Patrons of any restaurant, whether it’s pizza, fast casual, or fine-dining, expect a few things in exchange for their loyalty and their dollars. First, tasty food. Second, attentive service. Third, WiFi.
Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza has always had the first two requirements covered. The company was started because its founder, native New Yorker Anthony Bruno, couldn’t find a decent slice in Florida, his adopted home state. Anthony opened his first store in Fort Lauderdale in 2002, making it a stated goal to “know every customer.” As the business grew—there are now 60 restaurants spread amongst eight states—Anthony worried he wouldn’t be able to maintain his everyone-is-family approach and provide the level of service he wanted to.
As the vice president for information technology for Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza, one of my responsibilities is to find the best tools that will help us connect with our customers, and make it simple for us to collect their feedback. It turns out there’s a solution that lets us provide our customers with something they want—fast, reliable WiFi—with something we need: a way to contact them, communicate with them, and recognize their loyalty.
I’ve learned so many things about customer service during my three years at Anthony’s. Here are four that can help anyone in the restaurant business who is looking for ways to use technology to improve efficiency.
Give customers what they want
I set out to find a way to make our data collection system “automatic,” and WiFi marketing seemed like the best solution. With it, customers who want access to WiFi when they’re in our restaurants log on and share their name and email address.
We use a platform called Zenreach to give our customers speedy internet access and, at the same time, we’re able to collect our customers’ contact info. Since we already know email is a tried-and-true channel, building a massive list that is customizable, easy to use and cheap to run has been a game changer for us.
Make it easy for people to post on Instagram and Stories
Even though we all love to hate on the people who take pictures of their food before digging in, Instagram has changed the game for restaurateurs. I learned from consumer intelligence firm Maru/Matchbox that that 69 percent of millennials take a photo or video of their food before eating. A decade ago, this was unheard of—the only people taking photos of food were restaurant reviewers and food stylists. But like it or not, all these people who are taking snaps on their phones, want to be able to share their photos with their friends, asap. WiFi makes it possible for them to do it. Pizza, by the way, is the perfect food for Instagram since a typical pie has layers of color and lots of fresh ingredients.
Find tools to help you promote loyalty
In conjunction with Zenreach, we also use a loyalty program called Paytronix. The two platforms pair perfectly. Zenreach gives us an effective way to get to know new customers, collect their contact information and personalize communication. Paytronix is valuable in rewarding customers for visits, increasing loyalty and understanding their preferences.
Automate as much as you can
Before I discovered Zenreach and Paytronix, I relied on a manual reconciling process that required me to extract data from one system and put it in the other. It was a time-consuming and clunky undertaking. I’d download a data file, load it into a SQL database, run a custom script to de-duplicate addresses and then upload the cleaned file. I’d start the process at 4 a.m. so I could be done by 9 a.m. I only did it about once a month, but it was far from seamless.
Today, Anthony’s collects 7,000-plus emails every month with a database that has grown to include more than 150,000 customers (in less than a year!). Zenreach allows us to combine contact information with each customer’s visit history, so Anthony’s can automatically use email to welcome new customers and encourage visits. For example, we can send a “lost customer” email to re-engage with customers who haven’t visited in a while. During the first year of use, the Zenreach program brought back more than 1,800 lapsed customers.
By integrating Zenreach with the Paytronix customer loyalty program and removing friction from the sign-up process, Anthony’s Coal Fired Club Rewards program is growing much more quickly. The number of customers invited to join has more than doubled. By combining timely and relevant communication with a rewards program, Anthony’s is getting better performance.
The bottom line: Technology has helped us deliver on our promise to treat our customers like family.