Who Owns the Restaurant Customer Relationship?

Restaurant Customer Relationship

“Who owns the customer?” might seem like a strange statement to many restaurant operators. Most would think that nobody really owns the customer, however when you reframe the question to “who owns the  customer relationship?” it opens up more possibilities. The restaurant customer relationship will define the success for restaurants in an increasingly online world. The market is changing and the race is on to build meaningful customer relationships that are direct and long lasting.

Companies that win in the Internet era do so by owning the customer relationship, which gives them power over suppliers.

Stratechery

What does owning the customer relationship mean?

Owning the restaurant customer relationship means that you have direct access to your customers. Direct access means you know who they are and how to reach them. Critically, in this case, this access should not be through a third party service that could be removed or restricted at any time. It means communicating directly with the customer though email, SMS or your own food delivery system. It means not having any third party service, sit between you and your customer, owning and controlling that relationship at their discretion

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Ordering Channel

This trend is most obvious with third party delivery services. When third party delivery services, like Uber Eats or Door Dash, are the direct source of ordering from the customer perspective they own the data. They have the customers email address, their phone number and their address. Even more than that they have have valuable insights into that customers buying behaviour. This all happened so fast that most restaurants just fell into this dynamic, but this is not a wise strategy in the long term. Third party services could raise already high commission rates or could ask you to spend money on advertising to get orders from your customers. What choices will restaurants face at that point?

Marketing and Communication

This trend also extends to marketing and communication for your restaurant. Google search results page now contain a lot more paid promotion and native Google directories. For Fcebook your post has only a 5.2% chance of appearing in your followers newsfeeds unless you pay facebook more for the privilige.  The trend here is clear and it will get worse, not better as these social giants try to squeeze more revenue out of their users. Of course, they will continue to play in imporant role but restaurants should strive to build their own digital channel. It is the only way to guarantee access to your customers in the future

customer relationship restaurant example

What can restaurants do to reclaim the relationship with the customer?

While all of these third party services will continue to play a role, their influence and control should be less of a threat. There are several ways for restaurants to reclaim the relationship with their customers, and we have listed them below:

  • Use a commission free delivery service that you pay a small monthly fee for instead of a third party service that charges commissions

  • Use a website for your main business presence instead of Facebook

  • Build a comprehensive Google My Business profile so that you can be easily found on Google

  • Use as many methods as possible to capture your customers email address or phone number

Restaurant Customer Relationship Summary

This is just a brief piece to touch up on the importance of having a direct channel, digital or otherwise to restuarnat customers. As the industry embraces technology the battle front for owning the restaurant customer relationship will grow in intensity. Expect well funded technology companies to come looking for your customers, and then try and sell access to them back to you. Yes, there will always be companies that provide a service and act as a third party, however it should never be 100%. Restaurants should make the effort to build their own digital channels and retain some level of independence. There is a lot of hidden value that should not be given away lightly

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