Third-party online ordering systems, or TOOS, such as Grubhub and Uber Eats, have solidified themselves as a key revenue driver for the modern restaurant. Using restaurant aggregators to drive traffic has become the most efficient way to introduce restaurant products to consumers who welcome change in their dining options. But for the restaurant owner, a challenge exists in retaining these customers to ensure that they continue ordering from your restaurant, rather than moving on to the next online dining option.

Make no mistake that these third-party online ordering systems are not going to give up control of their customers’ ordering behavior without a fight; hence the reason most TOOS never share customer email addresses with their restaurant partners. For a restaurant owner to market to TOOS’ customers, a level of sophistication and creativity is required. A proactive thought process for customer acquisition and consistency within your marketing approach will ultimately help your restaurant to retain these TOOS customers who have grown to love your product. At Chowly, we have put together three marketing techniques that have proven successful for restaurants across all sectors of the hospitality industry to convert one-time diners to loyal customers.

Step 1) Acquire the Email Address

The importance of acquiring a customer’s email cannot be understated. This allows your restaurant an inexpensive and efficient method to market to potential and current customers. But as mentioned earlier, TOOS are unwilling to share this critical piece of their customers’ information. So the obvious next step would be to simply ask the customer for their preferred online contact method, right?

Yes…but it’s not always that easy. Inserting a questionnaire in the customers delivery bag will only result in one more item the customer has to throw away unless they have a reason to keep the information presented. So how do you get the off-premise diner, your current diner and potential loyal customer to provide you with their email address? As a restaurant owner you have to give them a reason to actively provide their direct contact information. Constant Contact conducted a survey asking consumers about what drives them to sign up for an email list. The survey revealed three main reasons a customer would share their email address:

— To receive something free

— To receive exclusive content

— To show continued support for an organization

The most obvious solution to getting an email address is to offer something for free. Getting a consumer’s email address should be viewed as a transaction. If the potential customer actively chooses to give you their private contact information, they are going to need something in exchange.

Understand what cost your your restaurant is willing to accept pay in order to receive the customer’s email address. Providing exclusive content has also proven to be a useful method. Consider sharing secrets about your menu items so the consumer can try to recreate your most popular dishes at home.

Step 2) Text Message Marketing

Understanding it’s a high hurdle, let’s assume that for some odd reason your new customer was not motivated enough to share with you their email address. TOOS have to provide your restaurant with a customer’s valid phone number so that you are able to contact the patron if any issues arise with their delivery. In today’s society, it is pretty safe to assume that the number provided is a cell phone, so text message marketing could be the answer for your restaurant. According to the Pew Research Center, the text messaging app is the most used application across all cell phone brands with 97% of Americans using it at least once per day. Also according to Pew Research Center, text messaging has a much higher open rate then email, with almost 80% of all text messages being opened and read.This is much higher than email and almost guarantees that the consumer will view the message sent by your restaurant.

However, getting the consumer to read the text message is the easy part; continuous engagement is what can prove to be difficult. Engaging in text message conversations can feel more personal, making consumers wary about interacting with text message marketing campaigns. But consumers may be more willing to interact if they feel they are getting some type of benefit from continued involvement. Similar to email, this is a transactional relationship. Provide value through your text campaign and consumers will continue to engage with your restaurant.

Step 3) Utilize your Zip Code Data

Zip code marketing is an effective tool and is often overlooked by restaurant owners as a way to grow their business. TOOS will always provide you with the customer’s zip code so you can more accurately route your delivery drivers. When properly used, this data can be invaluable to a restaurant owner. Tying zip codes to spending patterns enables you to see where your loyal customers reside and understand weaker performing areas.

Are you looking to grow your business? Find a way to market to those lower performing areas and see if you can get a 10% increase in sales. Alternatively, do you want to cut cost within your marketing budget? Move your marketing dollars from lower performing markets and focus on retaining customers in zip codes that are brand loyal. Knowing where your customers are from and how to keep them coming back is invaluable to your restaurant’s survival. Zip codes can be the key to unlocking patron behavior and ensuring the long-term success of your restaurant.

Marketing to TOOS customers can be a daunting task, but with the proper systems in place and an understanding of the tools available, the challenge can become less intimidating. Acquiring a customer’s email address and generating loyalty via text messaging campaigns need to be viewed as transactional interactions. Do not underestimate the importance of a “pay-to- play” structure in the digital arena.

Paying attention to details such as customers’ zip codes can also be the difference in customer retention as well as long-term growth.

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