Inflation graphic stacking coins.
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The value of sending a handwritten note is enhanced by integrations with CRM systems that automate the process of when to send a note to a customer and what message to include.

The Art of Inflation Communication with Restaurant Customers

Nothing says “pay attention” like a personalized handwritten note.

Nearly every industry has been impacted by inflation. And restaurant prices have had the largest gains since the 1980s, reflecting higher costs for food and labor. As consumers become more discretionary with their spending, they have been paying more attention to prices across brands and have even been willing to ditch companies they have been loyal to for years to spend less. In some instances, consumers have avoided dining out altogether in order to reduce their monthly food costs.

Retaining loyal customers and recapturing their purchasing power once their budget can afford it, or prices return to lower levels, is reliant on restaurant brands having open and transparent communication with customers during inflation. While no one enjoys paying more for goods and services, it is something everyone is being impacted by, creating a universal understanding and acceptance that prices must go up. However, it does not mean customers will be amenable to drastic or sudden price jumps, increases that seem out of alignment with competitors, or higher prices that appear to last longer than necessary.

Most marketing and sales experts would agree customer retention is more cost-effective for a business than customer acquisition. As consumers and businesses watch their discretionary spending and cut back on perceived extras, savvy companies will invest more effort into maintaining positive relationships to protect their bottom lines. However, receiving an email, text message or phone call may be the last thing a customer wants.  

They might also be the last thing a customer pays attention to. The amount of promotional email the average person receives on a daily basis can be overwhelming. Not to mention that many email services now allow users to filter emails considered to be promotional into folders where they may never be seen, let alone opened and read. Text messages from unknown numbers typically stir feelings of suspicion. An unexpected text message might even be viewed as a smishing scam trying to steal personal information. A handwritten note is entirely different, it invokes curiosity versus fear or annoyance.   

Nothing says “pay attention” like a personalized handwritten note. No one flips past or does not see a handwritten envelope in their mailbox. These stand out from everything else that was delivered. Recipients wonder what could be inside and while envelopes that look like bills or advertisements and graphic postcards are set to the side, handwritten envelopes are usually opened immediately. The attention-grabbing nature of a handwritten envelope provides an instant advantage that even the biggest and most prevalent direct mail marketers cannot overcome.   

Spending hours writing notes by hand can be prohibitive, especially for businesses that have been struggling to hire, so consider hiring a robot to pick up a pen and do the writing instead. Handwritten envelopes have been found to have a 300 percent greater open rate than standard envelopes. And handwritten marketing has response rates 7–21x greater than printed mail, with a return on investment 3–7x greater than print. Some companies have even found that retention rates are 50 percent higher for customers who receive a handwritten thank you note.   

The value of sending a handwritten note is enhanced by integrations with CRM systems that automate the process of when to send a note to a customer and what message to include. For example, a brewer can automate notes to send to customers on the anniversary of their joining a loyalty program, when there are special deals or limited time offerings, or on other special occasions like customers’ birthdays. 

A handwritten note could even be used to explain to customers why price increases are happening. While an end consumer might have heard that the cost of fertilizer has gone up, food prices are higher than they have been in decades, and that labor costs are rising, that does not mean the will think of these things when they are comparing restaurant menus or weighing the cost of dining out versus cooking at home. Reminding customers of the people behind the scenes of their favorite restaurant and explaining the challenges being face humanize the situation and remind customers that everyone is in this together.

There is no quick fix to help businesses recover from pandemic complications, and now, inflation. How deeply inflation will impact consumer spending habits remains to be seen. Identifying ways to recruit and retain employees as costs increase and labor shortages persist will take creativity and new approaches. As restaurants develop solutions and evolve to thrive in the post-pandemic era, the need for effective communications will not diminish. After two years of a seemingly never-ending stream of new problems, making the most of upcoming opportunities will be critical to making 2022 as successful as possible. 

David Wachs is a serial entrepreneur and the founder of Handwrytten, a company that is bringing back the lost art of letter writing through scalable, robot-based solutions that write your notes in pen.

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