Listening to your customers is always important. In the restaurant industry, though, it's crucial. Competition is already fierce, and customer expectations keep rising. To stay ahead of the game, restaurants need to keep abreast of what their loyal customers are saying. In this post, we’ll detail how a few forward-thinking restaurants are leveraging different channels to build stronger businesses.
Sweetgreen’s Data-Driven Salads
The high-growth salad chain gets a lot of plaudits on its forward-thinking approach to fast-casual. What stands out to us though is the thoughtful, methodical way it mines every bit of information from its app to understand what customers want.
The founders state “it’s the main way [they] understand ingredient popularity, capture feedback, and get smarter with seasonal products [they] offer.” It's a real-time ranking of which dishes are selling, and which ones should be retired.
Lessons for your business: Having an app helps, but it’s not a necessary part of your customer listening strategy. It’s more important to understand what Sweetgreen (and others we mention here) do, rather than just how they do it.
We recommend following their example in your own less techy ways. This includes leaving surveys for your in-store customers, or calling delivery customers after they finish their meals. We at Bikky have found that customers are actually very receptive to providing feedback - you just have to ask. It's likely that the majority of your diners care about your brand and are willing to privately share feedback, rather than publicly writing reviews (like yours truly!).
If you’re a restaurateur, you’re probably reading this now, scratching your head, and saying “where will I find the time?!”. It's difficult with all the competing priorities, but we advise putting customer feedback at the top of your list. Ultimately, it could provide critical insight into your business' trends before you see the results on your bottom line.
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&pizza’s Text Hotline
Brand affinity is the pinnacle of the customer relationship – it means that not only does a customer have a certain amount of loyalty to your brand, but they wholeheartedly believe that you share the same values.
It is notoriously hard to create brand affinity, but fast-growing chain &pizza has found a relatively simple method via its Pizza Plug, an open text hotline where customers can ask questions about literally anything.
&pizza's long-term approach to building customer loyalty includes offering new ways for customers to interact with the brand. It may not drive an immediate, direct revenue impact similar to an app or online ordering platform. However, by making the brand available on an ongoing basis, &pizza signals that it values open, honest communication with customers above all else.
Lessons for your business: An SMS hotline certainly isn't for every brand. However, there are other ways of proactively responding to customer messages. Many third-party and social media platforms like Yelp, Facebook, Tripadvisor, and Grubhub give you the option to respond to reviews. Our advice here is similar to our Sweetgreen example: make responding a priority. As we referenced in an earlier post, publicly responding to reviews is a strong positive signal to new customers, and a good way to keep current customers happy.
Popeye’s and the Power of Social
The fried chicken chain claims that one customer per hour asks for delivery via Twitter. Now, Popeye’s is answering the call, announcing an exclusive deal with UberEats in major metro areas. For larger chains like McDonald’s and Wingstop, delivery is 70-80% incremental to their business. That means that just by checking its Twitter feed, Popeye’s is tapping into a potentially large new line of business.
Lesson for your business: Admittedly, this one is a lot easier if you already have a social media following. All you have to do is pose questions or run polls (like what Heinz did before releasing Mayochup) to your followers, and wait for the opinions to roll in.
Still, you don’t exclusively need this level of brand recognition to understand what your loyal customers want. Encouraging in-store and delivery customers to share their experiences, responding to online reviews, or even following and engaging your employees are all quick ways to build social awareness.
For a full, restaurant-specific list of social media strategies, we recommend checking out Toast’s guide.