At first glance, it may seem obvious what customers value about restaurants: good food, a pleasant environment, and reasonable prices. There's no arguing that these are the primary features of customer value management, but your customer base may value other things about your restaurant; characteristics you hadn’t previously considered for marketing purposes.
Customer value management depends on getting into your customers' heads to learn how to provide greater value for the least investment. Here are some aspects of customer value to look into so you can manage this essential element of restaurant marketing more effectively.
Each restaurant has something unique to offer, and the respective customer base for each restaurant values those particular characteristics enough to choose it over another option. What you think your customers value about your restaurant may actually be very different than what they really value.
Understanding the customer value perspective and how it relates to the behavior of your guests can empower you to make significant changes in your restaurant marketing. Here are some tips to help you find out why customers choose your restaurant:
You probably already read the reviews that your customers leave for you on Google, Yelp, social media, etc. However, you'll find that reviews take on an entirely new meaning when you look at them with customer value management in mind.
Perhaps many of your customers mention how conveniently located your restaurant is to a specific landmark, for example. In this scenario, maybe a simple staple of your restaurant, in addition to great menu items, is your proximity to a highly desired attraction or neighboring destination.
If we continue to build on this example, let’s say you run a quick-services restaurant near a school district and a downtown square with a tutoring facility. You may uncover through careful reading of online reviews that parents love how fast your service is as they cart their children to and from school and after school tutoring sessions.
The school and the tutoring center aren’t part of your value, per se, but your convenience and your proximity to those businesses certainly qualify. Take that information and leverage it in your marketing materials as you work to attract even more guests!
A survey at the restaurant, on social media, through email, or in whatever way your customer base is most likely to communicate, is a great way to glean information from customers about why they patronize your restaurant.
Pair the survey with a coupon or other incentive to drive a good response from a varied group of customers. A simple survey is best. Customers are less likely to be thorough with surveys that are too long, and you don’t need a lot of questions to collect data that’s critical to your marketing strategy. Some good questions are:
You probably already make the rounds every so often, asking customers whether they are happy with the service, their food, etc. Add another question to your routine conversations with customers: Why did you choose this restaurant today?
If patrons are willing to talk, be inquisitive. Dig to uncover what they like about your restaurant in addition to your food and service. Finding out what customers value is critical to your marketing strategy, but it’s also superb for customer service.
Today's diners often value the sustainability of the food they eat. They’re willing to pay more for food that is locally sourced, organic, or otherwise “green.”
Restaurant owners often assume that green choices are expensive and offer little return on their investment. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, green choices can be an appealing offering for your customer base and can play directly into your marketing strategy, ultimately helping you drive profits. Here are a few ways you can approach that:
Restaurant owners are often surprised to learn that select customers value being given less food. Many customers would rather pay less and receive less food than waste it or take it home in a box.
Offering menu items in smaller portions is a powerful way to not only market a restaurant, but also drive greater sales. If you present your offerings the right way, you may find that smaller portions encourage your guests to order a greater variety of food, rather than spending less money on a single item.
One great advantage of talking to your customers about why they come to your restaurant is that you'll learn about how visitors are learning about your business.
Perhaps there's a large retail store nearby, and much of your regular customer base is made up of people who work there or shop there. Maybe your restaurant is the favorite hangout of students at a nearby school.
Target your restaurant marketing to these locations to encourage even more people to discover your restaurant and patronize it.
Customers value good service, and good service comes from employees who are happy with their jobs. Let your customers know if you pay more than the going rate for hourly staff. Encourage your employees to speak out about how they feel about your restaurant and to form positive relationships with your customer base. Understanding employee values is a critical part of customer value management.
Make sure that your restaurant has a culture of respect and reasonable workloads for employees. Not only will you have happier, more competent employees, but your customers will be more likely to come to your restaurant.
Lots of people go out to eat because they want an experience, not just a meal. Families with kids are especially dependent on restaurants that provide entertainment and fun. Exactly what kind of destination you want your restaurant to be depends on the customer base you cater to and the price range of your food.
Are you a casual pizza place with a bigger parking lot than you need? Turn part of your lot into a playground with picnic tables for families with kids and target your marketing strategy towards family dining.
Does your restaurant have a strong theme? Go crazy collecting all kinds of paraphernalia related to that theme. There are all kinds of ways to make your restaurant more than just somewhere to grab a bite.
One thing that you're likely to hear from many of your customers is that they choose to go to your restaurant because it's a convenient option for them. It's a good idea to pry further and find out whether it could be any more convenient as a regular part of your marketing strategy.
Whatever you do to make it simple for customers to dine at your restaurant, make sure you communicate that simplicity to them in your restaurant marketing. Don't depend on customers to find your restaurant on a delivery app or notice a walk-up window. Heavily advertise how easy it is to patronize your restaurant.
Too often, restaurants take a couple of surveys or read a few reviews, make some changes to their marketing plan, and leave well enough alone. However, this is an ineffective way to utilize customer value management in your marketing strategy.
What your customers value can change over time. You want to keep your finger on the pulse of those changes so you can continuously utilize them in marketing. It’s also important to keep taking benchmarks to see if the changes you implement are working.
Here are a few examples of how you can use customer value management continuously to market your restaurant:
Understanding what your customers really value about your restaurant can revolutionize your marketing strategy. Utilizing the unique features of your restaurant that customers value enables you to compete in creative ways.
You may not be able to beat your competition’s prices or match the foot traffic at their location, but you can advertise proximity to a convenient landmark, a commitment to environmental sustainability, or excellent treatment of your employees, which can help you to win even in highly competitive climates.
When used consistently, customer value management is one of the most powerful drivers of marketing, as well as a superb data mining tool for improving your restaurant in myriad ways.