Those in the restaurant business know that creating meaningful connections with customers is the key to earning repeat reservations and building a great reputation both through word-of-mouth and online. But until recently, most restaurants have been doing things the old-fashioned way instead of structuring their customer relationships through a CRM.
So what is a restaurant CRM?
In this context, CRMs are customer engagement platforms for restaurants — a database that gives you a deeper understanding of who your guests are, what their preferences are, and multiple channels of communication to attract them to your business. It helps you organize all your efforts to reduce mistakes and the hard work involved in keeping all your records on a pad of paper.
If you’ve been asking yourself “what is a restaurant CRM?”, the most obvious place to start is in data collection. By retaining all your customer details, you know exactly who is calling or emailing for a reservation. This way, you can greet them by name and offer their preferred table by the window. With this information, a CRM for restaurants allows you to enhance the experience of each and every customer that passes through your doors.
If you receive a message from someone who isn’t already in your CRM, you can make an extra-special effort to build loyalty from their very first visit. Gather their contact details with a sign-up form and send them on their way through your customer journey.
These small efforts pay for themselves over time by creating a long-term relationship with your customers that results in repeat business and a great reputation spread through word-of-mouth.
When you’re looking into customer engagement platforms for restaurants, the most important thing to remember is to make it secure. Most cloud databases now come with almost 100% reliable systems. However, if you have the technical know-how in your team, tools like Bitrix24 even allow you to download the source code and store everything on your own servers.
Now you’ve got to know your customers, it’s time to implement your newfound information in your service.
A good CRM for restaurants goes way beyond just collecting telephone numbers and email addresses. You can include notes on all of your regulars, so you’re ready with their dietary requirements and the perfect conversation starters. You can also stay one step ahead with knowledge of everybody’s birthday, so you can match them up with your reservation list and prepare in advance.
Every time you get a reservation, you can update your customer’s file, so if they’re the kind of group to enjoy a drink and a conversation after dinner, you know that reservation will go on for longer than normal. Even better, if they’re a fan of the wine you recommended, make a point of upselling it the next time your customer is in — a great way of boosting business with a smile.
OK, you might pride yourself on that personal connection and keep it all in your head. But why not make sure you don’t forget the little details? This is especially true when you hire new staff that don’t know your customers. With a CRM for restaurants, your servers can get a heads up at the start of their shift and maintain your relationship on every customer visit.
Making a connection with your clients is great, but you can take things one step further. A loyalty program with benefits for repeat business is a win-win — you get predictable custom and your guests get a little something extra in return.
With a CRM for restaurants, you can set the groundwork for bilateral benefit. Automate the levels of your loyalty program, for example setting a gold member status for anyone who has made ten reservations. Automations like this take a lot of the time-consuming tasks out of your customer relationship and retention activities and ensure you won’t make any mistakes when your guests arrive.
Then it’s time to set up your rewards system. Focus on the obvious first, like a nice incentive for signing up, such as a free dessert or a welcome glass of champagne. Next comes a birthday gift — a perfect extra detail on a meal in return for more information on your audience demographics.
A loyalty program is one of the best CRM strategies for restaurants as it makes repeat business far more likely. With incremental rewards, you can incentivise customers to return and reduce the guesswork that is so entrenched in the restaurant business.
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Your CRM isn’t just for storing records on your customers. It’s the bedrock of all your marketing efforts, whether you’re targeting specific groups or your entire customer database.
Emails, newsletters, and social media posts are among the most common (and easiest) ways to get in touch with your contacts when they’re not on site. With the information you’ve gathered on your CRM for restaurants, you can put together personalized emails that spread the word about new dishes on your menu, company announcements, and special offers.
In the same way as you segregate your contact list for studying your demographics, you can also create lists to target with different emails. If, for example, you want to get the word out about a new restaurant opening in a certain city, why not launch a social media hashtag competition among those who live within 50 miles? As well as creating hype, you get user-generated content that creates confidence within your target audience.
Nowadays, a social media presence has a fantastic ROI with very little investment. CRM strategies for restaurants allow you to promote special offers, exciting new dishes, or events at your venue. Instagram has become one of the best platforms to promote your business, with mouth-watering photos of your dishes and an introduction to the kitchen staff leading the way on likes and shares.
With a powerful CRM for restaurants, you can save your customers’ social media handles alongside their other contact details. This way, you can take pictures of your best customers in your restaurant, give them a shoutout online and encourage them to share it with their networks.
As a final note on marketing, make sure to track your performance. This could include open rates and click-throughs on emails or engagement on social media. By measuring your efforts, you can A/B test different strategies and adapt your tone of voice to attract maximum clientele.
Between smiles, tips, and compliments to the chef, it’s hard to know exactly what your customers think of your service. Yes, online reviews will give you a general impression, but they’re likely to be either great or terrible and are unlikely to touch on the topics you’re especially eager to hear about.
With customizable forms, you can manage exactly how your guests give you feedback. For example, if you’re not sure about your new decoration, you can include a specific question on your form and ask customers to fill it in. With these more specific fields, you’ll get more constructive opinions on the areas that matter to you. In the same form, leave an open-ended question that allows guests to make any suggestions you may not have thought about before.
Incentivise your customers to take part in your study with a small discount on their next visit and you’ll hit two birds with one stone — great feedback and a new reservation. A CRM for restaurants lets you keep records of who has taken part in your survey so you can be ready and waiting when they return.
However, identifiable forms have the potential to be somewhat unreliable, especially if you have a close relationship with your customer. Knowing their response is identifiable can mean that guests soften the blow on responses and don’t say what they really think. However, you can always create anonymous forms and assure your clientele that you won’t be able to identify them. This way, you get an honest impression, rather than a polite set of pleasantries.
So you’ve got your forms in place, now what?
By adding this ultra-valuable information from your customers to a CRM for restaurants, you as a manager can start implementing changes to clean up your weak areas and capitalize on the better aspects of your organization.
Gather all your form responses into your CRM and view the results graphically. With handy pie charts, you can easily identify the areas to improve and start changing your best practices to match. Perhaps you need a better welcome at the door or more options to match changing dietary requirements.
For a systematic approach to your restaurant improvements, set a quarterly reminder in your team calendar and gather your decision makers together. In the meeting, you can get your creative juices flowing and implement changes that keep your customers happy and loyal.
It might seem obvious, but leaving your customers with a nice taste in their mouth (pun absolutely intended), you not only attract new business, but double down on your current guests. It is far cheaper to retain customers who are already on your database than reach out to new ones with advertising. Just make sure to update your menu to keep things fresh and exciting.
If you’ve applied all the previous steps and really got your business going, it might be time to open in new locations.
You can’t just cut the ribbon and expect people to come. To create a buzz prior to opening, we’d recommend launching a social media campaign. Set your ads to similar demographics to those already in your CRM and create some buzz through native posts. Thanks to your feedback forms, you’ll have a ready-made list of testimonials you can use to promote your new business. If your new customers can put a face and a name to a positive review, you can already start building trust in your new area.
When you gain traction with your new openings or franchises, you can plug all your new contacts into the same CRM to streamline your marketing and retention efforts. That means sending the same emails and newsletters without having to spend any more time than necessary.
Of course, you’ll need to launch location-specific efforts, and that’s no problem with the right CRM for restaurants. You can segregate your contacts by location and personalize your messages to make them relevant and boost your engagement numbers. The easiest way to achieve this is to create separate forms for each branch and drop in a hidden, pre-filled location field. Then, when it comes to your emails, select your audience based on location and you’re good to go.
With all these benefits of CRM in restaurants, you can really get ahead of your competitors with just a few changes to your working strategy. Data-driven efforts take the guesswork out of your approach, and understanding who your customers are and what they like is a sure-fire way of generating loyalty.
Yes, profit margins in restaurants are notoriously close, but that’s no reason to overlook investment in a CRM. With Bitrix24, you can get started for free, only upgrading once your business has seriously expanded.
Over 10,000,000 organizations are already reaping the rewards of collating their customer data in Bitrix24’s easy-to-use yet powerful business platform. So sign up today and see how a CRM for restaurants can improve your service.