Constant communication between you and your guests is key

In short, your restaurant should be. Today’s consumers are accustomed to absorbing information on the go. The mobile device has proven useful with the ability to locate a nearby pub, check out ratings and reviews, and even preview menus. So what's next in restaurant marketing, and how can you leverage mobile technology to create a loyal fan base?

We're on the go more than ever, and the mobile device has contributed to significant changes in our behavior and expectations for our favorite brands and dining destinations. It is no longer just about good food and excellent service. We appreciate, respond to, and perhaps even expect engaging and personalized experiences.

All kinds of restaurants, from national franchises to mom-and-pop cafés, can leverage mobile to extend the experience beyond the food. Here’s how.

Data: Create a Value Exchange

While this seems like an obvious jumping-off point for mobile, reward programs aren’t simply coupons or “buy one get one” offers. Use mobile to get to know your patrons so you can personalize their experience and share something of value.

Know a customer who always orders a glass or two of Merlot? Use a promotion to entice her to opt in for future communication, then use her data to reward her for things you already know she likes. Text her when you release a new wine offering, or invite her to your upcoming wine pairing event. The data you collect is valuable to you as a marketer as well, because it enables you to pivot your program accordingly.

Bagger Dave's is planning a two-phased approach to loyalty using mobile. The restaurant’s Fresh Rewards program is an evolving program built from learnings and data captured in the initial rollout of the program to shape future decision-making. The mobile experience features many ways to engage with the restaurant, such as entering codes, taking a survey, and playing a game. In doing so, Bagger Dave's can see what's truly resonating with their guests.

Experience: Think Beyond the Food

Mobile also provides restaurants with the ability to identify valued customers through mobile CRM programs. Invite them to register for an in-store game, special promotion, or prize. Identify those who frequent the restaurant for special occasions, dinner dates, or business dinners and reward them for doing things they already do. Borrowing from the TV show “Cheers”—“where everybody knows your name”—CRM brings the concept to a whole new level.

Boston's, a sports bar and restaurant, built a mobile CRM program across its 51 U.S. locations. Once customers opted-in to the program, they were rewarded with a mobile coupon for a free pizza (along with deals and alerts for their specific location in the future).

More than 24 percent of consumers redeemed their coupons during the kick-off campaign, followed by 10 to 15 percent average redemption after the launch.

Engagement: Interactivity at the Table

Many restaurants have implemented tablet ordering. Capitalize on this mobile platform with richer data and make the experience more fun for guests. Offer the opportunity for customers to engage with each other at the table, play trivia games with families, learn about food facts, or compete against each other on your in-store monitors.

Mellow Mushroom has seen a huge uptick in mobile during the past 18 months. Their Share Happiness campaign offered an in-restaurant mobile experience where guests scanned the tabletop QR code to interact with each other via a series of conversation starters and trivia questions. An SMS sweepstakes gave those who purchased a Coca-Cola product a chance to win Mellow Mushroom gift cards or a grand prize trip.

Mobile engagement is a key driver to encouraging purchases and ensuring the long-term success of a business, which is why every restaurant should look to mobile technology for ways to foster deeper relationships with customers. While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to mobile marketing, restaurateurs need to start thinking of themselves as players in the technology business, and begin experimenting with mobile functionality to attract and retain guests.

For more thoughts on using mobile in restaurant, join our panel at the NRA Show May 17 at 10 a.m.

The opinions of contributors are their own. Publication of their writing does not imply endorsement by FSR magazine or Journalistic Inc.

Expert Takes, Feature, Bagger Dave's, Boston's Restaurant & Sports Bar, Mellow Mushroom