A Full-Service Restaurant Guide to Customer Engagement

Customer Engagement for Table Service Restaurants showing a happy couple dining at a full service restaurant

Restaurant goers have high expectations. They expect great food, prompt service, and affordable prices from full-service restaurants. Even if your restaurant excels in all three areas, there’s no guarantee that customers will come back.

To drive customer loyalty, full-service restaurants must provide a positive experience; an experience that doesn’t start and stop with a meal. Full-service restaurants have to engage customers in personal and relevant ways to keep them coming back for more.

How? The typical go-to solution has been to implement an off the shelf customer loyalty program. But, you need more than old-school punch cards.

You need to know your audience, reward your best customers, and drive incremental revenue and positive ROI.

To help, we’ve created a comprehensive customer engagement guide specifically for full-service restaurants. In this guide, you’ll discover:

  • The pillars of full- service restaurant customer engagement
  • Tips to engage full- service restaurant goers
  • Success stories of full- service restaurants using a customer engagement platform

The customers you already have

The Pillars of Customer Engagement

There are 4 pillars of customer engagement that hold true for every full- service restaurant. They include:

1. Personalize customer experiences

Customers aren’t faceless sales. Each customer comes to your restaurant for a reason, and it’s up to you to keep them coming back. One of the best ways to do that is through personalized experiences.

In the past, a personalized experience meant you knew your “regulars” by name and could place their order without even asking. Today, it’s a bit different. Most full-service restaurants have more than one location, making it next to impossible to remember whether or not Larry comes in once a month let alone what he orders.

You need a way to understand your customers at scale. You need data.

Data is at the core of every customer engagement strategy. Understanding who your customers are and how they behave from the frequency of visits to lifetime value is critical in being able to engage them personally.

2. Reward your best customers for their loyalty

Your full-service restaurant relies on loyal repeat customers who visit the most often and spend the most. To maintain their loyalty, you not only need to know who they are, but you need to reward them for their continued patronage.

Your best customers should receive regular messages and offers based on their preferences to reinforce their loyalty and drive incremental revenue.

VIP customers can drive a significant portion of your revenue, and by offering special personalized rewards you can increase spending by an additional 17%. That’s a win-win for your bottom line.

3. Remove obstacles from path-to-purchase

Customers respond best to being able to pay their check quickly and easily. The goal of an effective customer engagement and loyalty program is to eliminate any unnecessary steps for both your customers and your staff. With Thanx, your customers simply sign up, link their credit cards and the rest happens seamlessly, behind the scenes There’s no need to scan a barcode, punch a card, enter a phone number or any other steps that slow down the payment process and cause friction.

4. Enhance customer experiences

Customer engagement isn’t just about personalized service or a seamless experience; to stand out you’ll have to go one step further. Full-service restaurants have to surprise and delight customers.

You might offer customer appreciation events, special discounts for families, or calorie-friendly meal options to show your guests that you’re willing to do what it takes to ensure an amazing experience at your restaurant.

You can be as imaginative as you want here. Once you can use the data you have to understand your customers and their preferences, you can deliver unexpected experiences that earn long-term loyalty.

Table service customer engagement

Four must-follow tips to engage full-service restaurant goers

When you’re ready to create engaging campaigns, an automated customer engagement platform can help you achieve your goals. Here’s how:

1. Understand your customer base

It’s not easy to know who your best customers are. Depending on the size and number of locations you operate, you could be dealing with hundreds or thousands of customers.

Since your best customers visit and spend the most, it’s important to:

  • First, know who they are
  • Second, know what they want
  • Third, deliver what they want consistently

How can you make this a reality? The answer to knowing your customer is data. A customer engagement platform like Thanx provides behavioral and purchase data so you can get a 360-degree view of your customer base.

In particular, you need access to metrics like visit frequency, average purchase, when a customer visits, what location a customer prefers, and what his or her lifetime value is to your full-service restaurant.

An automated customer engagement platform automatically segments customers for you. This enables you to send highly targeted offers to the right customers at the right time driving incremental revenue to your bottom line. We’ll even give you customized ideas for the best types of campaigns and offers to send to ensure you stay ROI positive.

2. Exceed expectations with personalized messages and rewards across multiple channels

Capturing data and segmenting your customers is a great start to a successful customer engagement strategy. But where your program really starts cooking is when you send personalized messages with relevant offers or news based on the data you have about your customers. And this is way easier than it might sounds because Thanx does it for you.

The Thanx platform gives you the ability to connect with your customers across multiple channels including push notifications and email.

Considering the massive use of smartphones, it’s only logical that push notifications are part of your customer engagement strategy. Up to 60% of customers agree to receive push notifications and 70% of customers say the information received from push notification is useful.

You can’t underestimate the power of email marketing either. Again, smartphones have changed the way customers manage their inboxes, with66% of consumers reading emails on a mobile device.

Are personalized push notifications and emails really going to engage customers? In a word, yes.

Research shows staggering success rates that stem from personalized messages:

  • A personalized push notification sent based on behavioral data garners 800% higher open rates than a generic push notification that’s sent to every contact. [LeanPlum]
  • A personalized email delivers 6x higher transaction rates compared to a mass one-size-fits-all email blast. [Experian]

For full-service restaurants that offering special messages and offers for each segment of your audience. For example, the happy hour crowd gets to take advantage of drink specials an hour earlier than others, the lunch-loving crowd can save $2 on any lunch special, and your VIP customers get a thank you promotion for $3 off their next meal. (Learn more about rewarding your best restaurant customers with these four tips).

The beauty of having access to both push notifications and email is that you can vary your delivery message to avoid “promotion overload.” Use push notifications to send the promotion initially, for example, and send an email reminder before the promotion expires to those who haven’t taken advantage of the deal. Thanx makes it effortless for you with recommendations tailored for you.

3. Give guests an easy way to place orders

Customers crave convenience, and what’s easier than ordering a meal online? Third-party delivery apps are growing in popularity with an expected 79% increase in the food delivery market over the next five years.

But delivery can be a mixed bag for full-service restaurants. It often comes with an increased cost, complex logistics, and the inability to control the customer’s experience once the food is picked up by a delivery driver.

If you decide delivery does work for your business and customers, look for a customer engagement app that integrates online ordering.

Thanx can turn a restaurant merchant’s loyalty app into a revenue-producing mobile channel. With integrated online ordering, restaurants can offer a convenient way for loyalty customers to order food, right in the Thanx app they already have installed. And, since the solutions are integrated, customers can use rewards and get progress towards rewards every time they place an order. With Thanx, customers enter their credit card when they join. Online orders are placed using that same card. It’s a simple, modern approach to food delivery that differentiates full-service restaurants from others.

4. Get real-time customer feedback and respond personally

You’ll recall one of the pillars of customer engagement is to remove obstacles in the path-to-purchase. The trouble is, you might not know what roadblocks your customers face.

Maybe the time it takes to receive their check is too long, or your menu lacks kid-friendly food options. To identify problems like these you have to get feedback from customers.

With Thanx, you can collect and respond to feedback. Here’s how it works:

  • After a purchase, a customer is automatically sent a message that asks how likely they are to recommend your restaurant to others.
  • You can also add a specific follow-up question like, “What can we do to improve your experience?”

You can then respond personally to customers who provide feedback and even include a reward.

Responding directly to feedback increases the customer’s likelihood of returning in the next two months by 14%. When you respond and reward customers for their feedback, they are 22% more likely to return in the next two months. And capturing that feedback directly keeps negative reviews off sites like Yelp that can be detrimental to the reputation of your restaurant.

Respond to feedback, sales will grow.

Likelihood to return in two months increases by…

The true power of data-based customer engagement is that when you get customer feedback you know who that customer is, how often they visit, how much they spend, other feedback they have provided, and even what they order. Having all this information at your fingertips enables you to respond in a truly personal way. And you can imagine if a high-value, VIP customer provides some less than stellar feedback, you may respond differently than if someone who has visited twice in two years and only ordered an appetizer does.

Customer feedback lifetime value

Now you’ve accomplished several goals. You’ve successfully:

  • Collected feedback
  • Addressed customer’s on an individual level
  • Increased your incremental sales
  • Identified problems you can fix to improve the customer experience

Full-service restaurants that excel at customer engagement

Thanx is proud to work with a plethora of full-service restaurants to engage their customers and help grow their businesses. Here’s a look at how three full-service restaurants use Thanx to understand their customer base, reward their best customers and grow their revenue.

Tomatina Restaurant

A Bay Area favorite for over two decades, Tomatina is a multi-unit full service restaurant concept known for modern and fresh interpretations of traditional Italian recipes.

With only a fraction of customers using their legacy loyalty program’s plastic cards, Tomatina needed a modern, frictionless solution to appeal to their customers. Thanx was selected to give their customers a seamless way to earn loyalty progress while giving their marketing team the robust data they needed to drive business results. 

Thanx guided Tomatina through a seamless transition that included transferring progress to existing customers’ new accounts. With the previous program, only 51% of customers remained active 6 months after signing up. With Thanx, 82% remained active after 6 months — a 61% improvement in program engagement. This massive increase in customer engagement meant a massive increase in actionable customer data.

Thanx enabled Tomatina to take action on that data, leveraging personalized campaigns which ultimately boosted the average check size of enrolled customers by 39%.

Pinthouse Pizza

Inspired by their love of pizza and craft beer, a group of four friends started Pinthouse Pizza in Austin, Texas three years ago. The full-service restaurant, which now has two locations in the city, immediately recognized the value of its loyal customers.

The owners dubbed a group of regulars, “the high top crew” because always sat at the high bar tables. Realizing how much life and revenue this group brought to their restaurant, the owners decided to launch a loyalty program to reward these customers and find more like them.

With the help of Thanx, owners can now reward their best customers, send marketing campaigns to convert more customers into VIPs, and drive more incremental sales.

The restaurant has grown 18% in revenue year-over-year, and Thanx is happy to have played a role in that growth.

Wrap up

Full-service restaurants with high customer engagement rates are more likely to drive repeat sales and retain customers. To succeed, you’ll need the right tools in place to grow your business with loyal, engaged customers.