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Quick Service Restaurants: Improving Operations With Customer Data

The restaurant industry is becoming increasingly customer-focused, where customers’ preferences dictate industry trends and major developments. In such a data-driven landscape, quick-service restaurants (QSRs) need to collect and utilize customer data. 

Here’s a detailed guide to how QSRs can collect and leverage customer data to improve their operations. 

Why Do Quick-Service Restaurants Need Customer Data?

2020 has bought massive changes in the restaurant industry. In 2021, restaurant owners are looking to revive their business and achieve business longevity. As a restaurant owner, a question that might often cross your mind is, “how do I get my customers back?” 

While acquiring new customers is crucial, it’s five times as costly as retaining an existing customer. Moreover, your current customers are likely to spend 67% more than new customers. 

However, achieving customer loyalty isn’t easy for QSRs. There are close to 195,000 QSRs in the US alone. Customers have too many options to choose from. One way to retain your customers can be to offer the most delicious food and the best quality service. But this approach has a drawback. No matter how good your food or service is, you can’t always be the best. One day, there’ll be someone in the competition. 

Therefore, QSRs need to do more than just offering quality food. You need to better understand your customers and their touchpoints. You need to know where they live, what’s important to them, how often do they dine out, what do they like, and more. 

You need customer data to get answers to these questions. With this data on hand, you can engage your customers outside your restaurant, which is critical to boosting customer loyalty. When you know your customers well, you can send them tailored messages and offers to increase engagement and encourage them to return to your restaurant. 

How Can Restaurants Collect Customer Data?

Having discussed the importance of customer data, let’s now talk about how QSRs can collect customer information. Back in the day, when restaurant operations were entirely manual and human-based, collecting customer data was almost impossible. Customers would walk in, order food, pay the bill amount, and leave.

The adoption of technology in the restaurant sector has changed things. Thanks to digital technologies, automation, and social media, QSRs can now collect data in a hassle-free and customer-friendly way. Here are some techniques for QSRs to collect customer data. 

1. POS Systems

A point-of-sale (POS) system is an essential tech upgrade for every QSR. It allows you to generate bills and accept payments via multiple methods like cards, e-wallets, etc. When creating the bill, you can ask customers for basic information like name, email address, and contact number. 

Accepting payments via POS systems allows you to collect and store more information about your customers. POS systems also integrate with loyalty programs and other third-party apps. By consolidating all this information in one place, you can better understand your customers and communicate with them after they walk out of your restaurant. 

2. QR Codes

QR codes have emerged as a must-have technology for quick-response restaurants. They have several applications, such as:

  • Contactless Menus: You can replace your physical menu card with a dynamic QR code with a logo and link it to your restaurant menu online. Customers can scan the code and check the menu in real-time. And since the code is dynamic, you can change the linked content without changing the QR code. This allows you to make changes to your menu without the need for generating a new QR code for your new menu.
  • Payments: QR code payments are taking over the world. They offer a quick, secure, and contactless way of making online payments. You can put up a payment QR code on your restaurant’s POS terminal and allow customers to make payments online. 
  • Collect Feedback: QR codes are an effective tool for collecting feedback. You can put up a feedback QR code on the POS terminal and link it to a feedback form. Customers can scan the code and leave feedback.
  • The Scope Is Massive: The applications of QR codes in QSRs don’t end here. You can implement them to offer coupons, share entertaining content, promote your website or social media, collect email addresses, and more. Since all smartphone cameras now come with a QR code API, accessing QR codes has become seamless for everyone. 

3. Social Media

Social media presents numerous opportunities to collect data and know your customers better. You can use social networks to indulge in meaningful conversations with your customers. Wave Asian Bistro and Sushi, a Florida-based restaurant, uses Instagram to post high-quality images and videos of their dishes. The followers comment on what they think about the dish, which gives the restaurant a better idea of what they want. You can devise a social media content strategy depending on your restaurant and customers. Before posting any Instagram post, make sure you create the content in the perfect Instagram post size to fit perfectly.

4. Email and SMS

QSRs should prioritize collecting their customers’ email addresses and phone numbers. Once the customers walk out, you can communicate with them by SMS or email to ask for feedback or send offers. By engaging your customers in meaningful conversations, you can better understand their requirements and expectations. 

How Can Quick-Service Restaurants Leverage Customer Data to Optimize Their Operations?

You have collected customer data. Now what? Collecting customer data is half the work done. Here’s how QSRs can leverage customer data to optimize their restaurant and takeaway operations. 

1. Understand Your Customers

As discussed, knowing your customers well is the key to customer engagement and customer loyalty. When you know your customers, you can add a touch of personalization to your restaurant services. Diners are likely to spend 30% more time at a restaurant when they feel a personal connection. 

Now, how can you build that personal connection? It boils down to getting into the nitty-gritty of what your customers want. Let’s say one of your customers is allergic to olive oil. When she came to your restaurant for the first time, she told you about her allergy. You could save this information in your restaurant management system or POS. If the customer comes to your restaurant or orders food the next time, you’ll already know that you need to use an alternative to olive oil. 

Similarly, if a lot of your customers are complaining about the hygiene at your restaurant, you can take steps to ensure cleanliness. When you know your customers well, you can make informed decisions and set your restaurant up for success. 

Saving your customers’ names and phone numbers would be an effective way for tracking personal preferences, requests and associating customer reviews and ratings. Restaurants can collect Net Promoter and Customer Satisfaction scores from patrons, and track their performance on a regular basis. While NPS scores showcase a broader customer satisfaction level, CSAT questionnaires can be used to obtain specific feedback scores on food quality, ambience, hygiene, customer experience and other specific metrics. 

A simple analysis of these scores across a weekly/monthly timeline for the metric will provide insights restaurants can use to improve their customer experiences, and tweak their performance. 

Update and Optimize the Menu

Collecting customer data allows you to find out which items are most popular in your restaurants and which ones are hardly ordered. Offering an item that isn’t in demand increases your operational costs. 

Since the item is on the menu, you need to have the ingredients required to prepare it. But if no one orders, the ingredients will expire and no longer be fit for use. Taking the item off the menu is a favorable option in this case. 

Similarly, if a dish is popular, you can stock its ingredients in advance to prepare for a sudden surge in demand. Customer data also allows you to examine the days and hours when a certain dish is in most demand. You can manage your inventory levels accordingly to make sure you’re always ready to fulfill your customers’ needs. 

Lastly, you can leverage customer data to find the demand for any new dishes. By collecting feedback or following up with your customers on email or social media, you can determine what dishes your customers are interested in. If they’re talking about an item you don’t offer, it’s time to add it to your menu. 

Restaurants can optimize their inventory and offering by tracking the total number of orders for each of their dishes in a week or a fortnight, obtain an average number of times the dish is ordered per service or per customer in a given timeline to gauge which dish is more popular, and which dish could be replaced. With an average number of orders, the inventory can be better stocked, ensuring freshness and minimal wastage of raw ingredients. With this data, operational costs can also reduce in the long term. 

Determine Slow and Busy Days

All restaurants have slow and busy days depending on their ideal customers. If you’re a youthful cafe with a modern design and a wide variety of dishes, you’re likely to be full with younger customers on weekends. Contrarily, if you’re a basic restaurant that offers full meals at affordable costs, you’re likely to have more rush on weekdays as working professionals will want to drop by for breakfast or lunch. 

Analyzing customer data can help you get a clear idea of busy and slow days. You can also break it down to the exact timings and hours when your restaurant is the busiest. You can do this with a sample set of one to two months to normalize your data, to gain better average information for accurate planning.  With this information on hand, you can prepare in advance and provide a better experience to your customers. 

Build Meaningful Customer Relationships

The information you get by analyzing customer data goes beyond names and phone numbers. You can find more about their purchasing habits, demographics, preferences, and more, which can help you build meaningful customer relationships. 

One way, as mentioned before, is to provide a personalized experience to your customers when they order food or walk inside your restaurant. You can also engage your customers when they’re not at your restaurant. 

Offering loyalty programs is a powerful technique to build customer loyalty and relationships. You can encourage your customers to join your loyalty program to avail exciting benefits and rewards. Data from Hospitality Technology shows that 45% of diners will select a restaurant if they’re a part of its loyalty program. 

Sending emails and messages or connecting on social media can also go a long way in building customer relationships. You can send them informative and engaging content or personalized deals and offers. On social media, you can create a community of your customers and conduct surveys and contests. 

For your email campaigns, check your open rates, and reply rates to determine the efficacy of your email campaigns. On social media, track your engagement rates to get an idea of how your target audience is responding to your content. Community building is a great way to interact with your loyal customers, foster advocacy and also showcase your restaurant’s speciality dishes. 

Formulate a Better Marketing Strategy

As you collect customer data, you get a better understanding of your customers, which helps you optimize your marketing and advertising campaigns. Segmenting your customers based on age, locality can help personalize your campaigns. It’s essential to have a marketing analytics tool that allows you to compile customer data into visual reports.  

These reports will help you figure out how your marketing campaigns are performing and how they can be improved. For instance, if you use Google Ads to generate leads online, the reports can help you understand what keywords your customers are using to search for the items or services your restaurant offers. 

Based on that data, you can optimize your ad campaigns. Review your performance based on metrics including ROAS, CPC/CPM depending on your ad type, landing page conversion rate, clickthrough rates and eventually, on-site metrics like footfall or total number of customers in the time period. Determine if you are getting a positive ROI from your campaigns to decide if you want to ramp your campaigns up, or look at alternative channels.

Final Thoughts

Collecting and analyzing customer data is not a one-time task but a continuous process. Customer preferences keep changing, and QSRs need to regularly collect and examine customer data to keep up with the new requirements. Therefore, it’s essential to have a strategic system that allows you to automate the data collection process. 

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About the author

Akshay Deogiri is an SEO outreach specialist at Beaconstac, enabling businesses to bridge their gap between the digital and offline worlds through custom QR codes

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