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Guide to Restaurant Customer Acquisition Part 1: Knowing Your Guests

Aug 31, 2021
min read
Written by
This article outlines:
How knowing your current customers can help you find and attract new ones
The value of first-party data, a restaurant CRM, and tech integration
How to analyze guest data and put it to use with customer segmentation

ne of the biggest priorities for restaurant marketers is driving a consistent stream of people in the door, to the counter, curbside, etc. In other words, customer acquisition: the process of bringing new customers to your business.

Traditionally, customer acquisition in the restaurant industry centered around mass communication (i.e. limited-time offers, newspaper and radio ads, and out-of-home advertising). But just as a restaurant manager would never shout to everyone in the dining room to find out if they’re enjoying their meal, mass communication tactics are impersonal and difficult to measure in terms of effectiveness.

There’s a better way to acquire new restaurant customers.

The first step: Knowing your guests.

In this three-part blog series, we’ll walk you through the fundamentals of customer acquisition, so you can level up your restaurant marketing plan and, ultimately, drive profit.

Getting To Know Your Customers—Beyond Demographics

Chances are your restaurant brand already has some sort of customer acquisition strategy in place, but unless you fully understand your current base, you’re likely wasting your marketing dollars on attracting low lifetime value or even one-time-only guests (i.e. people only motivated by discounts) and the ability to optimize your approach is limited.

So, what does it mean to truly know your customers? We’re not just talking about surface-level demographics like age and location, or even contact information. Restaurants should have all of the following intel and more about each customer at their disposal:


  • Recency: Time of Last Visit, Last Check, Last Online Order
  • Visit Trends: Last Waitlist Time, Reservation Time, Wi-Fi Sign-Up
  • Engagement: Last Email or SMS Clicked or Opened


  • Personal Info: Name, Email, Zip Code, Anniversary, Birthday
  • Frequency: Number of Visits, Time of First Visit, Lifetime Frequency
  • Average Spend: Check Averages, Tips, Online Order Totals
  • Order Data: Ordered Items, Online Order Source


  • Restaurant Details: Preferred Location, Last Location Visited

But how do you get all of that information? The secret to unlocking these valuable insights is first-party data, a restaurant-specific CRM, and an integrated tech stack.

What Is First-Party Data and Why Do Restaurants Need It?

First-party data is information that a company collects directly from its customers and owns. This includes all the ways a customer engages with a restaurant brand online, including orders, reservations/waitlist, comment forms, email sign-up, e-commerce, app usage, social media, surveys, and more.

Restaurant software like Wisely takes that first-party data a step further by enriching it with sources such as your POS, pay-at-the-table solution, and payment processor, through tech integration.

More than ever, restaurants need first-party data to gain a clear understanding of their guests across the entire customer journey and more effectively tailor the experience to each individual. Remember: If you don’t know how your customers behave, you can’t influence their future behavior.

And yet, some tech vendors either don’t give restaurants ownership of their data or limit their ability to access and use it. The best way to find out who truly owns your data (and, ultimately, your customer relationship) is to dig in and ask the tough questions.

For example, when you pull a covers or online orders report, can you tell exactly how many originated from a source like Google or found your website directly? What about the number of customers who have visited/ordered once, twice, or don’t dine as often as they used to? And, if you can get access to all of your data, can you act on it?

If the answer to any of these types of questions is no, it’s time to reevaluate your restaurant tech vendors.

Unlock Customer Insights with a Restaurant CRM

A restaurant CRM (Customer Relationship Management solution) like Wisely stitches together data from your POS, reservation system, online ordering solution, and other restaurant-specific integrations into a single, unified guest profile—and makes it actionable.

This 360-degree view of each customer enables you to better understand their behavior and preferences, which, in turn, leads to more effective omnichannel communications, real-time personalization across customer touchpoints, hyper-relevant promotions, and revenue optimization.

Note that a standard, run-of-the-mill CRM may be limited in terms of its integration capabilities with your existing restaurant tech stack and what actions you can take to engage customers.

The Importance of an Integrated Restaurant Tech Stack

When it comes to getting to know your guests, the ability to collect and then access data is equally as important as having a restaurant tech stack built with systems that talk to one another. For example, do your POS, payment processor, Wi-Fi, CRM, reservation system (if you’re full-service), and online ordering solution share data? If not, you’re only getting part of the story of the customer journey.

To gain this comprehensive understanding of each guest, including their purchasing behavior, preferences, and long-term value to the business, you need to eliminate data silos.

So, before implementing any new systems, ensure that they integrate with your existing tech stack or take the necessary steps to do so.

Restaurant Data Analysis and Customer Segmentation

With integrated first-party data and a restaurant CRM, brands can analyze the customer journey across platforms and find out where and when customers spend money, what they spend it on, which channels they use to connect with the brand, their opinion of the dining experience, and their lifetime frequency.

In addition, restaurants can use the process of customer segmentation to identify which guests are most valuable long-term. Customer segmentation is the act of categorizing customers based on shared characteristics or behaviors, so businesses can effectively market and cater to the needs of each group.

Restaurant brands might choose to segment customers based on things like:

  • Customer Lifetime Value: Visited more than 10 times, ordered within the last month, and check average is over $50
  • High Probability for Reorder: Clicked an email on a Tuesday, and ordered tacos online after 3 p.m. two weeks ago
  • Opportunities to Treat VIPs: Number of visits is greater than 20, regularly orders dessert, and anniversary month is August
  • High Churn Risk: Last visit was over 90 days ago and number of visits is greater than 10
  • Big Spenders: Check average is over $100

Now, how can we use all of this data and these segments to power a customer acquisition strategy?

Next Steps

In the next installment of our Guide to Restaurant Customer Acquisition, we cover a variety of ways to turn customer insights and segments into a data-driven, omnichannel marketing plan that resonates with your target market. These proven strategies will help you find and attract new, high-value customers that mirror the interests and behaviors of your regulars and VIPs.

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