Top Restaurant Leaders Talk Data Control and Loyalty Strategies | 2022 Restaurant Franchise and Innovation Summit

Regaining control of data is paramount for foodservice brands after two years of collecting data in the hands of third-party delivery partners.

| by Judy Mottl — Editor-in-Chief, &

Most restaurant brands, from QSRs to fast casuals to pizzerias, will admit one clear truth: third-party delivery has played a significant role in the two-year survival of the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down restaurants. restaurants nationwide and forced brands to rely on services like Uber Eats and Door Dash to continue generating revenue.

But the survival aid came with an important caveat — third-party partners now had valuable data about the brand’s customers — which items they ordered, when they ordered, and how often. they ordered.

This vital customer data hasn’t made its way to the brand’s data warehouse for more than two years and highlights a gaping marketing hole as brands pull back from third-party partners and resume pre-pandemic operations.

The value of customer data and capturing customer data brought to you by partners was the focus of a panel discussion titled “Taking Back (Re)Control of Customer Data” at the Restaurant Franchising & Innovation Summit hosted by Networld Media Group this week. month in Nashville, Tennessee.

It is one of many industry events organized by Networld Media Group, which is the parent company of Fastcasual, Pizza Marketplace and QSRweb. The media company’s next event is a virtual pizza conference, the Pizza Leadership Virtual Summit, taking place on July 27.

The annual three-day RFIS event attracts top brand executives to share effective ways to grow franchises.

The value of partners

The roundtable was moderated by Corinne Watson, Content Director at Lunchbox, who sponsored the session. Panel participants included Doug Baker, Director of Marketing for Wing Shack Enterprises; Claiborne Irby, SVP, Customer Engagement and Strategy at Focus Brands; and Sherif Mityas, operating partner at Jamco Interests LLC and Brix Holdings.

Kicking off the conference, Watson asked panelists to talk about the role of third-party partners and related strategies that have come into play.

Irby shared an analogy to how the hospitality industry initially took on online travel platforms a decade ago.

“At first it’s really good to have this company and all of a sudden it became a threat, like oh my God, they’re really expensive, then it evened out and so I see that with the restaurant industry it goes exactly the same way. It’s good to have as a source of business, but you have to be careful not to depend entirely on them, because you may not be in control of destiny where Uber and Door Dash are going, so it’s important to understand how that customer fits into your business stack and manage it accordingly,” he said.

Baker acknowledged that his brand could not have survived without Door Dash and Uber Eats.

“Their added value is just too much, their market share is just too big, so we’ve tried to focus, especially since 2019, on how we take some of these new customers brought in by these partners and make them become brand loyalists,” he said, adding, “It’s an exchange because there’s a value proposition that’s hard to beat. It’s kind of a convenience culture. tried to implement a system that rewards our customers and converts them to brand advocates.”

Mityas agreed that third-party services were “crucially important” during the pandemic and, given their business model, they trained the next generation of consumers to expect “this type of channel”, as well as to the resulting interaction and engagement.

“What we need to do now, as brands, is actually be better [than third-party partners] if I want to get those customers back,” he said. “Don’t blame Door Dash for a consumer going to Door Dash. Look inside. If I can be better than Door Dash, they’ll come to me.”

Watson then posed a question to the panelists regarding customer retention and the retention of the customer who encountered the brand through a third-party partner.

The great value of loyalty

Irby defined a great loyalty strategy as one that is interesting and attractive to the customer and mutually beneficial for the brand and the customer.

“You have to understand who that person is and how we’re dealing with them. Fortunately, we have a lot of data and are starting to use things like AI and machine learning to understand who is doing what, why and how and we’re starting to come up with more relevant offers and that makes it beneficial to the customer,” he said, adding that the company conducted research last year on its loyalty programs and learned that customers want to earn rewards. more frequently.

“So we give them smaller but more frequent rewards and it ends up being very well balanced. By getting into the mind of the consumer and understanding their behavior, we’re giving something that’s relevant to them and in a way that is beneficial to the unit’s local economy.”

Going forward, he said, it’s about getting more useful and fruitful data points.

“If we see this as a relationship, we want it to be mutually beneficial.”

For Wing Shack, the retention strategy is to “treat existing customers with a velvet cord,” Baker said, and do more programmatic messaging and establish a one-on-one conversation with a customer based on purchase history and visit preferences.

“Now we have specific messages that go out and it all creates a better customer experience,” he said. “If we can follow a customer’s journey, we can have better messaging and scale without being invasive. If we can get it [message/offer] delivered via the customer’s preferred method, it makes all the difference in the world. You can stay ahead of the game if you are able to listen to the data enough.”

Mitya said the more a brand can know about the customer, the more that customer becomes “buy-in” to the brand.

“How attached is the customer to my brand and that, for me, comes down to personalization. There’s no point in having customer data if you’re not going to use it. It’s about targeted, personalized and timely communication,” he said.

He shared how the company refreshed its Friendly’s restaurant brand into a “bright, fast-paced, laid-back, youth-centric place,” and the response has been strong, from both existing and new customers.

“Ultimately it’s about how we market and use data going forward. Understanding what kind of experience the customer wants to have will be extremely important,” he said.

Regarding the future of first-party data and loyalty, he said the key is to continue to personalize the experience and use data to learn more about the customer, to anticipate needs and provide delivery. smoother, more convenient and faster.

“Technology is just going to make it a lot cooler and a lot smoother in terms of what we’re going to be able to do.”

Registration is now open for the Fast Casual Executive Summit to be held October 9-11 in Indianapolis. Click here to register.

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