5 ways restaurants can boost sales with data-driven marketing

From food halls to fast-casual, diners have countless options today to satisfy their hunger for a meal and a great experience. For restaurant marketers, capturing marketshare hinges on a common goal: driving one more visit with every guest.

That kind of incremental improvement starts with understanding your guests, an area where many restaurant marketers admit they still have work to do. According to our recent study with Nation’s Restaurant News, fewer than one in five restaurant marketers say they’re extremely confident in their knowledge of their diners outside of their own restaurants.

Read the report: How restaurants fare in the digital age

As diners interact with your brand across channels, devices and locations, this produces a wealth of customer data at your fingertips. To deliver the personalized experiences guests increasingly expect, however, you need to do more with that information.

By adopting a sophisticated approach to data analytics, you can create truly personalized communications that speak directly to diners and keep them coming back. Here are five strategies that can help your own organization win one more visit, purchase and dollar from your diners.

Strategy 1: Focus on identifying, reaching and acquiring the right guests

Getting new customers in the door is a constant quest for restaurant marketers, with 53% calling customer acquisition a top priority. The trick is identifying the right guests without wasting money on the wrong ones—including those who already dine in your restaurants.

By identifying commonalities among your best guests, you can search for lookalikes that are likely to be a perfect fit for your restaurant. Enriching first-party data with external sources can help you uncover prospects based on related interests; for example, a yoga instructor may be more interested in healthy lunch options.

All of this starts with a focus on the person through identity management—a way of marketing that allows you to gain a more complete, up-to-the-minute view of real people, so they can confidently deliver the right message to the right person.

And this varies across who you might be trying to talk to. For new guests, your message should focus on getting them in for the first time—to ultimately acquire them as a customer and introduce them to the brand. For returning guests, the conversation is more about reminders to come back in for a special occasion (if it’s a nicer restaurant) or pick up the new seasonal salad for lunch (like Sweetgreen does, for example).

Accurate identity management is also critical for driving higher lifetime value. While people continually upgrade devices and vendor cookies expire (or people opt out of them entirely), enhanced matching methods can help you continue to communicate with 80% of your customers two years later

Strategy 2: Know your guests inside and outside your restaurant

The research notes that 71% of restaurant marketers say understanding diner interests and preferences outside their four walls is important for shaping menu offerings, promotions and messaging. With additional data on individual preferences, online behavior, buying habits, devices and more, you can better understand:

  • How much and how frequently guests spend in your category
  • How your wallet share stacks up against competitive brands
  • Your highest-opportunity prospects
  • Whether a once-loyal guest has switched brands or exited the category entirely
  • Customer interests in other categories that could help inform menu development or messaging

As you build your strategy, consider looking beyond the restaurant vertical to learn from the success of other sectors. Your external partners can be valuable in cross-pollinating ideas and techniques directly from the field.

For example, the retail and restaurant industries both face sky-high service expectations from their guests. Taking cues from retailers, such as an increased focus on personalized communications, can give restaurant marketers a fresh perspective that moves them closer to their marketing goals.

Strategy 3: Craft a unique message for every guest

Nearly seven in 10 restaurant marketers say that personalizing customer communications is extremely or very important to their brand. Yet many restaurants haven’t graduated from generic personalization to true one-to-one messaging. Roughly half of marketers say they personalize based on broader factors like loyalty program data and physical location, but only a quarter are doing the more complex work of personalizing based on the best combination of channels, messages, offers and frequency for each diner.

Knowing the difference between a loyal repeat guest and a first-time visitor—and tailoring your message accordingly—depends on strong identity management and personalization capabilities. By blending online and offline information with complementary, privacy-protected information, marketers can create a customer-level view that serves as the foundation for personalization.

With that foundation in place, restaurants can then create relevant cross-channel messages at scale, from serving a customer a digital ad with their favorite salad right before lunch to sending a special offer right before their birthday.

Strategy 4: Drive revenue by measuring the right data points

While many restaurant marketers are investing in digital media, they often struggle to connect the dots between spend and sales. More than three in four restaurants cite increased sales as their primary measure of marketing performance, but only 24% use online and offline sales as a metric for digital marketing efforts. Even more troubling, 11% don’t measure the results of their digital campaigns at all.

Measuring the KPIs that connect marketing efforts to actual sales is the most effective way to combat wasted spend and ensure dollars are having the desired impact. That focus on measurement will become even more important as restaurants shift spending from traditional to digital channels. Marketing executives said they expect to increase digital media from 44% to 54% percent of their budgets within the next five years, while traditional advertising will decline by 1.2%.

Strategy 5: Use machine learning to optimize the guest experience

The more you know about your customers, the more you can create delightful experiences to keep them coming back. Most of the real-time optimization and decisioning is only possible with machine learning technology that learns from each guest’s actions and presents the ideal menu offering and value proposition through the right communication channel.  

Using purchase data, restaurant marketers can gather insights like how often diners re enticed to visit, which item to promote and what to feature in future campaigns. As diners feel heard and valued, they’re more likely to reward you with engagement and repeat business.  

If you’re eager to capture a larger share of the diner’s dollar, the true differentiator is data. By creating a unified view of each customer and converting these insights into one-to-one communications, you can create more personal, purposeful experiences that keep diners coming back time after time. 

Are you interested in learning more restaurant marketer insights? Download our research, Driving one more visit: How restaurant marketers fare in the digital age.