Leverage digital tools to retain customers

The rise of online meal ordering has prompted restaurant owners to continue to research digital methods that can help them attract and retain customers in an increasingly competitive landscape.

Restaurants are constantly refining their customer engagement strategies to expand brand awareness and increase sales. Recent efforts have included omnichannel marketing initiatives, mobile app developments, and loyalty program launches.

Leveraging multiple marketing channels and incorporating loyalty and rewards offerings are top priorities, especially for national restaurant brands such as Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop. The Nevada-based fast casual chain has 112 company-owned and franchised branches in 16 states and the District of Columbia. Capriotti’s properties also include Wing Zone, an Atlanta-based chicken wing chain with 80 locations in 25 states.

“Everyone in the industry has seen the great turn to online ordering,” said Jane McPherson, senior vice president of marketing for Capriotti. “We were very lucky to have a lot of our infrastructure really well built. We had a very robust online ordering platform and we were well optimized. We quickly implemented a robust curbside pick-up solution, offering customers the option of [scan] a QR code and place an order from outside the store.

McPherson told PYMNTS why restaurants need to look to digital solutions, data analytics, and omnichannel marketing to drive customer sales, engagement and loyalty.

The changing landscape of post-pandemic fast-paced casual restaurants

Many pandemic-related dining restrictions began to ease last spring as vaccination efforts intensified, with customers returning to their favorite restaurants for meals. McPherson said Capriotti’s physical activity started to grow again during this time, with 30 to 40 percent of her customers entering her restaurants and 10 percent placing orders over the phone.

“The last few months have been interesting,” she said. “We have seen, in particular for Capriotti’s, a real return to eating in restaurants, or at least to ordering in restaurants. What really kept stability through it all, for both Wing Zone and Capriotti, was ordering over the phone, [with] people call and place orders.

This continued interest in phone orders has prompted Capriotti’s to test systems to increase customer engagement over the phone. This includes using standards that provide customer relationship management functionality as well as tools to help the chain move upmarket, McPherson said.

Despite the resurgence of in-person ordering and the high customer use of telephone ordering methods, online ordering remains a mainstay for many restaurants. Capriotti’s is no exception to this trend, McPherson explained.

“We have seen up to 60% to 70% of our activities move [to] digital, ”she said. “We are down to around 50%[and] Wing Zone stayed [at] about 80%.

Use data analytics to grow physical and online sales

The varied ordering habits of restaurant customers make it essential for restaurants to personalize engagement and reward loyalty across multiple ordering channels. McPherson said that Capriotti’s omnichannel approach has allowed the chain to further tailor offerings based on a multitude of customer preferences.

“When customers walk into the store, they register and redeem their points,” she said. “To increase online sales, we use omnichannel marketing to reach different customer segments. We are able to integrate segmentation into our campaigns. [customers who order turkey meal items] get turkey campaigns, and [for] cheese steak customers, we send a few steak campaigns.

She said the company is also deploying data analytics to inform its sales and marketing efforts, manage its loyalty program, and personalize the consumer engagement experience across various communication channels.

“We are working to add a personalized user experience layer in addition to customer data,” McPherson said. “Restaurant brands will likely start using more customer database platforms [whereby] all their customer data is [on] one platform, then omnichannel marketing sits on top of that customer database platform.

Capriotti’s has used an email loyalty campaign for the past eight years, but McPherson said the chain has branched out into other channels, adding SMS campaigns along with greater segmentation and focus. on customer journeys.

“We communicate with consumers through an app push message, SMS message, or email message,” McPherson said. “We engage with them on how they want to register and participate in our campaigns. “

Attracting new customers is another critical facet of success in the fast food industry, and data analytics can be a key benefit in this area as well. McPherson said Capriotti’s uses this data to convert browsers into buyers, primarily through digital advertising campaigns on social media, YouTube, and through Google searches.

“We do a lot of sophisticated analysis to advertise to the right people,” she explained. “We do a lot of tracking with Google Analytics to look at our conversion rates and continually optimize these media for performance.”

Restaurant customer ordering and retention preferences fluctuate rapidly, so it’s critical for restaurants to stay on top of the latest ordering trends and technologies. To meet customer expectations and deliver the rewards they value, harnessing data analytics and leveraging omnichannel marketing strategies is essential.

Joseph P. Harris