For fast casual restaurants, a customer-centric approach is key

Millions of people enjoy fast casual restaurants around the world daily. From regionalized favorites to giant global brands, fast casual dining is an ever-growing industry that relies on delivering consistent experiences their customers love.

At the 2022 Fast Casual Executive Summit, which took place in Indianapolis from October 9-11, several restaurant brands highlighted the importance of customer data, personalization and the role of loyalty programs.

As customization becomes integral for consumers, fast casual restaurants are looking for ways to drive better customer experiences. For brands looking to make a bigger impact, data activation is becoming an important tool in the toolbox.

For a successful modern loyalty program, go beyond discounts

Top-tier loyalty programs that strategically feature program benefits that highlight exclusivity and convenience, alongside discounts, help keep incremental costs low while better engaging customers.

Benefits like exclusive limited-time offers and experiential items like tastings and product testing are benefits that offer limited cost and further drive customer engagement. Marketers need to develop a cohesive strategy that blends rational benefits, which focus on highlighting the value of products and providing compelling offers to drive trial and repeat visits, as well as emotional benefits, which help facilitate a deeper, one-to-one connection and nurture customer relationships in an authentic, experiential way.

Brands are already starting to seek loyalty tactics outside of discounts. In an August NRN piece, Kevin Hochman, CEO and president of Brinker International Inc. (parent to the Chili’s Grill & Bar brand), shared that as much as 37% of Chili’s checks feature some type of discount, typically through the My Chili’s Reward loyalty program. “It's just simply too high for our brand, and we just need to we need to figure out ways to get that lower,” he said.

But there is a solution for brands like Chili's. They can leverage data to determine the offer the consumer will be most receptive to receiving at the optimal time to target the customer with it. By optimizing their offers, discounts can be lowered. Take Dunkin' (which has been ranked as the no. 1 brand for customer loyalty in Brand Keys' out-of-home coffee category for 16 years) for example. Their loyalty program merges the rational and emotional benefits—going far beyond just discounting.

Using the power of Epsilon's CORE ID solution, Dunkin' is able to offer real-time personalized rewards due to identity-based customer profiles that enable seamless activation online and offline. Dunkin' crafts a connected customer experience with agile mail and in-app content, one-to-one messages in loyalty statements, push notifications, contactless offerings, mobile ordering and more.

Build a channel strategy with the customer in mind

Restaurant marketers now have more channels than ever—in both physical locations and their digital channels. Ensuring their brand is communicating with the correct level of both urgency while understanding the correct degree of channel intrusiveness for the content is paramount in a post-COVID world.

Marketers hoping to get the most impact from their message should define the role each channel plays in the customer’s journey and align a communication strategy that is customer led. In addition, marketers should test and learn various communication frequencies across channels to help define how often to speak to customers. All of this can be done by building individual-level customer identity profiles that allow marketers to see who their customers actually are and what will truly resonate with them.

Epsilon has years of experience with enterprise brands, including McDonald's, helping define parameters across channels and messages to help drive customer behavior. 

Prioritize CDPs—the next evolution of CRM

Restaurant brands have long been faced with the challenge of streamlining multiple data sources into a cohesive roadmap for customer engagement. With effective CDP solution, this is possible.

Customer data platforms, or CDPs, pull, clean and combine data from multiple sources, to create a single customer profile. From first-party and delivery service provider (DSP) data, to additional third-party data sources, CDPs have the ability to capture multiple data streams, help brands better understand customer behaviors and assist marketers in more efficiently connecting with their audience.

Check out our website to see how Epsilon’s CDP solution provides enriched understanding of evolving customers to drive conversion and support performance measurement. 

The customer comes first

For fast casual brands, it's time to focus and invest in technologies that are customer focused and identity based and offer experiences other than discounts. It's a surefire way to engage retain and expand your customer base.