We are so lucky as an industry, really. Why? Because we have so many really, really smart people working on solutions that address decades-old problems. These smart entrepreneurs are developing new technologies that address the trifecta of business issues: (1) Sales, (2) Costs; and (3) Customers.
Sales and increasing them is always on our mind as operators. Whether you are a franchisee, a multi-unit operator or corporate chieftain, "butts-in-seats" is almost a family motto, as Cuba Gooding once said in the movie Jerry Maguire "Show me the money". Open Table was an original technology that is now the grandfather of Internet restaurant technologies. It showed everyone that the restaurant industry was interested in more than just POS. Because of OPEN, the Internet, rapid development methodologies, Apple and Google, Facebook and Twitter, among others, development is inexpensive and fast. We now have hundreds of cool and valuable products that can add to our toolbox to increase sales. All of them focus on the consumer. But, more recently, the smarter vendors are thinking about value props for the restaurant too.
Can you spell C O M M O D I T Y. Wikipedia describes commodity a class of goods for which there is demand, but which is supplied without qualitative differentiation across a market. Think about it. If distributor "A" offers to sell you a case of Hellman's Mayonnaise, what is the motivation to buy it from them unless it's time sensitive or less expensive? Really, customers never ask to have some of that "Hellman's mayo" on their turkey sandwich do they? Commodities are about price and saving money is the motivator. But, what if there was something else that motivated you to buy from distributor "B" instead of distributor "A"? Something that may start out as intrinsic, but ends up be something that can be quantified and even more valuable than $2 off a case? Sales.
The new business model for grocery providers and "bag-n-a-box" suppliers will morph into service models to remain competitive. Sure, they have been saying they "care about your business and you" for years. It's time to walk-the-talk.
Operators need to manage their already thin margins ever more carefully because there are so many things out of our control that affect our cash flows; like Obamacare! But, what if distributor "A" worried less about saving you $2 a case and more about helping you with customer intelligence that drove in $100 in new business? There are tools they can use to help with this while differentiating their value proposition from their competitors. Think about it, they win more business because your business improves. Seems simply logical to me.
Managing customer satisfaction is even more critical than than ever before. Smartphones and mobile apps now enable your guests to share their dining and eating experiences while they eat...by course! Yelp! is your social score these days and you either hate them or promote them as your online brand image manager. But Yelp! isn't everything, in fact, personally, it's inaccurate and isn't very compelling any more. There is a social web out there that must be managed and that takes time and a certain level of expertise. It's also getting more and more complicated each day. How many social platforms can we really manage? How do we measure our social media marketing efforts? Hell, how many platforms is your business on anyway? More than you think. And, that's a problem.
Restaurant CRM is the solution. Rewards and loyalty is just part of the solution. The best-of-breed restaurant CRM solution needs to be fully integrated with your website, business intelligence, POS, marketing and social toolset. The winning vendor MUST have restaurant domain and social media expertise to be the winning provider.
Best-of-breed Restaurant CRM needs to be the hub for your cloud and it must easily integrate with all your B2C online solutions to deliver the customer intelligence you need in a form that can be used to increase sales, decrease costs and know your guest better. Does this "super technology" vendor exist? Nearly. I'll make that introduction very, very soon.