Making diners choose you: 7 things we learned from the Sydney Industry Series

OpenTable Industry Series, Sydney Aug 2019

The recent OpenTable Industry Series in Sydney brought together a group of hospitality experts for an enlightening conversation about what restaurateurs can do to make diners choose you. Here are seven things we learned that could change the game for your restaurant…

1. Define the customer journey

The diner’s experience isn’t just about what you put on the plate. The customer journey involves everything from your customers’ booking experience to where they park, how they are greeted, where they are seated and the service they receive. Clearly define each of these customer touch points and you’ll be well placed to deliver consistent experiences.

Defining the customer journey will also highlight pre-sale opportunities, says Craig Macindoe, managing director of hospitality marketing agency Darling Crackles. “You might have a signature dish or a great Barolo selection, for example, that you can recommend diners pre-book a day in advance.”  

2. Tell a consistent brand story

Your brand story is the foundation of all your marketing efforts. It should express your customer journey, and define what your restaurant brings to the market. It’s also what you’ll use to create connections with customers, separate you from your competitors, and set diner expectations. 

“There’s nothing worse than booking a restaurant thinking you’re going to have one experience, but turning up and finding another”

Kiran Bains, co-owner of Brick Lane restaurant in Sydney.

“Brick Lane, for example, is a party restaurant. It’s a place you come if you want to have fun. We tell that story through the content we produce and the tone of voice we use. Whether people are reading our social media posts, a media article or our business profile on OpenTable, our story is consistent.”

3. Create relevant content assets

Content is everything you push out that expresses your brand story. From your website and social media posts to customer communications like booking confirmation emails and newsletters, your content determines how your restaurant is perceived before a diner walks through your door, and after they leave.  

“It’s the sort of stuff that will sell your business while you’re asleep,” explains Macindoe.

4. Amplify your message across multiple channels 

Now it’s time to get those content assets out to as many people as possible. This is known as amplification, but there’s no single media channel that will serve as your golden bullet. Rather, you need to diversify your communications across a range of channels — from social media and review sites to search engines and traditional media.

“The online landscape is changing and you need to stay on top of new tools and channels,” says Macindoe. “For example, Google is investing in their Business listings in an attempt to outshine TripAdvisor. That’s the difficult side of the changing online landscape — you’ll get someone who will raise a billion dollars and all of a sudden they will push a new product out and the channel you were using might disappear.”

5. Connect with first-time diners

Thomas Zois, senior product manager at OpenTable, points out that around 80 per cent of your customers would be first-time visitors to your restaurant. While retaining your 20 per cent of return diners is important, you need to be connected to platforms like OpenTable that can deliver a high volume of new diners to your restaurant. 

“Really good restaurants that do a lot of great marketing to re-engage people can lift their repeat business to about 30 per cent, but that still leaves a ton of new people you need to reach each week.” 


6. Optimise real-time table management

Empty seats equals lost revenue. Using tools for smart real-time table management can wield significant impact here. You’ve invested time and money in getting your marketing right, so don’t erode your return on investment by leaving seats empty.

“One thing I see quite a lot is a table of four sitting two people on a Friday night when you have high demand,” explains Zois. “Those are two seats you haven’t filled. If that’s $50 per person, over the year that’s $5,000 in revenue that won’t materialise if you don’t get your table management right.” 

7. Use data analytics to make better decisions

While data analytics may seem like it belongs in your too-hard basket, tools like GuestCenter have become incredibly adept at turning data into real-world, actionable insights you can use to put more money in your pocket. It all comes down to using customer data to make better, more informed decisions. 

“Data analytics takes the guesswork out of how you’re performing,” says Zois. “It allows you to see which marketing channels are working best for your individual restaurant. That means you can try new things and will know how to manage every aspect of your operations to get the best possible return on investment.”

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