Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Guest Acquisition

February 9, 2024
Read Time: Example Minutes

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.

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Adam Ochstein
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