While restaurants and cafes don't usually have membership programs in the same way as retail, that doesn't mean it would be impossible for them to identify their loyal customers.
But before we get into how it is done, let's discuss why this is important. People can choose to visit a café or restaurant for a variety of reasons. In most cases, however, it is eventually about these three pillars: the quality of food and drink, the atmosphere in the premises and the quality of service.
For example, if a customer thinks that a particular café serves the best carrot cake in the world then that may be a reason for the customer to keep coming back. But if the staff is unfriendly and the atmosphere is bad then it will not be as clear. The entire customer relationship is built on a very fragile foundation and the customer is more likely to switch to a competitor instead.
In fact, every second customer would stop supporting a brand after several bad experiences, and as many as one in three would walk away after just one bad experience.
Therefore, it is important to first make sure that all three pillars have support and then start looking for business opportunities with repeat customers.
However, it's important to remember that the frequency of visits isn't automatically a sign of customer loyalty — or in other words: customers who genuinely believe in your business won't leave you if they find someone who's cheaper.
So how can restaurants and cafes actually identify and reward repeat customer deals and improve customer satisfaction? How can you get frequent customers to become loyal customers?
Get to know your customers better with data
If you work in the hotel industry, collecting data is probably already part of your everyday practice. For example, do you track how many times a dish is sold in a day? What are the popular times when people visit you? Or what the average ticket cost is?
But have you ever thought about how well you actually know your customers?
The second step is to collect more detailed first-party data, claims Alice Stratton, a global CEO of data connectivity platform LiveRamp. First-party data is data that a customer has chosen to share with your company. According to Stratton, this is usually done by offering a discount in exchange for an email address or including login information for a restaurant app.
While this can give you helpful insights into the behavior of an individual customer, you still need to figure out what to do with this information.
Use data to offer personalized experiences
People already know that they expect financial benefits from loyalty programs so focusing on the customer experience can be a real brand difference.
Customer experience influences buying decisions, especially in restaurants and hotels where 74% say positive interaction is an important factor in decision-making.
Personal experiences can mean, for example, remembering what a customer has ordered in the past or what their favorite dishes and drinks are. Doesn't it feel good to walk into the café around the corner where the staff remembers exactly what you usually order? With digital solutions, this information can be stored in the system and automated to predict when the next visit would possibly take place.
Let's say I visit my local coffee shop every Friday afternoon and order a latte — and maybe a slice of carrot cake on the side. By tracking this behavior digitally, the café can send me a discount offer in the evenings when there are carrot cakes left that will soon expire. I would feel appreciated and probably I would swing by the café on the way home to take advantage of the discount.
However, do not forget that trust is still the most important part when it comes to handling personal data. According to PwC , eight out of ten consumers in the U.S. say their willingness to share personal information depends on how much they trust a company.
Then remember that technology is just a tool and not a solution. Most of us still like to have some kind of human contact in the experience – especially if problems crop up. If you see technology as an opportunity to complement the human side of the customer experience, you can then differentiate yourself from the competition, get your customers happy – and increase their loyalty.
How do you get a more complete picture of your customers? Solutions like ClowID help you get data from more of your customers than just those in your loyalty program while allowing them to remain completely anonymous – increasing trust.