While the labor crunch is affecting practically every industry these days, it has no doubt been pronounced in the restaurant business. Despite some gains in recent months, employment in the industry is still well below pre-pandemic levels.

In many cases, this ongoing shortage means the restaurant staff who do remain are struggling to keep up with demand. While bigger restaurant chains attempt to attract workers with improved benefits and increased pay, many smaller restaurants can’t afford to keep up, so any tangential activities that would otherwise keep business growing have been put on pause.

This is especially true when it comes to properly marketing one’s restaurant. When you’re working on razor-thin margins and trying to provide overworked staff members with the compensation they deserve, you can’t exactly afford to splurge on a marketing team or spare an employee to handle it in-house.

Unfortunately, the shortage doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. An estimated 26% of restaurant workers reported leaving the industry during the pandemic with no plans to return. As restaurant owners and managers struggle to fill staff positions and keep their doors open, their marketing efforts are often placed on the back burner, stagnating growth that would otherwise be welcome. 

So, how can your restaurant cope?

Automating your restaurant marketing might be the answer you’ve been looking for.

What Is Marketing Automation?

Marketing is about sending the right message to your customers at the right time. Marketing automation is the use of technology to collect data and send targeted marketing messages to customers. Simply put, it lets you send personalized messages, promos, or other communications to customers without any manual tasks.

When you consider the manual effort that goes into a traditional marketing campaign, it’s easy to see how much efficiency your restaurant can gain from automating things.

For example, to create a manual marketing campaign that reaches all customers who have ordered from your restaurant, say, 10 times, you’d need to research all customers to compile a list. To keep this campaign going, you’d need to then track every customer thereafter to monitor when they reach 10 visits. And you’ll need to manually send an email when they get there — assuming you’ve been collecting their contact info to begin with.

Automated marketing, on the other hand, uses data from your existing systems to flag and automatically send out targeted messages to these customers without you having to pull the levers. It’s no exaggeration that this could save hours of time that you and your staff simply don’t have right now.

4 Ways Automated Restaurant Marketing Helps You Keep Customers Happy (and Gives Your Staff a Break)

For many restaurant owners, automation seems to go against the very nature of creating personalized relationships. In an industry where customer service has always been conducted in a physical setting, automation may seem cold and distant. 

However, like all other industries, relationships in restaurants are evolving with the growth of technology. Instead of sending out mass mailers that target every customer in the same way, data collection and analytics provide ways for you to automatically send targeted information directly to your customers. This means customers receive more personalized service without adding the burden of manual tasks to your staff’s workload. It also extends personalized service to the many customers who prefer to place orders online.

Today’s consumers have a different view of customer service and what actions create the best experience. Consider these ways marketing automation can help you create the experience your customers seek.

1. Provide Customers With a Personalized Experience

Across most industries, consumers don’t like it when brands clog up their inboxes with irrelevant mass marketing messages. They’d rather interact with companies that know their names and can recommend products or services that are relevant to them. In fact, 90% of US consumers find personalized marketing appealing, and 72% will only engage with personalized messaging. That means mass marketing techniques are less than 30% effective. 

Since automated restaurant marketing relies on the collection of data, creating personalized experiences is easy. When you use data related to the frequency of online orders by your customers, you can provide targeted messages that:

  • Offer incentives to those who haven’t placed an order in a while,
  • Provide special offers for your most loyal customers,
  • Automatically request feedback after someone orders from your restaurant,
  • Target customers for promotions based on past purchases,
  • Follow up with new guests after their first order,
  • Message guests before special occasions like birthdays.

2. Create a Seamless Customer Experience

Over the last 2 years, advancing technology and pandemic-related restrictions combined to create a perfect storm that promises to change the way companies do business. Instead of depending on the unpredictable nature of face-to-face or phone conversations, consumers are rapidly adapting to the convenience of automated online systems. A recent survey conducted by Square and Wakefield Research revealed that 62% of restaurant revenue is expected to come through online channels, and 67% of customers prefer to use a restaurant’s own website or app for food delivery services.

Whether customers prefer to dine in, pick up orders, or have food delivered, they expect quality customer service without hiccups or delays. Obviously, a lack of staff can make it tougher to meet those expectations, but automated messages and personalized emails can alert customers to new features, provide access to online ordering options, and offer personalized discounts without the extra strain on your operations.

Perhaps more importantly, these messages reach your customers wherever they are when they’re hungry. Automated services mean your customers never have to rely on coupons they forgot at home or a mailer they received after choosing another restaurant.

3. Engage Customers — No Matter How Busy You Are

Have you ever received an offer for a free birthday treat…3 days after your birthday? While “it’s the thought that counts” can bring many happy returns with thoughtfully selected gifts, an irredeemable restaurant coupon from just feels like an afterthought. Due to the massive labor shortage, restaurant employees often have to take on more responsibilities than ever before. In contrast, automated services never forget and don’t get overworked. 

Automated restaurant marketing allows you to maintain a personal touch with every customer, no matter how busy you are or where marketing transactions take place. The result is better customer retention. 

Why is this important? Studies show that increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% -95%. The ability to provide these services without adding additional tasks to your staff’s already overflowing workload means you’re more likely to keep new efforts like personalized messages and customer loyalty programs in place.

4. Collect Data for Informed Decisions

While human intuition is a powerful and mysterious thing, it isn’t always the best tool for business decisions. Measurable data, on the other hand, can provide you with essential details about how your customers interact with your marketing efforts. Like all business expenses, marketing must fit within a certain budget. Techniques that fail to provide a reasonable return on investment should be eliminated — especially when you’re grappling with staffing issues that may shift where your dollars need to go.  

That being said, you need to have the data to be able to act on it, and that’s luckily something that can be automated in addition to your campaigns. Automated restaurant marketing data collection begins with the collection of contact information that allows you to continue to reach out to customers with promotions and messages. The system can also collect data to influence your marketing decisions in these ways:

  • Track which advertising efforts result in interaction from new and returning customers.
  • Automate a guest feedback system that requests a review 24 to 48 hours after a customer orders.
  • Enhance your feedback feature with automated responses. You can thank responders with 4- and 5-star reviews and ask customers with low reviews what went wrong.
  • Create alerts for repeat customers who haven’t made a purchase within a certain period of time so you can follow up.

Final Thoughts on Automated Restaurant Marketing

Automated restaurant marketing is one way to streamline your services and take extra burdens off of both you and your employees. When utilized correctly, it also promotes your restaurant and provides you with a simple way to create more personalized relationships with your customers. When you have total control over your customers’ data — as opposed to it being held up by 3rd party delivery platforms, for example — you can use the information to continually improve your efforts to provide diners with the seamless customer service they seek. 

Fun fact: 9Fold offers built-in automated restaurant marketing that leverages customer data from your online orders to send automated email and SMS campaigns. These messages are personalized based on customers’ order histories and encourage them to come back for more. Everything is designed and deployed by our team, so you and your staff can concentrate on the important stuff, like running a great restaurant.

 

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