How East Village Pizza Used SinglePlatform to Let the World Know How Great Its Garlic Knots Are

Just over 60 percent of new restaurants close before their hit their first anniversary — so by longevity alone, East Village Pizza, which has been around since 1997, has already more than beaten the odds. But every year brings new challenges as customers’ tastes and behaviors change — and even established local favorites need to adapt.

When Frank Kabatas took over East Village Pizza in 2003, he had plenty of experience making great pizza, but he says he was “like a freshman” when it came to marketing his business.

East Village Pizza - NYC's best garlic knots

He looked around and saw that all of the other pizza places in New York City were distributing paper menus as their main form of marketing. For many years, he too used to go door-to-door, leaving printed menus all around his neighborhood every six months. Customers would keep them on their refrigerator or in a drawer, and when they were hungry they would call East Village Pizza for delivery.

Kabatas says back then, whenever he distributed menus, the restaurant would soon see a lift in business — an increase of maybe 10% over the next few months.

The system worked, so he kept doing it — until eventually, it didn’t. At first, he started noticing in 2008 that the percentage lift he got from his physical menu distributions was dropping. “Either we were doing something wrong, or something else was happening,” he says.

Then, around 2015, after years of decline, his main marketing method just stopped working. He would distribute the paper menus and there was barely any lift at all.

THE CHALLENGE

Customers’ habits had changed. People no longer wanted to pick up a paper menu, let alone a phone. Instead, they had migrated to third-party sites and apps like Yelp and GrubHub (and many more) to both discover restaurants and to place orders. He realized that this meant he needed to find a new way to reach new customers and to keep his menu up to date across all of these new platforms.

Looking for ways to capture more people’s attention online, Kabatas started using social media to promote the business, posting on Facebook and Instagram, making his pizza live on camera every night, and getting into conversations with customers.

He noticed that replying to people who left reviews or commenting on their posts created a much deeper connection than any photo he shared — and he started hunting down influential people online and inviting them in to try East Village Pizza’s food, in the hopes that they would share their experiences online.

The more Frank promoted certain items online, the more people asked for them when they came in.

That’s when Frank realized he could set his business apart by focusing some of his marketing efforts around an item that every other pizza shop offered but didn’t promote: garlic knots. He was confident his knots were better than anyone else’s. If he could get people’s attention on them, not only would they choose his pizza shop over a competitor’s, customers would order not just a slice but also garlic knots, increasing his average ticket.

East Village Pizza's famous garlic knots

Frank started featuring his garlic knots on social media, suggesting them to customers in-store and highlighting them on his in-store and printed menus. The problem: when you searched for “best garlic knots east village,” his wasn’t the top search result — despite having a leg up because of the “East Village” in the restaurant’s name.

THE IMPACT

Part of the reason that Kabatas’s garlic knots weren’t ranking high in searches was structural.  On his website, his menu was posted as a PDF. He had reasoned that this format allowed customers to download and print it, but he hadn’t realized that this meant the menu text wasn’t searchable by Google, Yahoo or Bing. It didn’t matter how many times he posted tantalizing photos and videos of the cheesy garlic knots on social media if customers couldn’t find them when they searched on Google, Facebook, Yelp, Yellow Pages, TripAdvisor or even on the East Village Pizza website, it created a hole in the customer journey.

He had been diligent about going to multiple online platforms to update menu information and make changes, but the process of going to each of them one-by-one was time-consuming and onerous — and doing so still wasn’t propelling him to the top of the relevant search results.

Then earlier this year, Kabatas started using SinglePlatform to manage his menus — not only on his website but also on sites like TripAdvisor and Google My Business — and he began seeing changes very quickly.

THE RESULTS

SinglePlatform published Kabatas’ menu to his website, replacing the PDF,  and then to Google My Business — and in just five days East Village Pizza was the number one search result in the area. Kabatas was also pleased to discover that he no longer had to spend time communicating with various online platforms to make updates.

And because it has become much easier for him to change the items on his menu online, he does so more frequently.

“The world is now online — and when the world is online you need to control your online menus,” says Kabatas. “And it’s tough to do on so many platforms. SinglePlatform is really helping me and saving me time — at least 40 minutes a day on average. The money that you are paying is nothing. You’re going to save time and make much more money than what you are paying for SinglePlatform to handle your menu.”

5 Kinds of Apps to Consider for Your Bar or Restaurant

Whether you’re looking to switch things up for your restaurant or you’re looking to take your workflow to the next level, using an apps can only be an assistance in your operations.

There are a number of uses for apps in today’s food service industry. But finding the correct apps can make for a tough time.

When it comes to really improving your restaurant’s workflow, your operations management, and your customer service, there are some apps that really come in handy, like:

  1. Social Media/Website Apps
  2. Messaging Apps
  3. POS Apps
  4. Event Management Apps
  5. Dining and Nutrition Apps

So let’s get started on seeing how these apps can add some extra spice to your restaurant’s daily management and operations.

1. Social Media/Website Apps

group of freinds on social media

Using social media and other online tools to your advantage will improve your management abilities significantly, from both a marketing and an operations perspective.

If using social media/website apps is what you’re interested in for your restaurant, you should take the opportunity to:

  • Film videos. Using social media platforms like Instagram or Facebook to take videos of your restaurant and its environment is an effective marketing technique that brings more customers to your business. Make sure to film your restaurant at peak hours or to film during promotional events to convey the excitement and vibe of your restaurant correctly to your viewers.
  • Pick the right social media platforms. Sometimes Twitter might be useful for your restaurant, and sometimes Instagram might be the right way to go. Consider what your restaurant needs at that particular time and make the decision based on your thoughtful assessment. A platform like Instagram might be more useful for taking videos and photographs while a platform like Twitter might help more in informing your customers on the day-to-day happenings in your restaurant.
  • Use WordPress plugins. Using the right WordPress plugins and apps means you can manage your restaurant’s website. This can be especially helpful for restaurants that conduct staff and order management through their website, as some apps can improve functionality through those platforms .Even using wordpress ecommerce plugins can help your restaurant’s management capabilities.

Using social media or other website apps like this can be extremely effective when trying to improve your restaurant’s marketing. Don’t wait to use them!

Communication between customers and staff plays a major part in your restaurant’s operations, including booking and management.

2. Messaging Apps

woman on smartphone texting

Messaging apps not only make the booking process more efficient, they also do wonders to increase customer satisfaction.

While messaging apps can’t necessarily be integrated with a bar pos system or a restaurant point-of-sale system, they work very well when they’re both a part of the same workflow.

There are a number of problems and activities that a messaging app can help your restaurant with. For example, it can help you:

  • Retain your customers. Messaging apps are fun and convenient for customers to use and take away a lot of the headaches involved in booking a table. This means that having a messaging app as a part of your restaurant’s workflow and booking process will be greatly appreciated by both customers and staff alike. Plus there are plenty of messaging apps that are easy to use.
  • Promote your restaurant’s deals. Once your customers have decided to use the messaging app, you can promote your restaurant’s deals with the app itself. Most customers enjoy being informed of great deals and promotion nights from their favorite nights.
  • Manage booking and reservations. The prime purpose of messaging apps is to make the booking and reservation process easier. Nothing is more frustrating for a restaurant manager than an error made during the booking process. Messaging apps eliminate the possibility for these kinds of mistakes by opening up a clearer path of communication between the management, the host, and the customer.

A messaging app can help your restaurant out with any of these major tasks. Give it a shot, and watch your restaurant’s workflow and efficiency improve in no time.

3. POS (Point-of-Sale) Apps

crowded coffee shop with employees and customers

POS systems and the apps they use can be a big help when it comes to restaurant management, especially when looking at ways to run your restaurant’s operations more effectively.

Curious about how a POS system and its app can help out your bar or restaurant? Remember that with a point-of-sale system and its app, you can:

  • Employ mobile POS management. Modern point-of-sale systems can be used from mobile locations for on-the-go restaurant management. POS systems with mobile kiosks, especially, are helpful in this situation and can accommodate a variety of unique food service situations. Food trucks and smaller food stands will value this kind of flexibility in their highly mobile service environments.
  • Track customer and restaurant data. Point-of-sale systems can keep great track of customer trends and restaurant management statistics, allowing you to spend time on your day-to-day operations while your POS system collects data that can improve your management and marketing strategies. Information like this can improve customer service and restaurant workflow in one pass.

Try out these ideas when you’re looking for ways to expand your POS usage. They can be a great help to any restaurant in need.

4. Event Management Apps

waitress setting up a table for a party

While underestimated in the restaurant industry, event management apps can come in handy if your restaurant is a pinch for organizing promotions or special-themed nights.

In case you’re at a loss about how event management apps can help your restaurant management, keep in mind that you can:

  • Work with local organizations. There are always local organizations that would love to hold their fundraiser or team-building night at your restaurant. Whether it’s a local sports team or a friendly charity, these organizations usually are in need of sponsors and hosts, and that means more customers for your restaurant.  Having an event-management app on hand means you can organize these situations easily and not have to change around your restaurant’s workflow too much.
  • Find alternatives to Eventbrite. While Eventbrite is a popular tool for organizing events, there are a number of software and app-based alternatives to eventbrite that could more directly address your restaurant’s needs. Maybe your event has tickets or is with a specialized nonprofit organization, and eventbrite won’t cut it. If that’s the case, check out Fonteva’s article on eventbrite alternatives to get started.

Follow suggestions to combine your event management and restaurant management skills into one great strategy, and you should be having no problem throwing great events at your restaurant.

5. Dining and Nutrition Apps

person on smartphone looking at a nutrition app while eating cake

Dieting and nutrition apps are constantly being developed that could help put your restaurant on the map.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a pizza restaurant or serving gourmet french food, you can work with these apps to improve your restaurant marketing and your management skills.

If you need some ways to use these dining and nutrition apps, don’t forget that you can always:

  • Advertise your dietary specialties. Some restaurant and nutrition apps keep track of the dietary restrictions or specialities found in each restaurant. If your restaurant offers vegan food or follows kosher restrictions, these apps can be a great aid in attracting specialty customers to your restaurant, especially if those customers are few and far between sometimes.
  • Get customer feedback. Some of these nutrition and dining apps allow for customers reviews and feedback to given. You can use this feedback to improve your restaurant’s service and workflow, and if the review is especially positive you could even ask to publish it on your restaurant’s website.
  • Spot special marketing opportunities for diets. With keto and paleo diets becoming mainstays in the nutritional world, some restaurants are taking this opportunity to adjust to the trends and offer meals specifically oriented towards these diets. If your restaurant is one of those, then you can indicate that on dieting and dining apps to make sure that your customers are well-informed.

Use these tips whenever you’re looking to expand your restaurant’s online presence into the wonderful world of dining and nutrition apps.

In Closing

flat lay of people eating dinner burgers and fries

The world of apps and restaurant management might make an unlikely pairing, but when you choose the right apps for your restaurant operations, it can make all the difference.

All of these apps can be instrumental in upgrading your restaurant management skills or in changing up your restaurant’s service style. Take advantage of them and watch the results happen in no time.

How Loyal Are Your Restaurant Customers? 3 Ways to Boost Customer Retention

Every business owner knows that customer retention is key to long-term success. Studies have consistently shown that acquiring a new customer is much more expensive than keeping one. This infographic highlights that notion, illustrating that the cost of acquiring a new customer is 5x higher than retaining an existing one. Not to mention, loyal customers spend 67% more than new guests!

Of course, you want to retain existing customers, build that loyalty, and keep them interested in coming back to dine with you.

However, figuring out what makes some customers leave—and what inspires some to remain loyal—can sometimes be a guessing game. While the specifics may vary, the root cause is usually the same. According to a recent study by RightNow, 82% of US consumers stopped doing business with a company due to poor customer service.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Poor customer service is a huge deterrent for someone looking for a positive dining experience. And the data supports this fact, as businesses are losing $75 billion per year due to negative customer service!

Looking to keep more diners loyal? Here are 3 simple ways you can improve your customer service and boost customer retention:

1. Keep the Customers’ Dining Experience in Mind

Sure, food and ambiance play a factor in a guest’s dining experience. But, customer service is just as, if not more, important than these other elements. It’s easy to underestimate the power of a friendly face, but your staff’s behavior has a huge impact on customer retention.

73% of people who stop patronizing a business leave because of a rude employee. And after just one negative experience, 51% of customers will never do business with that company again. You don’t want to lose a customer forever just because of a staff member’s less than impressive behavior.

Although it can be difficult to remain upbeat with challenging customers, resorting to snarky behavior will damage both your relationship with individual patrons and your business’s overall reputation.

Make sure you’re always training your staff on proper etiquette and paying attention to how they act when serving customers. If a customer is a regular, go out of your way to remember their name and favorite dishes. Guests will really appreciate that you know them on a first-name basis and pay attention to them when they dine with you.

Of course, you should always encourage positive attitudes, friendly faces, and the notion that the customer is always right.

Being friendly isn’t the only thing your staff should be. They should be knowledgeable about your restaurant and your menu offerings. If a guest is unsure about what meal to choose, waiters should weigh in, giving an honest opinion based on their knowledge of the menu items, ingredients, and flavor. This shows that your staff is invested in the restaurant and in helping your customers.

You should also consider customer experience online. Engage with guests on social media and respond to reviews to keep the conversation going both before and after a customer visits you. Our Review Monitoring and Social Media tools can help you build these relationships with your guests online.

Bonus Tip: Keeping your staff happy can help inspire them to treat customers well. Looking for ways to boost your company culture? Read this blog.

2. Create a Loyalty Program to Keep Guests Engaged

What better way to keep customers loyal than with a loyalty program? Incentivizing patrons is a great way to keep them engaged, excited, and inspired to return to your restaurant again.

What exactly is a loyalty program? Hubspot’s definition:

[A customer loyalty program is a rewards program offered by a company to customers who frequently make purchases. A loyalty program may give a customer free merchandise, rewards, coupons, or even advance released products.]

There are many benefits to a loyalty program, from customers racking up a higher bill in order to earn more points, to getting repeat business with guests joining you for their birthdays and other events offering promotions.

You can get creative with what you want to offer with your unique loyalty program; it could include branded swag items or coupons and deals. Test out different offerings to see what resonates best with your customer base.

Don’t know where to start? There are plenty of tools out there for you that will do the majority of the work for you.

Upserve is a restaurant point of sale system that also offers a loyalty feature. Instead of an app or a card, Upserve uses a guest’s credit card to keep track of their earnings, which makes it easy for both you and the customer.

Belly is a loyalty app that functions on an iPad in your store. Guests can sign up for your program and log in to earn rewards. Plus, if someone hasn’t visited in a while, Belly will send them an email reminder to encourage them to stop in.

LevelUp is a mobile payment tool offering customized loyalty experiences. Customers can order food through the LevelUp app and the technology even allows you to notifications to customers if it senses that they’re near your restaurant.

Loyalty programs don’t just have to include freebies and discounts. You can create memorable experiences for guests to make them feel exclusive and appreciated. A cocktail hour for diners with a certain amount of points or holiday gathering for all loyalty program members can help differentiate you from your competition.

Do your research when deciding on the right loyalty program for your restaurant, get creative, and start retaining more guests.

3. Maintain a Great Reputation

If consumers have heard wonderful things about your business, they’re more likely to remain a customer. Conversely, if they’ve heard bad things about your restaurant, they may hesitate to visit you again. Maintaining a good reputation can be a lot of work, but it’s work that needs to be done in order to keep customers’ respect and loyalty.

How do you maintain a great reputation? Well, it all starts with the customer experience. And it extends to your online presence. If someone has a bad time at your restaurant, they may go online and post a scathing review. This will influence other people’s dining decisions. And it’s the prime opportunity to make amends. As we’ve mentioned before, always respond to reviews, positive or negative, to show you care.

As mentioned above, be interactive whenever possible, even when the plates are cleared. Respond to social media comments, post user-generated content, and create a personality for your business. You’ll become easily recognizable to guests.

Keep your restaurant top-of-mind by sending email newsletters and other campaigns to encourage guests to come dine with you. Make them aware of upcoming events and specials, and keep them in-the-know about what’s going on. If you make them feel more like a friend than a customer, they’ll notice.

In Closing

When it comes to customer retention, great customer service is essential. Make sure you and your staff are making the most of everyday opportunities to go above and beyond for your customers. Get creative by incentivizing guests to inspire another visit. You’ll get the best kind of thanks for your retention efforts — happy clients and repeat business.

Modernize Your Restaurant with Real-Time Customer Communication

The way that people communicate with businesses is changing. Gone are the days of customers who will leave detailed voicemails, wait patiently for replies to emails, or search across a restaurant’s websites and social profiles to find answers to their specific questions.

In an age where more and more businesses offer live chat support, customers expect to be able to get answers to their questions in real time, whether they have a question about making a reservation or want to ask about booking a private event. Real-time customer communication isn’t just a nicety, it’s a reasonable request.

A recent poll indicated that 90% of consumers would prefer to text businesses rather than call. And consumers look positively on brands that offer the ability to get quick answers via real-time messaging channels — 77% of people have a positive perception of companies that offer texting as a customer support channel.

In the hyper-competitive restaurant world, providing real-time support to consumers learning about your restaurant is more important than ever. According to a recently OpenTable study, more and more diners are making reservations within 24 hours of arriving at a restaurant, and nearly 30% of customers are searching for restaurants within an hour of their meal.

In short, restaurant guests have an increasing number of ways to discover restaurants, and restaurants that hope to capture customer attention in this ever-shrinking window of discovery need to be able to answer their questions instantly wherever a customer is online.

The Age of Responsiveness

Restaurants are already starting to adapt to this shift. Some of the best restaurants in the world are abandoning landlines in exchange for modern, real-time customer communication via SMS and other digital channels.

It’s not surprising that the largest restaurant discovery platforms in the world, from Facebook and Instagram to Google and Yelp, are actively rolling out tools to let restaurants be active, responsive, and easily messaged on all these platforms. Restaurants’ profile pages on these platforms now clearly show how long it takes for businesses to reply to customers who message them, in an attempt to remove the layer of frustration that comes when a customer reaches out to a business with no idea when or if they’ll ever hear back.

To encourage messaging adoption, platforms like Facebook and Yelp enable the messaging function by default. Showing up as “responds in more than a day” on these platforms where new customers are discovering restaurants can be enough to kill a potential sale right off the bat.

But how can restaurants easily manage customer messages in realtime when more and more major platforms are adding messaging functionality every month? In this article, we’ll outline four simple ways that restaurants can enable messaging without adding headcount, costs, or complex new processes to their existing customer engagement strategy.

1. Google Messaging

More than any other platform, Google is where the most people are learning about restaurants. Sites like OpenTable heavily promote their value as discovery platforms, and Google is no different. Here’s a snapshot from the Google My Business listing for Mezze Bistro, a Guestfriend customer. Nearly 75% of the people who found Mezze on Google were discovering them for the first time, rather than searching for them directly.

Restaurant owners should do everything they can to ensure that those thousands of potential customers can easily get all the info they’re looking for without having to go searching on competitor-laden platforms that are outside of your control.

Google is investing heavily in its Google My Business platform to ensure that customers can easily discover any restaurant, learn everything they could possibly want to know about that restaurant (from exploring a menu to finding out specific details like dress code), and book a table without ever having to leave the Google ecosystem.

For restaurants, the value of this is undeniable — up until now, a diner might discover a restaurant on Google, but if they wanted to explore the menu, make a reservation, or find some other specific detail about the business, they’d need to go offsite to a platform like Yelp or OpenTable to get answers to their questions. And once someone leaves the restaurant’s controlled environment on Google, the chance of them discovering a competitor and deciding to eat there instead goes up significantly.

But how do you let people make reservations, browse your menu, and answer more difficult questions that Google doesn’t support, without making them leave your Google page or call your restaurant?

Solution: Enable messaging on Google

Even if you keep your business info up to date on Google, there are still a lot of things that guests can’t do on Google. Previously, they’d need to go to another site or call your restaurant to do things like make a reservation. That is, until now.

Google now lets you enable Messaging within your GMB account. Currently the only way to enable Messaging on Google and ensure that your guests are receiving real-time replies without any extra work by your team is to use an automated messaging solution (like the one we built at Guestfriend). Connecting a “virtual host” to Google will let your guests get real-time answers to their questions in their preferred messaging format, without forcing them to call your restaurant or go searching for answers off-site.

2. Facebook Messaging

95% of businesses have the “Message Us” button enabled on their Facebook page, but most don’t even realize it. While smaller restaurants may only get a few messages a week from potential diners, large national brands with millions of followers need a plan to answer all of these messages at scale.

From our research, the average response time for restaurants is several hours at best and never in many cases. Based on the fact that more and more diners are making decisions within a few hours of dining, lack of responsiveness is a major reason why restaurants lose customers.

Solution: Enabling messaging on Facebook

Even if your restaurant has a plan in place to periodically reply to customer messages on Facebook, it probably isn’t fast enough. So how do you automate messaging so that customers get intelligent answers to their questions in real time and then only get routed to a real person for complex questions?

Facebook provides a variety of tools to create your own automated replies, but your development team will need to devote extensive resources if you hope to create anything that is even remotely flexible. Alternately, you can build your own solution on a chatbot authoring platform, which can take several months, or use a custom virtual host built specifically for your restaurant, which you can customize and deploy within a few hours.

Solution: Submit Your Business to Facebook Discover

If you have a chatbot or “virtual host” connected to your brand’s Facebook page, then you should be using Facebook Discover. Discover is a product that Facebook launched on Messenger last year, which lets its users easily discover new chatbots that are either relevant to their interests or geographically close to them.

Being featured on Discover opens up your restaurant to an entirely new audience of potential customers. And the best part is that it takes two minutes to submit, and you’ll be one of the only restaurant brands in the world using it! It’s an effortless way to get more people organically discovering your business with no marketing spend required. We wrote more about this here.

3. Automated text messaging

Phones and landlines for restaurants are dying. In most scenarios, when someone tries to call a restaurant, they either go straight to voicemail or get connected to a host during busy hours and can’t hear anything. Any way you slice it, phones for restaurants are largely pointless and archaic, only delivering negative experiences. Texting is the future.

90% of people want to message businesses instead of calling. But outside of enabling messaging on platforms like Google and Facebook, how do you quickly set up the infrastructure to let your guests text an actual phone number and receive real-time replies to their questions?

Solution: Enable automated texting

If you have an automated messaging solution in place, anytime someone texts your restaurant, they’ll get real-time answers and be able to have a natural language conversation with your virtual host, with no work required by your team and full control over the exact responses guests receive.

At Guestfriend, we provide local SMS numbers, automatically connected to your brand’s custom virtual host, that can be promoted on your social media pages, across your website, in your phone voicemail recordings, and more.

4. Voice Platforms

Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana. Every major platform now has a voice-based personal assistant that will give you instant answers to nearly any question. Voice is exploding and it’s going to change the way that people interact with restaurants. Some reports estimate that nearly 50% of searches will be voice by 2020. Search results and search marketing are going to be heavily affected by this shift to voice and Google is actively figuring out how to handle things like SEO in a world dominated by voice searching.

It remains to be seen how restaurants will be able to affect and/or sponsor voice search results, but it seems more and more likely that voice technology will simplify the way people learn about businesses and then allow them to take specific actions. It’s not hard to imagine that in the coming years, you’ll be able to discover, learn about, and book a table at a restaurant within a few seconds, all with your voice.

Conclusion

There’s never been a more exciting time to be involved in the digital customer experience side of the restaurant industry. The tools to engage guests across a huge number of platforms are readily accessible and easy to use, and the shift from an asynchronous customer experience to a real-time one is well underway. And restaurants that are able to leverage these tools to their fullest get to shape what “customer experience” in the modern restaurant world actually looks like.

Every month, more and more platforms roll out messaging features (Google being the most recent and Instagram coming very soon). While the growing number of platforms that customers can use to get in touch with your business might seem daunting, there are finally tools built specifically for the restaurant industry that let you manage and automate customer communication for the first time. And undoubtedly, allowing your customers to get in touch with you in their preferred medium is the best way to differentiate yourself and capture more business.

We mentioned “virtual hosts” several times in this article. To recap briefly, a virtual host (sometimes called a chatbot) is a tool that lets your restaurant interact with your customers in real time across all of your online channels. Most virtual hosts, like the ones we build on our Guestfriend platform, can answer 95% of guest questions instantly, and then seamlessly route guests to your normal customer support channels for specific questions that you identify.


If you’re looking for an automated messaging solution built specifically for your restaurant that lets you handle customer messaging online in a scalable way, check out what we’ve built at Guestfriend. We’d love to chat.

About the Author: Alec McGuffey heads marketing initiatives at GuestFriend, the virtual host built for the restaurant industry.

How to Engage Your Restaurant’s Customers with Messaging Apps

A robust mobile marketing plan is crucial for restaurant owners and managers.  With 68% of today’s businesses integrating a mobile marketing strategy into their daily outreach, it’s vital that today’s restaurant owners get on board with mobile.

So how does your restaurant go about implementing a mobile strategy? One powerful and affordable mobile plan that you should not overlook is messaging apps.  Adopting a way to use tools such as SMS messaging, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp as part of your mobile marketing will likely increase your conversion rate by 64%.

So how do you go about implementing a messaging plan into your mobile marketing strategy?  Simple, take a look at the ways your competition is integrating messaging and then do it better.  Since paying attention to what others are doing is not always that easy, we’ll show you how some restaurants are using messaging.

Customer Retention

Customer retention is vital to the success of your restaurant.  In fact, repeat customers spent 67% more than new customers when eating out.  As a restaurant owner or manager, you need to make sure that part of your mobile marketing strategy is aimed at these repeat customers.  But how? Simple—use broadcast lists in WhatsApp.

Creating broadcasts lists is a free and easy strategy to increase customer retention.  The most challenging part of creating these lists is getting customers to opt into your list.

Burgers and Relish, an American style diner, mastered the art of the WhatsApp opt-in by using their wait staff.  They played on the customers’ fear of missing out. The strategy was straightforward.

  1. Make sure the customers are enjoying themselves.
  2. Mention other events that will occur during the week.
  3. Ask the customers if they’d like to get reminders about events.
  4. Collect phone numbers.
  5. Ask the customer to add the restaurant phone number to WhatsApp.

This strategy landed Burgers and Relish about 6000 people on their contact list to receive messages.

Getting the number is just the first step.  WhatsApp allows you to put 256 people on one broadcast list; however, you can create as many lists as you’d like.

Where most restaurant managers fail using WhatsApp is by just dumping names and numbers into a list.  A more segmented approach to using broadcast lists is a significant factor in creating customer loyalty.

Customers like to feel like you know what they want, and that’s exactly what Burgers and Relish did to achieve the success they did.  They created segmented lists like family, young adult, couple, and students. Then they targeted their messages to the correct audience.  The result? Brand loyal happy customers.

You could easily implement this type of plan into your mobile strategy.  All you need is a WhatsApp or another messaging service and a motivated wait staff.  The best part, it’s free!

Promotional Offers and Coupons

There’s nothing like a sense of urgency to get people to act quickly.  And, as a restaurant owner, you can capitalize on this need by sending out flash sales, limited time offers, and coupons.

The strategy is straightforward.  On a slow night when you need to fill the dining room, send out a time-sensitive message.  Here are a few ideas:

  • The next 25 groups through the door receive a free appetizer.
  • For the next 2 hours, we are offering 20% your bill.
  • From 5 till 7 today we are offering $2 mixed drinks.

The list of ideas is endless.  Keep in mind that 57% of shoppers are motivated to try something new when they are given a discount.

Experiment with different types of coupons and sales and see which ones get the best response.  Then grow your ideas from there. That’s exactly what Pizza Hut did in its most recent SMS campaign.

The marketing team at Pizza Hut understood that targeting your audience is crucial.  So, they experimented with geofencing as its targeting strategy. For a 15-month period, the pizza giant sent out SMS coupons to customers on their list who entered a ½ mile radius of one of their locations.

The results of using SMS and targeting customers were incredible.  It was 4.4 times more effective than TV ads.  It was 2.6 times more effective than print ads.  And, it was 146% more efficient than their other marketing approaches.

Reservation Reminders and Confirmations

Restaurants who have a well-planned reservation system benefit from it tremendously for several reasons.

  1. Reservations reduce wait time.
  2. They increase the number of guests during slow times because you spread out the number of people in the building.
  3. They streamline managerial tasks.
  4. They improve customer loyalty.

Your parents and your grandparents may prefer a phone call and a human when it comes to communicating.  But, millennials want speed and convenience. That would explain why over 2 billion messages were sent on Facebook Messenger between consumers and businesses.

As a restaurant owner or manager who understands the benefits of a solid reservation plan, you can lighten your load when it comes to communicating with people who are not in your building by taking advantage of Facebook Messenger’s ability to make reservations.  The facts are simple.

Studies show that 69% of consumers prefer to interact with a bot when communicating with brands.  And, you need to be out and about in your restaurant and not on the phone taking reservations.  So, a bot reservation system like the ones that can be easily added to Facebook Messenger are the perfect solution.

Facebook Messenger bots allow you to accept reservations from your Facebook Page in the same conversational tone that a human would use when messaging.

If you are unsure how to set up bot reservations, don’t worry.  There are over 100,000 bot developers out there.  And they are mostly subscription services that come at a very reasonable price.

One thing that many restaurant owners worry about when it comes to reservations is no-shows.  When people don’t show up, you lose money.

But, with messaging apps, you can send links and reminders to patrons about their upcoming reservations. In fact, recent studies show the reservations reminders decreased no-shows by 23% which averages out to about $2,900 a month.

Conclusion

80% of smartphone users rely heavily on chat apps.  As a restaurant owner, you need to look at this as a direct line of communication with a large percentage of your customers.  Without a robust mobile marketing plan in place that includes messaging apps, you are falling behind the competition.

The bottom line is straightforward.  Your customers may think that you make the best wood-fired pizza in the area.  Or, they may feel that your steaks are better than the restaurants down the block.  But, the fact is they are looking at their phones 80 times a day.  And, if your competition is literally staring them in the face and offering them discounts and convenience it’s likely that your customers are will head past your door and down the block.


About the Author: Anastasia Sviridenko is a content marketing manager at TextMagic, a bulk SMS software solution. When she’s not working, you can find her wandering through a bookstore, or sipping on a coffee at home.

How to Succeed at Email Customer Service

Email can be a tricky customer service channel. Because you don’t have a voice-to-voice or face-to-face connection, it’s more difficult to gauge how upset a customer might really be and get at the real heart of the issue. However, many customers prefer to send an email rather than call or come into your store because it’s quick and requires little effort on their part. For all these reasons, email customer service won’t be going away any time soon. Here are 3 things you shouldn’t be doing as part of your email customer service program.

1. Don’t Use Canned Responses

Letting a user know you received their inquiry and will get back to them soon is one thing. But actually having your customer service response be a form letter or script is just icky. Does the FAQ page on your website answer a user’s question? Sure, but that doesn’t mean you should just send them a link and call it a day. Take the time to give a customized response that will make your customer feel valued.

2. Don’t Make Excuses

When someone writes in with negative feedback, your first instinct may be to make excuses for the problem. It doesn’t matter what caused the issue or who might be to blame—making excuses won’t resolve the problem. Focus on providing an efficient resolution and winning that person back with attentive, positive service.

3. Don’t Rush Past the Problem to the Solution.

Before you make a hasty reply back to a customer, make sure to read their email carefully and thoughtfully consider how best to respond to them. While the types of issues that come up may be pretty standard for your business, the people who have these issues aren’t—and they each require a slightly different response.

In addition to these 3 things to avoid, here are 3 things you should be doing with email customer service.

1. Use Personalization

When responding to a customer’s inquiry, make sure to personalize your correspondence. Use their name, include any relevant purchase or account information, and be sure to sign off with your name as well. These small touches will ensure that your message sounds genuine and targeted to the customer rather than being an automated message from a system.

2. Set Expectations

If it’s going to take a couple of days to resolve an inquiry, don’t be afraid to tell the customer up front. Setting clear expectations so that the customers knows what the next steps are and when they will be happening will prevent any feelings of impatience or being forgotten about.

3. Provide a Human Element

Humans respond to other humans. When you’re emailing a customer, make sure your message incorporates a human element. Show that you really care about the problems the customer is having. Use informal (but still professional) language rather than stilted business or technical speak. Tell the customer how to reach you if they want to follow up outside of email. Anything you can do to reinforce a human connection will contribute to a more positive interaction between the customer and your business.

The Bottom Line

Email might not be everyone’s preferred customer service channel, but it can be effective when used correctly. Make sure to tailor your communications based on the specific problem and customer, focus on the right resolution rather than the quickest one, set clear expectations for what will happen and when, and give a personal touch to each email you send.

How to Effectively Communicate With Your Customers

Over 75% of consumers prefer to interact with local businesses digitally, as opposed to by phone, text, or traditional mail. Because quality customer service is a huge factor, it is vital to provide your customers what they want. Switch from traditional to digital communication, and make it easier for your customers to get the information they need, the way they want to be reached. Here are three ways to make the switch and satisfy your customers:

1. Be Social

Ditch face-to-face for Facebook because almost half of your consumers expect to engage with you on this social media platform. By updating your Facebook page periodically and inviting your customers to post about their experiences, you pave the way for successful online communication – something they expect you to facilitate.

2. Be Informative

84% of consumers say they want to receive helpful advice and tips from local businesses regarding products or services. Not only does the extra information benefit your customers, it makes your business seem more credible and trustworthy; prompting them to continue purchasing from you.

3. Be Responsible

According to Yodle, over 50% of consumers say they prefer email reminders for appointments and service updates. By keeping track of your customers’ appointments, you make their lives easier and make your business look better. Taking on the task of reminding your customers about their upcoming obligations shows you value their time and your quality of customer service.

By taking these steps to reach customers the way they want to be reached with the information they’re looking for, you promote your business’ reputation and customer service.

Learn how SinglePlatform can ensure that your communication potential with customers is maximized on the web.

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