Olga Lopategui

Olga Lopategui is an independent marketing consultant based in Austin, TX. She helps restaurants grow sales and improve ROI with loyalty marketing and CRM.

Before you start down the road of gathering the data it’s good to ask yourself – why do I need this information? How am I planning to use it? Large restaurant companies that have access to analytical resources may start collecting as much as they can now and figure out how to use it later. For smaller players, the “why” is critical.

Example: Why collect location data for your small restaurant customers?

Let’s say you are a pizza shop, doing dine-in, take-away and delivery in a mostly residential area, near a local transit hub. For your delivery customers, you know who they are and where they live. It’s worth it to accumulate and analyze this kind of data. Why? You can use it for direct mail advertising to these customers if they haven’t shown up for a while. Or you can plot their addresses on a map and discover that there is a section in your service area that you don’t get enough orders from; maybe you should put some flyers in the mail or place some ads in the bus shelters around there?

Now imagine that you love this information so much, you start asking every dine in customer to fill out a form with their home address. You even give them an incentive to do so – “free garlic bread!”. You gather hundreds of these. Some of them overlap with your delivery service area. Others live far away. You don’t know what brought them in. Maybe they were just visiting once for work or leisure, maybe they come here occasionally. You have no way of tracking their frequency. So… what are you going to do with this data? It’s probably not worth it to send a promotional card through the mail to anyone who has visited but lives far away. It may be worthwhile to send it to those who live nearby, but frankly – most of those have ordered delivery before, so you already have their addresses (for free!). Was this data worth the trouble? Not really!

Which restaurant customer data should you collect?

So, which data should you collect? Only the data that you know how to use! You can always get your customers to fill out some information, online or in person – in exchange for an attractive incentive. When you decide which questions to ask, make sure every response can be used for a purpose. If you ask your customers about their age, you better have a plan for marketing differently to different age groups. If you ask them about their favorite dish, you better make sure none of the popular ones disappear off the menu or change anytime soon.

What is the most important restaurant customer data to collect?

For most dine-in restaurants the only truly critical data is the customer name and email address. After this information is gathered the customer can be reached with follow up questions that help build out their profiles for marketing purposes. These additional questions can include:

  • Address
  • Age and gender
  • Birthday date
  • Family status (single, married, has kids)
  • Hobbies and interests
  • Favorite foods

It’s easy to incentivize the customers to fill out the profile in exchange for a special offer, gift or discount. Just don’t overwhelm them with irrelevant questions that you don’t know how to use for marketing!