We scoured a successful restaurant study to bring you all the most important information in one clear guide. The information was collected from thousands of restaurants around the country, identifying the biggest challenges for restauranteurs and how to overcome them.
If you are a small business restaurant owner, then you already know that balancing the day to day operations at your restaurant with any other task is a big ask. Finding the time to do a deep dive or analyze data is the last thing you want to do after a long night, so we’ve compiled everything you need to know below.
The Worst Challenges for Restaurants
When polled, most restauranteurs insisted that high operating and food costs were their biggest challenge. Whether it’s rent, back of house maintenance, securing new appliances, or fresh food — those costs add up.
When business owners are already struggling with these kinds of expenses, they’re not going to want to shell out a lot on marketing. That being said, remember that every ad you run should produce conversions and lead to new sales in the future.
The next biggest frustration for business owners was hiring and training new staff. Part of this was because of the restaurant industry itself, where it can often be difficult to find energetic, organized, and reliable staff. The restaurants’ turnover rate also prevented many business owners from promoting within, which led to more frustrations when training employees across the board.
Many restauranteurs also reported that training new staff “from the schedule to the POS system” was a huge issue. When stretched thin, many of these leaders focused only on training the newest staff and relied on certifications, orientations, and employee handbooks.
The research report emphasized that “Successful restaurants use extensive and continued training programs customized to the modern learner to improve information retention.” Still, we recognize this is rarely possible when you’re in the weeds.
How Much Tech Is Enough?
The report dove into what features guests look for when trying to choose a restaurant — and the parameters may surprise you. The team tested concepts like “self-ordering kiosks” and “tabletop tablets” (neither of which turned out to be very important) against things like Wi-Fi and Online Reservation Books, which were two ideas that guests really did prioritize.
Interestingly enough, one of the biggest concerns for guests was “Loyalty Programs.” 54% of the people polled said that loyalty programs were an “extremely important” factor for them — which boosted this and “online reservations” to the top of the list for hungry customers.
Loyalty programs have always been a great way to retain regulars and encourage repeat guests — but they’re also an awesome way to learn about your customers. When a guest registers with your system, you can request as much information as you feel comfortable with — and every bit of data can help you improve your marketing.
For example, if you start your loyalty program and request zip codes from your customers, you may find that most of your customers live in one area. Using this information to target new customers from the same neighborhood is an easy way to get ahead of the curve and make sure you’re reaching your strongest markets before your competitors.
Similarly, if you request an email address from your customers, you can send out a newsletter and begin an email marketing campaign. For small businesses, this could be a way to connect with your clients and let them know about any holiday closures, changes to the menu, or promotions you’re running. But for national brands, these campaigns often present a very valuable opportunity.
Through the use of different programs, anyone can test their email marketing campaigns and register a huge index of the impressions they receive on their emails. Boiled down, this means that you can tell how many people opened your email with the right software, what links they clicked, how long they spent reading it, and where their mouse moved on the page.
If your business begins to grow and you’re trying to lure in new investors or figure out where and how to expand, collecting this kind of data is a great way to pave the way.
What Rewards Do Customers Want
Of course, the core of a loyalty program requires that guests are being rewarded for their loyalty. Researchers have found that most guests prefer to earn free items but that majority is closely followed by those who prefer cash discounts.
Consequently, the most successful loyalty programs — i.e., the ones that are most likely to actually encourage customers to return and spend towards a future “reward” — should promise one of these two options.
Successful Marketing Strategies
All of this data is just a drop in the ocean of consumer data that companies are constantly trying to mine. For small business owners, this process can seem especially intimidating. But the more you know about your customers, the better you’ll be able to market your business to new customers.
When selecting a marketing campaign, try to find options that provide repetition, targeting, and positive branding. One easy avenue is grocery store advertising, which allows you to access your community where they will return no matter what.
Moreover, because grocery stores pull the majority of their customers from a three-mile radius of the store, grocery store advertising allows for hyper-local targeting. Then, campaigns like coupon-receipt advertising mean sending your supermarket advertisement home in the pocket of every single shopper — every time they visit the store.
With thousands of shoppers visiting their local grocery store two to three times a week, you could be looking at thousands of repeat impressions on each of your ads. Best of all, because these campaigns allow you to print your supermarket advertisement on the backs of grocery store register tape, you’ll find huge print and ink savings and can sit back while the campaign rolls out on its own.