What is a restaurant CRM and why it matters for your business

Restaurants are only as successful as their relationships with guests. That’s why more restaurant owners are turning to restaurant CRM (customer relationship management) software to deliver better dining experiences.

If you’re considering adding restaurant CRM software to your toolkit, you’re in very good company. Many of the biggest names in hospitality now depend on it to delight guests and keep them coming back.

Here’s what you need to know about restaurant CRMs and how using one could benefit your business:

Quick links
What is a restaurant CRM?
Why do you need a restaurant CRM?
What are the benefits of using a restaurant CRM?
Know guests on a deeper level
Offer better hospitality through personalization
Get better feedback
Turn one-time guests into regulars
Marry off-premise and on premise intel
Run more targeted marketing campaigns

What is a restaurant CRM?

At the most basic level, a CRM is a souped-up database of information on all past customers. It includes guests’ email addresses and phone numbers. It records the details of when a guest last visited the restaurant, how much money they spent, and what they ordered. If there’s a customer loyalty program, those details should have a home in the CRM as well.

The two main things a restaurant can do with a good CRM are improving the customer experience and making marketing efforts more effective. To accomplish these goals, the right CRM solution must integrate with your POS (point of sale) system.

As you shop around for a CRM, be aware that the most popular CRMs out there (Salesforce, Zoho) aren’t designed with hospitality in mind. Restaurants benefit most from a CRM that’s designed specifically for them.

Image depicts a person in a striped apron sitting at a table. There is a mason jar cup with a red drink in it on the table and coffee beans in a slit down the center. The person is calculating something on their phone calculator as sheets of paper and a tablet on the table display different graphs.

Why do you need a restaurant CRM?

Many restaurants have a hospitality genius on staff who seems to memorize everything about all of the guests. This person’s amazing brain was the original CRM. But when they go on vacation or move on to a new job, the restaurant is without this essential knowledge. Technology can come to the rescue.

Think of a CMS as a way to get these details out of the brains of fallible human beings and into the cloud, where it can be accessed by a newbie server on their first day. With this rich store of information at the team’s fingertips, it takes minutes not years to offer personalized hospitality to anyone who has dined with you before. That’s the power of a restaurant CRM.

What are the benefits of using a restaurant CRM?

Benefits go beyond having a simple record of facts and figures about guests. Let’s take a look at some of the most important perks of using a restaurant CRM.

Know guests on a deeper level

It’s not just dry guest information that goes into a CRM. To make the most of it, team members should record colorful details about guest behavior.

Guest notes allow you to know people on a level beyond food and drink. Rich guest data gives you a portrait of a guest over time. For example, if a guest tells a server about a trip to their hometown Chicago, you could seat them on a future visit with a server who also lived there. If someone has a known preference for a corner booth, they can be intentionally sat there until it becomes “their” booth.

These small gestures make people feel known and bring them back for future visits.

Offer better hospitality through personalization

A good restaurant CRM lets the team personalize service for each guest. If someone prefers sparkling water, servers can bring it to the table without asking during future visits. If a guest has a sweet tooth and always orders dessert, servers can tell them about any dessert specials right away instead of waiting until after entrees have been cleared. If a regular is fond of dessert wines and after dinner drinks, you can allow them a bit of extra time at the table to order these extras without feeling rushed.

Knowing guests order history at this level of detail is essential for personalized service, and a CRM puts it at your fingertips.

Image depicts a person sitting on a countertop using a tablet. Next to them sits a cup of coffee and a notebook. There is a coffee menu in the back. The establishment is very industrial, with light bulbs hanging from the ceiling.

Get better feedback

If a restaurant CRM provides you a single place to manage online rating and reviews, that’s an excellent way to stay on top of what people are saying. It’s a chance to strengthen customer relationships.

When you reply to a review, good or bad, you’re building a connection with someone. You have the chance to make missteps right. This kind of CRM is also a treasure trove of feedback you can use to improve service because it helps bring patterns to light.

When a CRM measures server performance, it makes small issues apparent so you can fix them before they become problems. Double down on what the team is doing right with positive reinforcement. Give team members specific feedback on improving their performance and guest happiness.

Turn one-time guests into regulars

All of these enhanced moments of connection and highly personalized service make for a better customer experience. And ultimately that’s what brings people back through the door.

The truth is 70% of retail and restaurant customers make only one visit. It’s worth trying to improve on this for your guests. If you drive up your repeat visit rate by 5%, you can expect profits to increase by 25% or more.

Image depicts a person wearing a black and white striped apron and black cap leaning over a countertop. They are examining graphs on a tablet and there are sheets of paper splayed under them. In the background is an industrial kitchen. There are vegetables sitting on the counter next to them.

Marry off-premise and on premise intel

These days, many customers are just as likely to order takeout or delivery as they are to visit the dining room. Plenty of regulars dine in sometimes and takeout at other times, depending on their schedules. A restaurant CRM, combined with digital ordering, ensures that online ordering data is captured in a single guest profile so you can personalize service whether someone dines on premise or off.

Run more targeted marketing campaigns

Guest relationships happen both inside the restaurant and while people are away from the restaurant. Keep a good thing going in between visits by staying in touch with guests via email marketing.

Restaurant CRMs empower restaurants to make marketing automations more effective (and more welcome) by making them highly personal. Slice and dice customer data to target specific segments with offers and information that appeals to them.

For example, you can invite the most enthusiastic wine connoisseurs to an upcoming wine pairing dinner. Target guests who haven’t been to the restaurant in a while with a “We miss you” campaign. Send regulars a special offer to celebrate their birthdays the month before it happens. All of these targeted messages work better than mass emails sent to the entire list.

The right CRM can make every team member just as knowledgeable as your longest tenured super server. Whether or not you have someone who seems to know every guest like a best friend, adding a CRM to the toolkit can dramatically improve your personalized hospitality and marketing efforts.

experience-banner

Get the latest resources to help power up your hospitality.

By signing up, you agree to our privacy policy. You also agree to receive marketing communications from OpenTable about news, events and promotions. You can unsubscribe from OpenTable emails at any time.

Related  
How to grow and thrive in the restaurant business

How to grow and thrive in the restaurant business

Download our guide to improving marketing and operations at every stage.
Bringing in the best and keeping them around: A guide to help you hire and retain restaurant employees

Bringing in the best and keeping them around: A guide to help you hire and retain restaurant employees

Get tips to guide you through the hiring process and keep employees.
Build the ultimate restaurant website

Build the ultimate restaurant website

Showcase your restaurant to attract diners in this guide and checklist.