Great restaurant businesses are built on great brands - and both are built on a loyal customer base. Sometimes great food and great service are enough, but if you want to be sure, really knowing your customers can help. That’s where owning your own data comes in.
Many moons ago people in the restaurant business didn’t really think about ‘data’ at all. And they certainly didn’t think about it in the way the average Silicon Valley tech professional talks about it today. Whatever data they did store was in their head: the names of regular customers, the dishes they preferred, how to get to their house quickly if they ordered for delivery, etc.
Today data is a big deal
Like it or not, data today is a thing, and an important thing at that. As ordering moves online more and more (and that’s a trend you should enthusiastically embrace), every time someone orders food from your business, data is created. Someone somewhere learns the name, address (and usually email and phone number) of every single person who orders from your business.
They also learn what they ordered, and they learn what they like, what their ordering pattern looks like over time, and how that is changing.
This is the sort of information great business owners used to store in their head, because it matters. This knowledge is what turns occasional customers into regular customers - and regular, loyal customers are the lifeblood of any hospitality business. A 2015 survey estimated that 64% of all revenues in food and retail came from 25% of customers.
In other words, two-thirds of revenue comes from the quarter of your customers who love your brand and your food. And many of those customers are made, not born. They are the result of personal service and smart communication, things that in turn rely on data.
So data matters. Which is why…
You must own your data
You might not be aware of it, but right now there is a war going on in the online food business. The prize is the customer, plus the data that describes them and effectively controls communication with them.
On one side are the aggregators such as Just Eat, Deliveroo and Uber Eats. They stand between you and your customer. They give you just enough information to make food and hand it over to a delivery driver - and no more.
Why do they do that? Because they want to own that customer. They want to make money out of that customer by selling them to the highest bidder, which is why you're suddenly being asked to pay MORE money for a more prominent listing on their app.
Ultimately, aggregators don’t really care about your business, and when your customers go to them first, they are actively encouraging them to try other alternatives - all while learning more about them and, in time, enticing them to go elsewhere.
You can’t build a successful business that way. Instead, you need to own your own data. When you do that, you control the relationship with the customer. You learn more about them over time, and you grow as you build brand loyalty and an increasing base of satisfied customers.
What it really means to own your data
Lastly, let’s think clearly about what owning your own data really means. What are the practical things that happen when you learn about your customers and apply that knowledge? How do they benefit your business right now and help it grow in the long-term?
Here are some of the benefits to you:
- Owning communication means being able to reach out. So, for example, you can implement customer loyalty programmes that offer free food or discounts on a regular basis, and let customers know about them directly.
- Knowing your customer means being able to get in touch via push notifications or SMS messages when you haven’t seen them for a while. Even better, you can personalise that communication, so that you aren’t just delivering a generic ‘come back’ message, but giving them something that will really appeal and make a difference to them.
- Customer data means being able to customise menus and online experiences based on what your most valuable customers are interested in, rather than just based on general information about what is popular. So you can take a more focused approach.
- You also control communications about specific orders. No third party gets in the way, and there’s no possibility of confusion when things go wrong. You are in charge of the process.
- Your data gives you insights. You can begin to learn how your business is growing, what is working well and not so well, and where your customers are clustered. As a result you can optimise for future success.
Knowledge is power. On that basis, it’s time to own your customer data and take control of your own destiny.