How to Grow your Restaurant Business with Data

It’s a simple fact: Consumers have no shortage of options when it comes to choosing a restaurant. For those of us growing our brand, we are tasked with cutting through a crowded marketplace to keep guests coming back.

As the restaurant industry and marketing landscape have evolved, the most successful brands have learned an important lesson: the digital era is here for every restaurant that wants to remain competitive, and our data is vitally important to driving customers to visit and return. 

It wasn’t always this way. In the past, restaurants relied on traditional marketing practices that didn’t offer a lot of insight into the success or failure of a campaign. As a restaurateur, you might think, “I ran a TV spot, and it seemed like a lot of people came,” or, “I ran a BOGO coupon and fifty people used it.” The process was less informed than it should’ve been, given the cost, and you could only use secondary information to determine which parts of the marketing mix were having the biggest impact. 

Today, though, marketing has changed thanks to the digital tools available, and the data they offer us. We can micro-target efforts, personalize landing pages automatically, drive actions from our customers predictably, make action from inaction, understand data, identify trends and derive key learnings with every campaign we launch. We can improve our bottom lines, forecast with more predictability, and above all else, we can use these tools to grow our businesses, and reach our goals. 

It’s all about collecting, and then understanding the data about our consumers. How did we acquire them? What type of customer are they? What do they like to order? When do they order it? What level of engagement do they show with the brand, and what will it take to drive just one extra visit from them?

The real magic in today’s restaurant marketing lies not just in analyzing the data but truly understanding it, which admittedly can be a challenge for brands more focused on service than data.

The answers to all of these questions come from data analysis, and the real magic in today’s restaurant marketing lies not just in analyzing the data but truly understanding it, which admittedly can be a challenge for brands more focused on service than data. Data can be overwhelming, and often the best approach to diving into the world of sophisticated digital restaurant marketing can be a “crawl, walk, run,” approach. 

Crawling could be standing up an app and an online ordering system for your brand. Walking might look like taking all the data you have on a customer and putting it into a single uniform view of the guest. Running —where the magic happens is — all about tailoring marketing in personalized ways to well-segmented sections of your customer base in a continuous-feedback-loop of trial, testing and revision until your marketing campaigns create reliable responses and your guests have extraordinarily predictable roles defined for them.  Best of all, when running, you can marry data from not just digital, but the in store experiences, as well.

If you understand your guests, you can begin to uncover answers to key questions for your brand about customer acquisition and retention: Which is better for you, a single top performing customer or eight new customers of unknown value? What do your top patrons have in common? How do you acquire more people like them? What should it be worth to you in dollars to find each new top performing customer?

While most brand leaders might today be able to venture a guess at questions like the above, the fact is that with the right data acquisition and business intelligence measures in place, we can show definitively the value of each customer type, allocate dollars and target personalized, tested marketing to each segment accordingly. The sophistication of this kind of model is light years ahead of the old coupon mailer days. 

Which means it can be overwhelming. The fact is that most restaurant brands are more focused on food and service, and that makes it hard to tackle questions usually aimed at data intelligence firms. For many brands, the best thing to do is find a digital partner who can help you understand the right KPIs for your business; a brand that can take you from crawl, to walk, to run. With the right team in place, you can begin today to drive more meaningful data acquisition, derive better analysis, and gain irreplaceable intelligence. The long-term return on investment in digital programs and partnerships is significant for todays savvy restaurant brands.