Restaurant customers recognize their differences from one another and want an experience that is tailored to them, speaking to their wants and needs. A recent report from PWC cited that a whopping 82 percent of consumers are willing to share some of their personal information to receive a better and more personalized customer experience. Also, personalized experience was referenced by 87 percent of respondents to PWC’s survey as one part of the buying experience that is most important to them.

Integrated WiFi marketing is a huge assist where users connect to a business’s WiFi and can then receive real time messages directly from a franchise or business via SMS messaging. For brick-and-mortar franchises, this is an effective communication tool that takes valuable customer data from WiFi hotspots and utilizes it for effective customer outreach. This allows for the creation of highly segmented and targeted customer lists, which ensures when a business is requesting a review, sending a coupon or other customer outreach tactics, accumulated data informs businesses who will respond best to each message type. For example, integrated WiFi marketing tracks the duration a customer is at a business’s location as well as other key data like buying habits and hours frequented at a location. This makes it much easier to reward customers for their loyalty because businesses and franchises can learn customers’ buying habits and time spent at a franchise location or storefront.

At first, a brand and its offerings may be enough for customers to come in and purchase their products or services and spread the word. Taking a business or franchise to the next level, though, requires understanding of these different considerations and customer types. While there are many ways to categorize potential customers from accumulated data, this article reviews the four customer types most likely to give businesses a significant boost.

New customers

A greeting goes a long way in making a customer feel welcome and at home in a restaurant. In an article for Verywell Mind, the sense of belonging was emphasized as a human feeling that is a priority for positive mental health and is regularly sought out by all people. How does this relate to business though? People wanting to belong and feel unique is a two-pronged experience that businesses can provide through effective and personalized messaging. Welcome messages have a 42 percent higher read rate than average messages but just saying “welcome” isn’t the best strategy. The welcome message opens the door to showing a business cares about its customers and the people that walk through its doors. It’s the all-important first impression that acts as a preview of the communication and care to come from the business regarding its customers.

Just looking at email alone, personalized email marketing in 2022 had a median return on investment (ROI) of 122 percent according to survey data presented by Insider Intelligence. Fourty-seven percent of U.S. consumers also prefer emails containing deals or special offers from brands they like/are familiar with. When customers walk into a brick-and-mortar location for the first time, offering them a discount from their first purchase within the welcome message sent to them can effectively push them closer to purchasing. That means a greater likelihood of purchasing upon their first visit or returning a separate time to make additional purchases in seeking additional discounts personal to their shopping habits. By providing a data-driven environment that provides customers with information pertinent to them, it shows that a business does more than its competitors and works to understand and provide a special experience for its customers.

Return Customers

Consistently communicating to a restaurant customer is very important when it comes to retention. Automated, personalized loyalty messages are a start but how do you connect specifically to the customer with this? With integrated WiFi marketing, a business knows that a guest has been in five times in the last month. More specifically, a restaurant with integrated WiFi marketing can learn that a guest came at 4 p.m. during the past six Friday happy hours and customers with that specific behavior can be greeted with an automated message that relates to these behaviors and preferences. For example, a message may read “we love our Friday happy hour customers and tonight you get a free entree after 8 p.m. (click here to redeem).” 

Making these offers helps increase consumer spending, but incentivizing loyalty programs also poses a great opportunity to increase repeat business. Research from McKinsey cited that members of paid loyalty programs are 60 percent more likely to spend more on a brand after subscribing. Additionally, subscribers to free loyalty programs were 30 percent more likely to spend money on the brands they were subscribed to. While paid loyalty programs certainly offer more of an edge for incentivizing repeat business and increased customer spending, free programs are also largely effective and beneficial.


Another important foodservice customer category is the regulars group. This is the customer base that is more profitable than new/repeat customers solely because of the cost of appealing to these customers. For recruiting new customers, this process costs on average five times more than what it does to  practice effective customer retention. With messaging to regular customers, it can be more direct and feature not only loyalty rewards for their continued purchases but also advice on when the store is more convenient to travel to.

For instance, from accumulated customer data, a business learns that a customer has been to five taco Tuesdays in the past two months at a single franchise location. Knowing this, a business can then inform that customer of a more convenient time or location where the customer will receive the same service. For example, “Tuesdays at noon are our busiest time. If you wait 45 minutes and come to (insert store location) past 12:30 p.m., our checkout lines are greatly reduced. (click here for more information).” Then provide the customer with a link to the Google search results for when the referenced store is at its busiest/least busy.

This also helps kill two birds with one stone as letting loyal regulars know when a business or franchise location is least busy may lead to more business for that franchise, and to greater efficiency in sales throughout the day. It’s important to continue to offer regulars content and deals that relate specifically to their purchase histories, but also to recognize their changing behaviors and continue to make new offers based on customers’ dynamic buying habits.

Reconnecting to Lost Customers

It hurts when a relationship ends with a restaurant customer, not only because of lost potential earnings, but because the rapport built with customers helps foster a better business environment. Reconnecting with lost customers is the fourth customer type businesses should focus on and utilize integrated marketing to reconnect with as temporary loss of business doesn’t mean the end of a customer relationship. According to the book “Marketing Metrics,” there is a 60–70 percent chance of making a sale to a former customer. This is a significant increase over the mere 5–20 percent likelihood a business has of making a sale to a prospective new customer.

Relating back to the previous points, the strategies for reeling in new customers are limited in specificity initially because buying habits are unknown until prospects become customers and establish visit behaviors. With returning and regular customers, making recommendations to them becomes pinpoint accurate over time as to why they are likely to visit or consider a purchase. Reconnecting to a lost customer is the same practice in drawing on the stored data about that customer and then making recommendations or sending messages to them based on previous visits and preferences. Which is why it’s easier to make sales and reestablish connections to former customers because a business already knows so much about them.

Embracing integrated marketing makes the job of businesses fulfilling customer wants and needs exponentially easier. Seeing as almost 100% of customers also feel this way referencing that PWC report, it means that businesses need only ensure they offer enough to their customers to keep them from going to other businesses offering more personalized experiences.

Stephen Gould is the CEO of CogoBuzz.

Consumer Trends, Growth, Operations, Outside Insights, Story