How to leverage customer data for your restaurant

Restaurant owners have endless data at their fingertips from a variety of sources — point-of-sale (POS) systems, marketing platforms, inventory trackers and scheduling software, to name a few. But do you know how to use this data to your advantage?

While it might take some time to understand up front, data analytics can help position your business for long-term growth. By learning how to categorize, collect, and use customer information, you can improve your marketing and build stronger customer relationships.

What are the four types of restaurant customer data?

When you start working with customer data for your restaurant, the sheer volume of information can feel overwhelming. It’s helpful to break everything down into categories:

  1. Identitydata covers basic information about your diners, enabling you to find your key demographics and spot opportunities for audience expansion. It includes things such as a customer’s name, age, birthday, location, ethnicity, gender, phone number and email address. Depending on your restaurant’s goals, your database might also include information about the customer’s family. You can take identity data a step further to add socioeconomic information such as job title, industry and approximate income.
  2. Engagement data includes details about how, when and how often customers interact with your restaurant. You can collect this information from your POS system or the analytics that are connected to your website, social media platforms or email marketing program. Useful metrics include website traffic, marketing email open rate, behavioral flow, click-through rate and conversions.
  3. Behavioral data covers the different ways diners engage with your restaurant. It could include order history, average order value, participation in loyalty programs and use of delivery promotions. On a broader scale, this data can also incorporate things such as email newsletter sign-ups and unsubscribes, creating an account on your delivery system and engagement on different types of devices.
  4. Attitudinal data involves customers’ attitudes toward your restaurant. It helps you track the opinion of your brand across your diners, the public and specific segments of your audience. For restaurants, it might cover the performance of a menu item, customer reactions to a price or feedback about a seasonal dish. This information typically comes from customer surveys, comment cards, online reviews and complaints.

How to capture customer data

Data can help drive everything from marketing to menu design — but first, you have to collect it. There are many ways to capture data; some are automatic, while others require direct input from your customers.

If you’re new to data analysis, it’s often easiest to start with hands-off data-collection solutions. These systems run in the background, gathering information until you’re ready to use it. Popular options include Google Analytics, which gathers website data, and social media analytics to help you track how customers interact with your profiles and posts.

To collect delivery data, try Grubhub Direct, a service that lets you set up a commission-free online ordering website for your business. As soon as your customers start ordering through your Direct site, the system automatically captures details such as order history, average order, purchase frequency and contact information. Since you own the data, you can download it for free, engage with customers directly and build one-on-one relationships.

When your automatic systems are running, try asking your diners for direct feedback — individual reviews tell you exactly what customers think. Request reviews in person, mention it in your marketing emails and make the request via social media. If your restaurant is on the Grubhub platform, customers can leave feedback after every order. With Grubhub Premium, you can even respond to ratings and reviews to build trust and show you’re serious about creating the best experience possible.

You can also encourage reviews by creating a Google Business profile. Customers can upload photos, rate your restaurant and leave comments. The rating is visible when someone comes across your restaurant through a Google or Google Maps search; a high rating can boost engagement and bring in new diners. Make the most of your Business profile by:

The physical activity in your restaurant is another important data source. Capture information by tracking restaurant capacity and orders per hour. Then, use the data to improve operations. When you understand how order volume and dinner numbers fluctuate throughout the day and week, it’s easier to adjust staffing to meet the demand. Efficient scheduling keeps labor costs in check and ensures employees’ workloads are reasonable.

5 tips to take advantage of customer data

Now that you know how to capture customer data, the next step is to use the information to improve your restaurant operations – and ensure customer satisfaction.

1. Create a customer loyalty program

Loyalty programs can help you collect and use customer data. Diners must sign up to participate, so you can record their names, contact information and order history. As you start to create personal records for each customer, use the data to reward and encourage repeat business:

  • Track order value and provide a discount coupon after customers spend a certain amount over time.
  • Monitor order frequency gaps and use them to trigger an automated “we miss you” email.
  • Work with your delivery platform to offer a deal after a certain number of orders.

Check out more strategies for creating a restaurant loyalty program that stands out.

2. Send targeted promotions

Customer data gives you the power to personalize your marketing efforts. If you’re tracking a customer’s orders, for example, it’s easy to identify the items they order frequently. With that information, you can recommend new menu items, create targeted upsell offers or send customized discount coupons for the diner’s favorite meal.

Order times can be helpful, too. If you know a specific customer often comes in for lunch on Friday at noon, you might schedule a marketing email for 10 am to encourage them to choose your restaurant over a competitor.

Data is particularly useful within your delivery system. Use it to suggest items customers might like, offer a special discount for a larger order, or provide a free item with the purchase of another item. Services such as Grubhub Premium make it easy to access both promotion and loyalty tools to increase exposure and maximize the benefit of customer data. For example, if a quesadilla is your most popular item, consider offering a 10% discount to motivate diners to add it to their cart. Learn more about how you can run promotions on Grubhub.

3. Establish contacts

Once you have a customer’s contact information, use it to create and maintain an open line of communication. Put diners’ email addresses into a mailing list, and send out regular newsletters to promote new specials and announce seasonal menus. To prompt people to come in or order delivery, provide exclusive discount codes or special deals. Depending on your target demographic, you can also send coupons in the mail.

Regular contact can boost business returns, but it also keeps your restaurant top of mind. It’s a good way to announce changes that affect customers as well — holiday hours or a new location, for example. When you’re consistent with the frequency and personality of marketing emails, they can help humanize your brand and make diners feel they’re part of a community.

If you need to start collecting email addresses, there are several ways to go about it without seeming pushy. The trick is to find an incentive that’s appealing enough to get guests to hand over their email. Offer a free dessert to people who join your mailing list, invite social media followers to enter a contest, or require an email to sign in to your restaurant’s Wi-Fi.

4. Show appreciation

Tracking individual data helps you understand your customers on a deeper level. In fact, you probably know more about them than their coworkers. Use that data to show your appreciation and build a positive, lasting relationship. Some options include:

  • Send a birthday discount code.
  • Include a surprise treat for repeat customers.
  • Celebrate the sign-up anniversary for loyalty-program members.
  • Host an exclusive tasting or thank-you dinner for loyal diners.

No matter how you show thanks, receiving a special discount or bonus can mean a lot to a customer. Take a look at more ways you can show your customers you appreciate their business.

5. Get social

Social media is critical for restaurants — customers use platforms such as Instagram and TikTok to research restaurants and find exciting new dishes. To make sure your posts are getting in front of the right people, analyze customer data to find out where your target customers spend time online.

Different demographics tend to use different platforms. If you want to reach younger people, consider building a presence on TikTok or Instagram. For an older audience, you might want to double down on your Facebook posting strategy. Then, use your profile to build connections:

  • Post videos of new dishes or tempting desserts.
  • Release food posts when customers are thinking about their next meal.
  • Offer discounts for social media followers.

Check out more tips on how to make your social media pop.

Take control of your customer data with Grubhub

At Grubhub, we understand how data can be powerful for restaurants. We’ve looked into customer data and trends to help independent restaurants like you understand your diners. Dive into our Technomic report where we dig into current online ordering trends and tips for independent restaurants. Take a look at Grubhub’s #2022Delivered to get a look into customer’s ordering habits and cuisine preferences.

Check out Grubhub's 2022 Delivered

Customer data is one of the most valuable tools you have to market your restaurant. The right information enables you to personalize marketing, build relationships, and boost loyalty. If you’re ready to streamline your data collection and marketing for delivery customers, try Grubhub today.