Earn Dining Dollars by Documenting and Digitizing Guest Data
May 18, 2009
By JEFF JORDAN
Competition for diners’ dollars is fierce, especially during a down economy. To
successfully win customers and build business during this critical time, you’ve got to provide more than a delicious meal and service with a smile. You’ve got to connect with your guests on a personal level. You’ve got to capture their contact information, consistently and accurately, and keep a clear record of their personal preferences. Most importantly, you need to use the valuable information you gather every chance you get—to strengthen guest relationships and make your marketing communications as relevant and impactful as possible.
Many restaurants fall short of their revenue potential because they’re still relying on spreadsheets or pen-and-paper guest books to keep track of guest contact information. With this method of data management, it’s nearly impossible to generate accurate mailing lists, much less target specific audience segments. With an electronic guest database, you’ll have the information you need to create personalized, targeted marketing campaigns that extend the reach of your customer relationships and inspire repeat visits and loyalty.
Good data management is central to good service. Yet, for many restaurants, reservations are recorded in a traditional pen-and-paper book, and the best guest information is stored solely in the heads of a few key employees. When those employees leave, the valuable details they’ve compiled go out the door with them. By computerizing reservation and guest information, you’re able to create an extremely valuable, centralized repository of data that can be shared by all the members of your staff, and utilized in a variety of ways.
Effectively managing guest data is the key. Here are six strategies on how to make this a seamless part of your everyday operations:
Empower your staff with details.
A robust electronic reservation and guest management system gives your employees the information they need to provide each guest with a truly one-of-a-kind dining experience. Before a shift begins, the host can print out guest notes to share with the server. With advanced knowledge of the guest’s preferences, the server is able to better anticipate the diner’s needs, and extend the kind of personalized service that generates positive word-of-mouth, turns casual diners into loyal repeat customers, and increases profitability. When the meal is complete, the server can add more details to the guest’s profile, ensuring that the diner’s experience will grow more individualized with every visit.
Turn issues into opportunities.
Service-related issues are the most frequent source of customer dissatisfaction, but customers are willing to forgive restaurants for service missteps. In fact, when service recovery efforts are strong, guests are actually more likely to return than if there was no problem at all. To strengthen service recovery, keep a record of every incident in your database, and note how each issue was resolved. Run a report of all the incidents, and see if there’s a pattern that can be corrected so that problems are fewer in the future. You also could pull a list of all the guests who encountered service issues, and send a follow-up e-mail thanking them for bringing the issue to your attention and a gift certificate encouraging a return visit.
Share the wealth across sister properties.
If you operate a group of restaurants, there is clear value in taking a coordinated approach to managing guest data. Working from a centralized database, you’ll be able to share customer data across all properties, expand your loyalty programs, and take advantage of lucrative cross-sell opportunities. Whether you have two restaurants or 200, you can access and manage guest and reservation information data from a single location, and offer consistently superior service to your guests.
Never forget a name.
A database of complete, up-to-date guest information is the foundation of a successful marketing campaign. Computerized guest management systems offer you the potential to capture accurate contact information with every reservation. From there, you can mine your growing database, segment customers in a variety of ways, and devise solid strategies for communicating effectively with each audience segment.
Harness the power of e-mail.
E-mail marketing is a low-cost, effective way to make sure your restaurant is top-of-mind when a customer is deciding where to dine. A recent study found that restaurant e-mail campaigns tend to outperform other types of e-mail marketing. With a well-organized guest database, you’re able to segment your customers based on their preferences or location, and create customized promotional e-mails, newsletters and special offers that appeal to each specific audience. The more targeted your message, the more connected and appreciated your customers will feel.
Convert browsers to diners.
If you want your website and e-mail marketing investments to pay off, you need to give customers a seamless way to book a reservation—whether they’re browsing your site or reading an e-mail from you. By providing links on your website and e-mail offers to your electronic-reservation system, you’re able to convert potential diners into seated guests—and make your website and e-mail campaigns worth the money you put into them.
Competition among restaurants is intense, and diners are eating out less often. But it’s no time to get discouraged. It’s time to get personal by learning as much information as possible about your diners. By doing so you’ll be able to strengthen your service, communications and competitive edge, and give your guests a personalized experience that is every bit as exceptional as the meal you place in front of them.
Back to OpenTable News