Restaurant Marketing Has Evolved: Unlock the Preferences of the Modern Customer

2023 brought new challenges to the table for the restaurant industry, from rising food prices due to inflation to continued disruptions in the supply chain. To attract customers while accommodating tightened budgets, restaurants should consider employing marketing strategies that leverage data-driven insights to tailor messaging according to consumer needs. Unfortunately, the traditional marketing tech stack that restaurants have long relied on is outdated, overpriced and ineffective in today’s digital ecosystem. Restaurants can’t function well with a haphazardly combined disparate tool set. Instead, they need to integrate data insights with marketing functionality using next-generation marketing technology solutions that help identify priority customers. 

Stemming from rising inflation, consumers are also uncertain on whether it’s less expensive to dine out or eat in.  A Restaurant Pulse Check by Vericast found that nearly half of consumers plan to spend less on dining out in 2023. But, according to the same report, about 40 percent of consumers agree that with rising grocery store prices, it’s not necessarily cheaper to eat at home. This creates an opportunity for restaurants to bite into market share by enticing a budget-sensitive customer base with incentives like coupons and loyalty programs. However, to best promote potential discounts, they’ll need high-quality insights into what customers want. 

86 Third-Party Data That is Reliant on Cookies

Brands have relied on third-party consumer data to create targeted marketing efforts for over a decade. Through cookies and pixels, marketers have collected consumer data as they navigated the rise of the Internet. Using this data to inform marketing efforts brought significant success. However, there’s been an increased focus on consumer privacy in recent years among regulators and consumers alike. New regulations and the “death” of the cookie essentially dried up third-party targeting capabilities overnight, challenging the way restaurants craft advertisements and target consumers. 

Special Menu Item: First-Party Data

There’s now an emphasis on leveraging first-party data based on the assets that brands already own, such as opt-in email lists and other forms of existing customer relationships. These relationships are extremely valuable in the context of marketing efforts. 

Some of the most valuable insights for restaurants are found in general operations data, customer data and website data. Take a look at your customer loyalty programs, email lists, website management and analytics tools and restaurant management systems, such as POS data, inventory management, CRM or reservation system. This data can help to inform improvements in restaurant marketing, customer experience and your digital presence. 

As restaurants look to first-party data to inform marketing techniques, they may quickly become overwhelmed by the quantity available. In addition to the abovementioned sources of data, an increase in reservation and food delivery app use has led to a surplus of diner data. According to Business of Apps,  DoorDash® had 32 million users in 2022, compared to four million users in 2018, and the company partnered with 390,000 restaurants in 2021, compared to 59,000 partners in 2017. And as of May 2023, OpenTable is now connecting more than 1.5 billion consumers with restaurants every year. 

BOH to FOH: How to Make the Data Work for Your Restaurant

Unless you work for a major chain – which might have a team of data scientists to comb through these insights for marketing – managing and sorting through all that customer data is an extremely daunting task. Restaurant marketers with limited resources likely won’t know where to start when facing an abundance of disparate data. 

At the same time, restaurants need these insights to compete today. First-party data can inform restaurant marketing and advertising strategies, leading to better customer retention and higher foot traffic. It can also give restaurants insight into their customers’ preferences and satisfaction levels, which can then be used to improve customer service and store quality for diners, as well as adjust e-commerce experiences to suit customers’ online needs.

First-party data can also drive full-funnel tactics that includes new customer acquisition. For this, fresh approaches to concepts like “look-alike” data modeling may hold the key. With this, restaurants can target new diners with audiences built from the DNA of their own customer file. If done correctly, a brand’s first party data can inform all tactics up and down the conversion funnel.

Restaurants have taken some hard hits over the past few years, but consumers are once again eager to enjoy the experience of eating out. As diners continue to prioritize saving money, however, they still need incentives to spend, such as coupons and loyalty programs that suit their needs. Restaurants can better identify those needs using next-gen marketing technologies that unlock first-party data to inform great marketing techniques. With these data-informed marketing strategies, restaurants can develop a steady stream of business and maintain customer satisfaction amid the ever-changing, and oftentimes challenging, environment and economy.