Your customers have never had so many questions about eating out. Before this pandemic came along, they were already demanding more of you; personalised service, transparency, communication about ingredients, suppliers and ethics and now, post-COVID, they want to know all about your hygiene procedures as well. As we all scramble around for a semblance of normality, food has become more emotional than ever. Can your brand give them what they need?
Look at the excitement surrounding the post-pandemic return of McDonald’s, or the collective national thrill at the idea of getting KFC again. The restaurants who ride the wave of these difficult times are the ones on top of their brand game. As face-to-face contact with staff is currently considered a health hazard, and people become more accustomed to Click & Collect and Mobile Order & Pay, it’s more important than ever for operators to tap into digital brand opportunities.
Make a Good Impression. That lasts.
Whether in-house or online, the ordering process is the customer’s central point of contact with your brand. That’s why you want to make it easy – nobody wants frustrated customers. But you can take it one step further; if you can make this process more interactive and intuitive, it could be the beginning of a long-lasting, meaningful connection between you and the customer.
The needs for innovation, labour savings and socially-distanced dining have recently seen a boom in digital self-service throughout the industry. A digital menu unlocks opportunities to design the flow of the order process, guiding customers through the best of your offering, and spotlighting the items which most benefit your bottom line. You can suggest they upgrade to a meal deal, or walk them through your build-your-own options (letting them add those cheeky added extras in the privacy of a digital space).
There are creative advantages too – the colourful, engaging food imagery of a digital menu can provide an interactive, visual experience that builds anticipation and brand confidence in a way that queueing at a POS just doesn’t. Think Leon, and their beautiful, confident food photography – it sets your mind racing and your mouth watering at the possibilities.
Your staff also reap the benefits of going self-service, in turn putting a better face on your brand. Less time spent on menial, transactional tasks will allow them to focus more on tasks that add real value. Customers will be left with positive memories of interactions with motivated staff that they will forever associate with your brand. Plus, the integration of Click & Collect or Mobile Order & Pay will allow them to pick up food on the go and fit better with their busy lives.
Treat the Online World like the Real World.
What do customers see when they Google your restaurant? In 2020 your online presence is just as important as your front-of-house, if not more. Web users are increasingly impatient and unforgiving and will judge your brand quickly, or give up at the first sign of inconvenience.
Functionally, you want to reduce any friction for customers, or potentials, looking to find out who you are and how to dine with you – but this is also a key touchpoint for building brand recognition and loyalty. An intuitive, engaging website is a minimum. You need to convince them – with your branding – that they have made the right choice, and maintain their confidence throughout the process.
Beyond your own website, you can build that connection and increase loyalty further through social media activity. This gives you the chance to connect on a human level with customers, adding another dimension to your relationship – and conveniently reminding them, during a mindless Friday newsfeed scroll, just how delicious one of your burgers would taste right now. Instagram is a must-have, it lets you show off your cooking and personality at the same time. Twitter is extremely useful to get the word out on promotions, news, events and operational updates.
You can also directly reply to customers in a visible way on socials which, if done correctly, can put your brand on a new level – people will see you as a personality, not just a business. With a good social strategy, you can build a real following – you can even dream of the cult-like status of a Nando’s, or memeing yourself into the internet history books.
The Devil’s in the Data.
And a whole new world of interaction exists within Customer Relationship Management (CRM). The digital connection you have built with these customers, through social and email allows you to tailor offers to them – giving them the confidence that you are aware of their unique requirements – as well as providing a direct line to placing an order or booking a table. Don’t overestimate the value of sending vegetarian offers to a vegetarian. They will not forget that your brand took the time to understand their dietary needs, and personal values.
Digital ordering allows you to gather data on every step of the customer journey. Easy-to-access, real-time reporting on revenue, orders by channel, operational efficiency and menu insights. This lets you understand your customers on a whole new level, without a ton of operational legwork. No more copying from spreadsheets, no more poring over receipts, a smart digital ecosystem means all of your data is in one place and accessible at the touch of a button.
Intelligent use of data will completely transform the way you interact with customers, enabling you to offer them what they want before they even know they want it. A digital loyalty scheme built into your ecosystem can gamify the order experience and entice more frequent repeat orders – like Tesco Clubcard rewards, but more delicious. Encourage your guests to try new menu items or give some much-needed promotion to dishes that aren’t selling as well. The possibilities really are endless.
If you are to rise to the challenges of a post-COVID world, while keeping your customers’ engaged and eager to return, you must prioritise your digital brand presence. An interactive ordering experience delights customers closer, and pushes them to come back time after time. Increasing your online presence will allow them to see you in the context of bigger brands and raise their expectations and anticipation even further. You can answer their happy tweets, provide Instagram inspiration for their next meal, and solidify your relationship with them every time they order. A joined-up digital ecosystem will allow you to consolidate all of your data, keep pace with customer needs and plan for the future more effectively – whatever it brings.