Feedback Reports

See what customers love and don’t love at a glance. Get notified in real-time when a guest posts a less-than-stellar review. Track Customer Satisfaction Scores (CSAT) and Net Promoter Scores (NPS), the industry standard KPIs for customer satisfaction.

Reservation and No-Show Reports

Set goals and benchmarks for restaurant traffic, and get notified about sudden increases in no-show levels or drop-offs in visits.

Loyalty Program Reports

How effective is your loyalty program? Are the rewards you’re offering appropriate for the value of each customer? What happens if you experiment with different tier levels, free appetizers rather than discounts, or other types of incentive structures. If you want to ensure your loyalty program is working as hard as you need it to, tracking signups, activity, tier levels and drop-offs would be your best KPIs.

Menu Reports

Your menu is the lifeblood of your restaurant. Is it working as hard for you as it could be? Are the most popular items running out before their time? Are the prices you’re charging where they should be? Menu reports will tell you.

Menu Sales and Performance

This report lets you see which menu items are your most popular and most profitable. Track how shifting input costs impact your profitability on an item-by-item level, and see whether old favorites have lost any luster.

Menu Engineering and Analysis

How do different menu design strategies affect sales? Does the order of items listed change how your customers perceive them? Are you using the right language to entice an order? Does the design match the meal, the brand, and the overall experience? The answers may well surprise you.

Menu Availability Reports

How often are favorite items unavailable? Are you achieving a good balance between availability and scarcity? Ensuring your supply equals the demand can help you boost your restaurant’s margins with little effort.

Financial Reports

A restaurant that isn’t profitable is a restaurant that’s on borrowed time. Financial reports will give you an early warning when there is something that needs to be solved immediately.

P&L Statements

The Profit and Loss Statement allows you to quickly assess profitability over time and track expenses against revenue.

Balance Sheets

A liquidity crisis is something no restaurant wants to experience.Use this report to see your cash flow needs over time and make sure your capital structure is in line with your restaurant’s needs.

Cash Flow Reports

It’s easy to lose track of cash in the restaurant business. This report will help you stay on top of your physical currency intake and outflows.

Setting benchmarks and ensuring success.

The most common KPIs for restaurants to track are the ones that help them quickly see the health of their business at a glance. We’d recommend setting benchmarks for:

  • Traffic: Guest counts, reservations, wait times
  • Sales & Revenue: Profit margins and profit by menu item
  • Costs: Food, labor, supplies and any other significant input costs
  • Inventory: Stock, waste and turnover
  • Staffing: Labor hours, overtime, and productivity
  • Customer: Sentiment, retention, and lifetime value (LTV)

A few best practices to keep in mind.

All the knowledge in the world can't help you if you don’t set aside time to review it regularly and act on it. Ensure you automate your reporting as much as you can so you can spend your time where it will do your restaurant the most good. Choose to focus on reports that provide you with actionable insights, and set up time not just to review your findings but to create at least one strategy to improve your business as a result of what you’ve learned.

The right reporting partner can make all the difference.

Data and analysis can revolutionize your restaurant business, but all reporting partners aren’t created equal. Ideally, you need a partner that can pull in data from across not just every system you use, but also third party review sites and delivery apps. A partner like Fishbowl GRM.

Fishbowl GRM is an industry-leading Guest Relationship Management platform that combines the elements of a CRM with the flexibility of a CDP to create robust guest profiles. Fishbowl experts can show you how to connect those profiles to impactful marketing campaigns across a variety of channels. And because every data input and outbound communication is connected through our platform, we generate a lot of data, and all of it can be leveraged to create accurate, insightful reporting in real time.

Fishbowl GRM was developed by restaurant marketing data and analytics experts with more than two decades of experience helping restaurants become more successful through data insights and reporting. There is not a better, more versatile or easy-to-use reporting tool for restaurants.

Reporting & Data

February 2, 2024
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The old adage “knowledge is power” is particularly true for running a restaurant. These days, there is more pressure on margins than ever before, and having.

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