The restaurant industry operates in a highly competitive environment. There are numerous new restaurants opening up each day, and many closing their shutters. According to the industry data, 6 out of 10 restaurants drop their shutters in the first year of their operations.
So what is the potential reason behind it?
If you are guessing it to be the capital, then you are wrong. Restaurant like any other business is offering products and services, targeted towards prospects and customers. So, if you are selling something to someone, the question here is, how do you get them to buy it?
Before embarking on any project, it is critical to understand the needs of your customers. Try to answer these questions:
Do you know why your customers choose you over your competitors? Or why that regular customer you used to see once a week stopped coming in?
If you answered no to either or both, you’re doing something wrong and missing out on the critical insights that customer personas can provide. These aren’t just jargons or buzzwords we are discussing. Customer personas can give uniformity to your business efforts and help you and your staff truly understand who your customers are.
What is customer persona?
Customer personas also known as buyer personas are semi-fictional, generalized representation of your ideal customer – the customer that you hope to persuade to visit or place an online order from your restaurant. A good customer persona will help you understand who the guest is and why they do what they do.
Good personas are not just profiles. They give you a deeper understanding of your customer’s mindset, preferences, motivations, interests, behaviors, and goals. They also include demographic information like gender, age, and income, as well as some more qualitative information like what they like about certain restaurants, and what their priorities are when it comes to choosing a place to eat or drink.
How to create customer personas for your restaurant?
Whether you are thinking of starting a new restaurant, or even if you are an established brand, creating customer personas will greatly benefit your business. When done correctly, your guests will feel like you are speaking to them directly, in their language, addressing their concerns.
Even though this exercise will take some time, but it will help your restaurant to stand out from your competitors those who see their customers as a single homogeneous blob rather than individuals with unique personality traits and needs.
Building a useful customer persona usually starts with gathering qualitative data in addition to quantitative data like demographic information. There are multiple ways to collect information to develop your customer personas.
Here are a couple of methods that are proven to be more accurate and reliable than others:
The first step in defining your personas is to take a deep look at your existing customer base. Begin with selecting customers or prospects from your existing data and group them, make sure it is randomly picked. Start by sending a series of surveys to the groups you created, or better yet, conduct a series of interviews. You can incentivize people by giving them goodies or discount coupons to participate in this exercise. It is advisable to hold these interviews one-to-one to ensure the answers aren’t influenced by others.
Develop a comprehensive questionnaire, with questions ranging from demographic information to why they chose your restaurant. Even though there is no right number but conducting around four to six interviews is a good start, as this is the point where you’ll begin to observe trends, patterns, and correlation in your persona responses.
Analyze your CRM data
Another good source of extracting insights is to analyze the existing data in your CRM. The customer data available in your CRM should be able to show trends in key restaurant analytics metrics such as average basket size, items ordered, time of order, day of ordering, repeat cycle, and impact of promotions on basket size. Your restaurant staff may also be able to provide insights. From their customer interactions, restaurant staff should be able to provide generalized insights into common answers and interactions they have with customers.
Now that you have collected all the data, it’s time to analyze it and create customer personas.
To personalize your personas and bringing them to life, it is beneficial to give the personas name, distinct traits, personalities, personal backgrounds and even photos. When you assign all this information to your personas, then these hypothetical, semi-fictional constructs easily springs to life. Let’s look at an example:
You have been trying to figure out ways to increase sales during your slow time of the day, say during lunch. Now there may be 2 groups that come to your restaurant during that time:
Mathew works as a software developer in a multinational corporation. As he is single, he came everyday at lunch time; prices didn’t bother him. He usually ordered the same items, was always in a hurry to get back to work and got agitated when his order took too long to process.
Talia is studying Masters in business analytics. She came every fortnight with her friends. Being single and young she comes during promotions. She is very active on social media.
Looking at these examples, it is obvious that Mathew and Talia have different motivations, values, behavior, and interests. So, you can’t go with one-size-fits-all strategy. You need to consider certain aspects of actual data associated with these personas.
The above personas were just the examples. You can add more insightful data to suit your goals and objectives. Here are a few data points that you can add to your customer personas:
- Location – Where do people from this persona live?
- Interests – What are the interests of people in this persona?
- Education Level – What is the education level of this persona?
- Income Level – What is the income range of this buyer persona?
- Language – What languages do people in this persona speak?
- Favourite Websites – Why type of websites do people in this persona frequent?
- Buying Motivation – What is this personas reasons for visiting or ordering from your restaurant?
- Buying Concerns – What is this personas concerns when visiting or ordering from your restaurant?
Why Are Customer Personas Important?
Now that you understand what customer personas are and how to research and create one for your restaurant, let’s understand how you can leverage these newly created customer personas to help your restaurant brand.
- If, you are planning to redesign your restaurant’s website, or create your first online ordering app, consult your personas. It is important that your online food ordering system stands out. Take a look at the demographic data and behavioral insights of your personas. Depending on the insights of your audience, your website might benefit from certain features to enhance usability
- Planning to launch a new brand or rebrand your existing restaurant business? You can draw meaningful insights from your personas into what your audience will connect to and what will capture their interest
- Before sending out any CRM campaign, consult your customer personas to understand what type of content your audience will enjoy consuming and what can propel them to take desired actions, like visiting your restaurant or placing an online order on your website. You can also modify your promotions and offers by drawing insights into what excites your audience, it can be 20% off coupons, buy-one-get-one-free offer, or maybe 10% extra loyalty points
- Your customer personas can also help you understand where your audience spends their time, what all social media channels they are active on, what language do they speak. These insights will guide you define your brand tone and type of marketing content that will resonate with your audience. This will aid you in developing your overall restaurant marketing strategy
Analyze & Refine
One of the blunders businesses make when developing personas is thinking the persona is complete once it’s developed. While the initial process of persona development is a one-time event, personas are meant to be refined over the course of time, if they’re expected to be effective.
Unless there’s a significant shift in your business strategy and offerings, your initial personas will likely remain very similar. However, if there are fluctuations in the market or any new trend crops up, expect to see some changes in your persona responses.
So how do you keep your personas relevant? Always collect feedback and periodically compare. There are feedback software for restaurants available in the market, that can help you automate and speed up the feedback collection process, in turn, enabling you to gather answers to your persona questions to determine if there are any major shifts.
A buyer persona can be an easy step to skip while defining strategies. However, they are much more than a basic snapshot of your customers. Rather, personas are a foundational, strategic tool in making decisions that will affect your business growth and bottom line.