Consumer, Strategy

Crafting a Modern Journey for Today's Restaurant Consumer

Our food industry webinar discussed the importance of customer loyalty — and how to achieve it.

PUBLISHED: 11/16/2022

Crafting a Modern Journey for Today's Restaurant Consumer

Even when people love a company, 59% will walk away after bad experiences and 17% will walk away after just one bad experience (PWC).

The reality is that customer loyalty is fleeting and brands must work at strengthening their relationships with their customers, both in-store and online.

When it comes to the restaurant industry, this reality is apparent. Consumers have countless options when it comes to their dining preferences and one negative experience could permanently sever ties.

This is why brands must work hard at crafting positive experiences throughout the customer journey.

We hosted a webinar with three marketing powerhouses to dissect how brands can craft a modern journey for restaurant consumers. Our featured panelists were:

  • Mike Kappitt, Chief Operating & Insights Officer at Subway
  • Bronze Major, Head of Marketing at Bonefish Grill and Carrabba’s
  • Becky Miller, Marketplace Marketing Manager at Chipotle

Design a Modern Marketing Mix

Becky Miller kicked off the conversation by explaining the importance of customer analysis – what is the ideal customer passionate about? Whether it’s a seamless customer experience or fast delivery time, every interaction counts.

Miller also emphasized the importance of brands not only understanding their current customer but also the customer they aspire to have. For example, if the current customer is 34-50 years old in a rural area, but the ideal customer is in the 18-34 age range in urban areas, brands must shift their thinking as to what would generate appeal.

Once brands have conducted customer analysis, they can start thinking about the customer experience. How should the customer feel when they step into a restaurant? What experience should be provided?

Mike Kappit explained that it’s not so black-and-white. People eat every day, yet they don’t want to eat the same thing every day.

Out-of-home eating occasions have been flat for the past 40 years, which increases the competition between restaurants — brands only have a short window to win them over. At Carrabba's, they have 50-55 minutes to provide the best possible experience, whereas Subway is only a matter of minutes.

So, how do brands tie this all together?

Major led this discussion by emphasizing the importance of excellence. Each interaction must be positive — whether that’s in-store service, online ordering or delivery.

It’s crucial that customer experience is at the forefront. Brands should make it easy for the customer to find them and even easier to dine.

Create micro-moments throughout the customers' journey

91% of smartphone users look up information on their phones when they are in the middle of a task (Think with Google).

Consumers are constantly turning to their phones throughout the day — whether that’s to look something up, research travel or dining plans or simply check in on social media. These moments are defined as micro-moments.

“They are intent-rich moments when decisions are made and preferences shaped. In these moments, consumers' expectations are higher than ever.” (Think with Google).

Kappitt explained that restaurants can leverage data to develop effective micro-moments throughout the customer’s journey. With the average person seeing up to 10,000 advertisements every day, it’s more important than ever to make engagements meaningful.

It’s also important to remember that these micro-moments are not just digital — they can be created in-store. Subway is using food vending machines as a way to reach customers in new places like airports. Customers are able to purchase items like beverages, salads, and of course, their iconic subs.

Engage on a one-to-one basis

In addition to those micro-moments, forging an emotional connection with customers is crucial. Major explained the importance of an emotional connection:

“We have customers who send us wedding invitations 3-4 times a week. I respond to all wedding invitations and I also send a gift certificate," Major continued, “This is a micro-moment that is important to our customers – they took the time to write to us, so we are showing our appreciation by not only responding to their invitation but also rewarding them for their loyalty.”

Kappitt chimed in to emphasize the importance of personalization:

“Recently, we had someone fly from Singapore to Australia, and when they were going through customs, they got in trouble for having a Subway sandwich in their bag. They were fined $2,664 AUD. After they posted the incident on social media, we sent them a Subway gift card for $2,664 AUD and some swag.”

Kappitt explained that although Subway got praise for its response on social media, this wasn’t its end goal. It’s the relationship between the customer and the restaurant, and building affinity toward the restaurant. At the end of the day, customers want to be seen, and it’s up to the brand to tap into that.

Miller wrapped up the conversation by explaining that there doesn’t need to be a direct tie to the consumer in order to build an emotional connection.

When the customer opens a delivery app after a long day of work, all they want is a quick, yet quality meal. It’s up to the restaurant and delivery app to remove the common frustrations of food delivery such as long wait times, delivery fees and poor user experience.

Brands who learn how to win the occasion and create a positive customer experience will stay top-of-mind to the customer. Watch the full webinar here.