5 Best Restaurant CRM Systems of 2023
By Jordan Hollander
Last updated February 16, 2023
6 min read
How can your restaurant become more profitable despite rising ad costs, employee shortages, and pandemic restrictions? No, we’re not talking about going viral on TikTok, we’re talking about restaurant CRMs. Investing in a restaurant CRM solutions can bring a myriad of benefits to your establishment, whether you run a hotel restaurant, mom-and-pop diner, a coffee shop, a cocktail bar, or a chain of stylish bistros. CRM is the key ingredient behind many successful restaurants, and it can help restaurant owners build relationships with every guest to improve customer retention by leveraging rich guest data. In addition to driving guest loyalty and incremental revenue, CRM can also help your restaurant run more efficiently and boost guest satisfaction. How is it all possible?
In this article, we’ll explain what features and benefits you can expect from restaurant CRM and introduce you to some of the best systems in the marketplace. In just a few minutes, you’ll be able to make a more informed decision about implementing a CRM in your own restaurant business.
What is a Restaurant CRM?
Before we dive into the good stuff, let’s establish what a restaurant CRM is. A CRM system, or customer relationship management system, is technology that enables a business to engage with customers and build and nurture relationships with customers. CRMs are popular in all facets of hospitality, like hotels and restaurants, as well as in virtually every business vertical, from retail to software.
The CRM does a lot of heavy lifting; it collects and stores customer data, sends and tracks personalized communication (like emails and text messages), and can even give you insight into guest behavior before, during, and after they visit your restaurant. CRM is also used to organize sales activities, like your events manager’s prospecting calls when she is selling your private dining rooms. In addition to helping you reach new customers, a restaurant CRM keeps your guests engaged throughout the entire lifecycle, which can increase repeat business.
Key Features of a Restaurant CRM
We gave you a little preview, so now let’s jump into the details. What are the most important and impactful features of a restaurant CRM?
- Customer database: This database stores all of your guest information like email address, phone number, date of birth, payment method, company name, and more. Restaurant-specific CRM systems also allow you to enter details like allergies, dietary preferences, and preferred seating options.
- Customer history: Your CRM keeps a detailed record of each experience a guest has at your restaurant. These records include not only a quantitative purchase history (what the guest ordered) but also qualitative notes, so your staff can enter specifics like the way a guest likes her steak cooked or a customer’s favorite cocktail.
- Marketing campaigns: Using all of this data, the CRM can help you send personalized, targeted marketing campaigns to specific customer segments. For instance, maybe you want to send a special offer for prepaid reservations for this year’s Valentine’s Day dinner, and you want to target guests who dined with you on Valentine’s Day last year. Your CRM can send your email offer to only those guests who visited on February 14 of last year.
- Metric tracking: Once you’ve launched a marketing campaign, how did it perform? The CRM tracks open rate, click-through rate, and conversions (how many people actually booked a table or purchased something on your website) so you can optimize future campaigns. Using these metrics, you can also send retargeting offers; for example, maybe you want to send a follow-up email to customers who clicked the “book a table” link in your last email but never actually made a reservation.
- POS system integration: One of the most critical features of your CRM is an integration with your point-of-sale system. This integration means that data can flow between the two systems. Without such an integration, your CRM cannot easily ingest your guests’ history, like the items they ordered and the dates and times they visited your restaurant.
- Loyalty program: A restaurant CRM should either have it's own loyalty program or at least an integration to one. It's important to gamify the diner experience by setting order history milestones to improve the customer experience by rewarding loyal guests for their patronage.
What are the Benefits of Using a Restaurant CRM?
The features of a CRM don’t just exist to make running a restaurant easier; they can deliver a tangible impact to your bottom line through incremental revenue, operational efficiencies, and customer loyalty. But how?
The operational efficiencies are often the first benefit that restaurateurs notice after implementing a CRM. Storing guest profile data, notes, and feedback is significantly easier with a restaurant-focused CRM. Staff can find this information more easily - and add to it as they get to know customers better - enabling them to do their jobs more efficiently. At the same time, guests will be delighted when a server remembers their favorite dessert from their last visit, thanks to a little help from the CRM.
Remembering a customer’s favorite dish will certainly encourage some guests to come back again and again, but that’s not the only way a CRM can help you drive loyalty. The personalized marketing campaigns powered by your CRM can nurture the relationship you have with each guest. Communication that addresses each guest by name and calls out specifics about their past visits is a great way to keep your restaurant at top of mind. Furthermore, it’s significantly cheaper to get a repeat guest to come back rather than a first-time guest - and studies show that 2% growth in customer loyalty has the same impact on profitability as cutting costs by 10%. So more repeat business is always good for your restaurant’s profitability.
And a CRM can help you secure incremental revenue both on-premise and virtually. Through marketing campaigns, you can promote sales of gift cards, merchandise, and to-go orders, which guests can buy without even stepping into your dining room. When customers do visit in person, your staff can make personalized recommendations for dishes or drinks that align with the customer’s likes and dislikes from their previous visits, which can increase average check value.
What are the Top Restaurant CRM Systems?
By now you’re probably wondering how you can bring all the benefits of CRM to your restaurant. There are many excellent CRM systems designed for the restaurant industry, and we’ve narrowed down some of the best.
How to Choose the Best CRM System for Your Restaurant
Although CRM systems have the same general functionality, each one has unique characteristics, so it’s worth doing some research to determine which system is the best fit for your restaurant. Like with any tech solution, you’ll find a wide variety of functionality, customer support, and pricing.
During your preliminary research, you’ll want to think about the functionality that’s most important to your restaurant. Do you want a system that offers mobile ordering and table management in addition to CRM? Do you want a system that can send SMS messages to customers, or is just email sufficient? Does the system have an integration with your POS?
Once you’ve found a couple of systems that meet your criteria, the next step is to set up a demo and conversation with a sales rep. Doing a demo is a fantastic way to determine whether the system is a good fit. Is the system intuitive? Can your staff learn to use it without extensive training? During a chat with the sales rep, you’ll want to ask for pricing details and for an implementation plan. How long does it take to implement, and are there any implementation costs? Ideally, you can get up and running quickly.
After asking these questions, you will be able to make an educated decision about which restaurant CRM is right for you. You’ll soon be on your way Still have questions about restaurant CRM? Let us know!