Building Loyalty

Exceeding expectations is not a goal at Bennigan’s restaurants. President and CEO Paul Mangiamele is emphatic that every single meal should be legendary.

To that end, Mangiamele is teaming up with Mindshare Technologies with the goal of getting real-time feedback from as many customers as possible.

This, he hopes, will lead to increased customer loyalty and frequency, as well as higher revenues.

Every table in this chain of 80 (78 franchised and two corporate) Irish-themed casual restaurants has the option to complete a survey by phone, email, text or online and give feedback on topics including food, service, atmosphere, and employee performance.

Diners can focus on one area if they choose, but those completing the entire survey—which takes three or four minutes—are offered $5 off their next meal at Bennigan’s.

Mangiamele has every confidence in this software.

“My goal is to change foodservice and especially our brand Bennigan’s from transactional, which is a one-time sale, to experiential, which coupled with great food, great service and great ambiance, builds a lifetime frequency characteristic into the guest. So by doing that we build loyalty and that also rolls over into word-of-mouth and word-of-mouth becomes exponential.”

So to boost business across his operation, Mangiamele is focusing on his customers. “The rule of thumb is it costs seven to 10 times as much to get a new customer than it costs to retain a current customer so it’s smart business,” he says.

In the restaurants Mindshare has worked with to date, says Randy Jordan, senior vice president of food services for the company, sales have increased by between 2 percent and 25 percent, “depending on not just having our system in place but on how actively the client uses the actionable insights we provide them.”

The Mindshare program is being tested out in Bennigan’s two corporate stores and should be completely rolled out by the end of the first quarter of 2012.

For now, all managers and franchise partners are being trained on using the software through what Mangiamele’s calling ‘Bennigan’s University.’ There’s no downside or cost to the franchisees to implementing it, he says. “It will only help franchisees’ business.”

In general, in the restaurant industry, the software has highlighted three major issues, says Jordan:

  • In segments and geographies with high employee turnover, poorly trained ‘youth’ are a large issue.
  • The faster you can respond to an unhappy customer, the more likely you are to prevent them from defecting.
  • Guest visits by the manager have a large impact on loyalty and satisfaction. In some cases there have been increases of 10 percent in satisfaction scores, when the manager has engaged with the customer.

Mangiamele expects the redemption rate of the surveys to be between 3 and 5 percent. This, he points out, is much higher than data from mystery shopping, which usually totals one or two feedback evaluations per month. His corporate team will read all the information and each store will have access to feedback pertaining to them.

“This builds a composite for our operators to know exactly what we’re doing right and what we’re doing wrong,” Mangiamele explains.

Customers are invited to participate in the surveys through table tents and on checks. It will be highlighted on the latter so it really stands out.

The Mindshare surveys invite both good and bad feedback.

“There are many people who would give feedback if it didn’t mean they have to tell it to their waiter in person—conflict avoiders,” says Jordan. “We focus on being able to get as much feedback as possible, both positive and negative, to continually improve each restaurant.”

And this leads to increased customer loyalty, he adds. “We’ve been able to prove that customers who had an issue or concern, have an increase in loyalty to that restaurant after the concern is heard, fixed, and the customer has been apologized to.”

Mangiamele wants to hear it all. “We want good feedback as well as bad. You’ve got to recognize good performance so it becomes a habit.”

By Amanda Baltazar

News and information presented in this release has not been corroborated by WTWH Media LLC.