The restaurant industry is one of the longest-lasting trades, permeating through cultural and generational shifts. Why? Because it is a service-oriented business that focuses on providing basic human needs for food and interaction.

Because of this, customers are at the heart of everything that a restaurant does, and a successful owner knows this. They pay attention to what their customers need—meeting them at every turn as they evolve and transform.

The current pandemic makes these values even more crucial as customers change their buying habits and become more selective with how and where they spend their hard-earned money and potentially limited disposable income.

Here’s how to ensure you’re maximizing your efforts to gratify your audience and remain as profitable as possible:

Listen, Learn, and Adapt

Listen to Your Customers’ Needs

Many restaurant owners think they know what customers want better than anyone else. This may not always be the case, especially in current times. Customer behavior is always fluctuating, and you need hard data to get the full picture.

Restaurant customer relationships should be a two-way street, even when services are off-premises. There is no better way to gain an understanding of your customers than to go directly to the source and ask them. Surveys, social media, and simple conversations can help start a dialogue that better reveals what your customers are truly looking for. Their answers just might surprise you.

Learn Who Your Customers Are

In an industry already rife with competition, at a time when that competition is stronger than ever, accurate customer data is crucial to remain prosperous. Restaurant management technology can help you gain the information you’re looking for. Correctly leveraged, a comprehensive and integrated Restaurant Management System (RMS) can automatically collect and manage your customer data from across all of your ordering channels. This gives you the insight you need to identify and respond to changing customer behaviors.

Take, for instance, off-premises orders. Thanks to the pandemic sweeping the nation, off-premises demand such as online ordering, delivery, and mobile apps is on the rise. Restaurant owners are now faced with a new challenge, which provides them with an opportunity to gain more insight into how customers behave and respond through various off-premises offerings such as no-contact delivery, curbside pickup, and family meal kits.

Now armed with data, as you work through the monumental challenge of navigating changing behaviors and trends, you can finally glean answers. Pinpoint the exact times that your customers are most likely to order, identify the specials they gravitate towards, and discover their most preferred methods of communication. Look for real-time data to give you insight on how these behaviors change, and what causes those changes to occur.

Adapt to Their Changing Preferences

Once you know who your customers are and what they want, you can adapt your restaurant’s offerings. If your order data shows that your customers have started gravitating towards family-sized meals rather than dinner for two, you can create personalized promotions for a pizza, appetizer, and dessert combo that’s sure to feed the whole family.

Restaurant owners can gain valuable insight into dine-in, delivery, and curbside operations, and use the information within that data to adjust strategies as needed. Adaptation is key to surviving in the restaurant industry, so the ability to do this will ensure your restaurant’s longevity.

Find Long-Term Success by Building Customer Loyalty

Restaurants today can’t just focus on the quick fixes that will get them through the month. They need to focus on the long-term strategies that will ensure their business survives not only through the pandemic, but for generations to come. The answer lies with your loyal customers.

Much research has found that the majority of a restaurant’s income is generated from existing loyal customers, rather than new ones. Because of this, restaurants need to focus on two things: how to keep loyal customers satisfied to drive repeat business and revenue, and how to turn one-time customers into lifetime customers.

Reinventing a Great Customer Experience Behind the Mask

Service Can’t be Sacrificed

Just because you’re automating more of your restaurant operation doesn’t mean you can be any less attentive to guests. Restaurants need to provide all of their channels with the same high-quality service your customers are used to.

The new “restaurant guest experience” means more than just the experience customers receive in the dining room. The customer journey is being reinvented and moved in a digital direction. Technology platforms add to the experience not just on-premises, but off-premises too, like in the drive-thru, online ordering, curbside pickup, mobile ordering, and during deliveries. By learning and adapting to this new restaurant guest experience, you’re meeting customers where they are and solving their challenges in this new chapter of life.

Adopt Technology that Grows with Your Business

It’s no secret that technology plays a massive role in the future of the restaurant industry. Innovative and integrated technology helps you connect with and understand your customers no matter the state of the world. It maximizes revenue, optimizes efficiency, boosts accuracy, and equips you to quickly scale your business.

Integrated Restaurant Management Systems provide the greatest ROI by connecting all of your solutions into one. This allows you to grow and add new avenues for revenue as they arise, then monitor and adapt customer behavior as you grow. At the end of the day, isn’t that what all restaurants are trying to do?

Corey Chao is the Director of Product Management for HungerRush. He and his team are fanatical in keeping up with the latest trends and technology that affect the restaurant industry. For more information on how HungerRush helps restaurants thrive, visit us here.

Outside Insights, Story