Does It Make Sense to Use CRM for Restaurants?

By Philip Piletic

Do you need CRM for restaurants?

Would implementing a customer relationship management (CRM) program allow you to give your guests a better customer experience (CX)? Would it grow your base of guests, increase their loyalty and increase spending per ticket?

Many restaurants and bars are boosting the bottom line with CRM software that is customizable to their needs and their guests’ wants.

Here’s an overview of CRM for restaurants that will assist you in determining if this competitive step is right for you at this time. It’s worth noting upfront that restaurants and bars from proverbial “hole-in-the-wall” joints to the most upper-crust establishments are utilizing CRM because every guest wants respect and a customized experience regardless of how much they’re paying for menu items.

What is CRM for Restaurants?

CRM products are cloud-based software systems that track your guests’ habits via the ordering process. It’s big data at work for you and for your guests. A more customer-centric way to put it is that restaurant CRM gets to know each guest, so their experience can be optimized through giving them what they want and rewarding them for loyalty.

If you’re one of the 97% of business owners Oracle data says is seeking to improve CX, CRM is a tool you need to consider. The Oracle report was put together with big data compiled by market research firm O’Keeffe & Company, and it further shows that nearly 40% of businesses still don’t have a unified CX strategy. If you’re in that minority, a group that is shrinking as you read this, perhaps it’s time to add restaurant CRM to your toolbox.

CRM Benefits for Customers

Why would potential guests prefer an establishment that uses CRM? There are many ways that CRM improves the guest experience:

  • Their loyalty is rewarded through a points system that gives them freebies or discounts as they reach various points/spending thresholds.
  • Loyal guests can be offered special discounts, first opportunities to sample new menu items, the chance to give feedback on initiatives you’re considering or have implemented, and other perks that says to them, “You are valued” -- the epitome of a good CX strategy.
  • CRM tools allow you to customize your offerings to guests based on their demographics, past browsing and buying behavior, and what other customers with similar traits prefer.
  • You can wish your guests a happy birthday or anniversary and invite them in with a special offer, a small but appreciated gesture.

Guest tracking, as PosIQ (pronounced pozik) calls it, allows you to deliver your guests a menu of food, drinks, rewards and experiences, i.e., the whole package, more narrowly tailored to what they desire. Think about this quote from Fox Business News contributor Charles Payne. He was discussing Amazon’s use of big data to deliver customized CRM and marketing when he said, "At one point, Amazon will send things to your house that you didn't order, but when you get it, you'll keep it, because they knew you wanted it."

While Payne’s comment might be hyperbole, consider the advantage your staff will enjoy when they approach a guest they’ve never served before with something like, “Mr. Douglas, would you like to start with a green beacon windjammer tonight, or would you prefer something else?”, knowing that the offered beer is his favorite!

Restaurant CRM can boost bar and restaurant's bottom line

CRM Benefits for Restaurant Owners

We could simply say, “happy customer, happy house,” and be done with it, but let’s spell out a few of the advantages of restaurant and bar CRM utilization.

  • It allows you to create a customer data base, and every sharp marketer knows the money is in the list of contacts you possess to drip reminders and coupons and specials to by email, text and social media platforms.
  • Compiling statistics is automated, so you can easily optimize your food and drink menus for likability and profitability.
  • The statistical data is in one place and very accessible, so everyone that needs the data has it at their fingertips.
  • Employees enjoy utilizing quality CRM that improves their guests’ experience and pays them back in better tips and a more enjoyable relationship with those they serve.

For best results, you should also consider restaurant-oriented Point of Sale (POS) platform, since these days they not only streamline the whole payment process for both you and the guests, but also provide very useful insights. These can be anything from identifying which products sell the best or which of your staff is the most useful at given time, to which day of the week is the busiest for you, on average. You can either opt for a specialized POS software (like Poster, for example) that runs on regular tablets like iPad or go for a more expensive, specialized hardware (Elo comes to mind).

Getting Started with Restaurant CRM

Your first step is to research the leading bar and restaurant CRM products to determine which fits your establishment. You’ll want to see what’s offered by:

  • PosIQ
  • DineTime
  • Signal
  • Punchh
  • Eateria

Once you choose a restaurant CRM, provide training for all staff that will be using it. During the training, demonstrate the advantages they’ll enjoy when using it, primarily the personalized guest experience that makes their guests happy and brings them personal and financial satisfaction, too.

Cheers was classic US TV back in the day. The theme song lyrics include, “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came.”

How true that is! Bar and restaurant CRM is one of several proven digital marketing tools that produce the connection and the loyalty (and profits) that come with them.