When It Comes to Restaurant Marketing, Big Data is the Main Course [Part 1]

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Think about all the data that you can access about your restaurant. You probably have way more than you even realize.

Your point-of-sale system alone contains payment, sales and item data about all of your guests. If you’ve ever run a loyalty program, then you have data about the guests that enrolled. This data could range from how often they visited to the number of free items or other perks they may have received. Email marketing platforms also have data about everyone who’s signed up for emails and the metrics for the emails themselves (opens, clicks, etc).

You can even access public data about your restaurant, like things guests have posted to Google or Yelp, that can help you learn about guest experiences when they dine with you, as well as overall brand sentiment toward your restaurant.

What if you could combine and analyze all of that data? What if you had it all in one place, helping you better understand your diners and build effective marketing plans as a result. If you knew that much, you could develop insights about your customers that would surely enable you to market your restaurant more effectively.

Big data is turning into a more and more common resource for businesses, as it becomes easier and less costly to store and analyze. Big data for restaurant marketers isn’t common yet, but in the near future, it could be on the cutting edge for ambitious restaurateurs. Want to get ahead of the game? Here’s what you need to know.

Big data is going to be the next big menu item

You may have heard of “big data” before.

what is big data

For restaurants, it’s the variety of their data that makes it difficult to use for marketing right now. The data that restaurants could analyze is both structured and unstructured, which basically means that it exists in different silos that aren’t simple to combine.

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Data that comes from your POS is structured. The same goes for any that you collect from an internal source, like data about your vendors, accounting and labor. Data that you collect from loyalty programs or email newsletters is unstructured. The third type is data from sources like social media, which is known as streaming. Altogether, it adds up to a lot of data in a lot of different forms. A restaurant with multiple locations and a few years of collected data can easily have a terabyte of information. If you’re a big name in tech, a terabyte isn’t a big deal. But restaurants don’t have the financial or technological resources of Google or Amazon.

The tools that a restaurant marketer likely has at their disposal are not capable of handling data at the volume or complexity that we’re talking here, and while there’s technology that can help, it’s expensive. Data warehousing applications, like the ones available from Oracle or Teradata, can cost seven figures, and that’s just to store the data. We haven’t even talked about analyzing it yet.

But the big data landscape is changing, especially for small businesses

Luckily for restaurants, the big data landscape is changing. Big data is no longer just for big business. Thanks to open source data analytics software, the tools necessary to put this data to use are becoming less costly and far more accessible; A future where big data is a key part of a restaurant marketer’s toolkit is well within sight.

When using big data, you can create a strategy that’s insights-driven in a number of exciting ways. Here are just a few of the ways big data is going to change the game when it comes to restaurant marketing.

Customer acquisition

You probably already have some demographic information about your customers in your head, but analyzing big data will give you a much clearer picture of who your customers are, and, in turn, a better idea of how to target the right potential customers with your marketing efforts.

To get the full picture you need to combine your demographic data with information you mine from other places. Social media behavior, for example, can give you a better idea of your customers and their behaviors. Combining those datasets with customer feedback can really give you some insight into exactly what type of person you should be marketing to. Then, you can create purposeful marketing campaigns that will appeal to those target customers and turn data into profits.

Customer engagement

In the same vein as customer acquisition, customer engagement becomes a lot simpler when you truly know who your customers are. It allows you to build a brand that your customers will connect with, since you know who they are and what they want.

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Collecting real-time data, like from social media, can help you identify and respond to customer pain points more quickly and efficiently. It will also allow you to focus on giving your customers just what they want, from events hosted at your restaurant to promotions on popular menu items.

Customer loyalty

Customer loyalty is one of the areas where big data analysis opens up all kinds of new avenues for profit. If you already operate a customer loyalty program, you should have information on customer loyalty that you can easily access and analyze, giving you a ton of insight about your customers’ purchasing patterns.

This is particularly useful, since it can help you predict how often a customer will return to your restaurant, or whether they’ll repeat a purchase on a particular item. You can use that knowledge in your marketing by rewarding certain customers for coming back sooner, or by offering a particular promotion that you’re sure will get a certain customer back through your door.

Customer segmentation

Sure, you already have some base knowledge about your customers and their demographics. But if you were able to combine all of your data from various sources and analyze it altogether, think of the bigger picture you could see. The deeper insights you could make.

Big data can help you understand more about your customer demographics, like where your customers are located, their purchasing patterns, and more. In turn, this data allows you to craft marketing campaigns that are more targeted and specific, in direct response to customer preferences, locations, and demands.

Finally, when choosing which segments of your customers to target with specific marketing campaigns, big data can help you determine the largest, highest spending and most profitable segments, so you can focus your marketing efforts on the customers who will pay off the most.

There are countless ways big data can help the restaurant industry flourish, and without a doubt, we’ll be seeing those emerge in the coming years. But for now, marketing is an area where restaurateurs can put big data to use, and watch it pay off.

What’s next?

Hopefully you now have a better understanding of what big data is and the potential it can have for your bottom line. So, how do you even begin to collect, understand and action this data?

Come back to the ChefHero blog in the next couple of weeks to take a look at part 2!

Chris Arnett
Chris Arnett
Integrated Marketing Manager
ChefHero