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Restaurant CRM

Why Your Restaurant Needs An Integrated Guest CRM System

Tessa ZuluagaAuthor


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Any customer who makes a purchase at your business has a 60% chance of becoming a repeat customer.

That’s a promising stat, especially for restaurant owners. After all, imagine everything your restaurant could accomplish if three out of every five customers served returned for a second or third helping. 

Cultivating such a relationship, however, means restaurants need to focus on remaining on customers' minds even after the dining experience is over. According to The White House Office of Consumer Affairs, acquiring new customers is 6-7x more expensive than retaining old ones – proof that keeping customers is not only helpful in creating a healthy brand but also in bolstering a restaurant’s bottom line. 

Connecting with customers in this current economic climate is a tricky proposition, especially for restaurant owners. To build a robust and effective customer retention strategy, you need tools — like a restaurant CRM system — to power that approach. This solution can plug directly into your POS system and enable your restaurant to stay in touch with customers and deliver the kind of personalized and intuitive experience that turns new customers into regular restaurant patrons.


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What is a CRM?

First things first: What is a CRM? The letters stand for “customer relationship management,” and the platform is just what it sounds like. It’s a software solution that helps companies organize all aspects of their customer database, specifically the customer experience, letting an owner find out who visited, what they ordered, and how they can entice them to come back over and over again with great marketing and promotions. Essentially, a CRM gives your restaurant the information needed to make informed decisions to improve the guest experience to establish regular customers.

Consider the fact that every human being has his or her own CRM — their brain. Up there, we’re able to store dates, read social cues, and make decisions that ultimately define our relationships with friends and loved ones on a daily basis. A CRM helps a business’ brain get all its ducks in a row to help accomplish its big-picture retention goals, and improve the customer experience across the board. 

Which then begs the question…

What is a Restaurant Customer Relationship Management System?

In short, it’s a way to connect with customers and create an experience that builds long-term rapport with the most essential parts of any restaurant — the people.

A restaurant CRM system serves as a container for any quirks or particulars that can help a restaurant connect with customers in any manner other than the traditional server-guest dynamic.

A restaurant CRM platform uses precious bits of information to build a bridge between the restaurant and its public. Information such as:

  • Customer Email Addresses and Phone Numbers: Diners continue to prefer off-premise ordering with 52% saying that takeout is “an essential part of their lifestyle,” according to NRA’s report. This includes online ordering and ordering over the phone, so restaurants are receiving tons more data about their customers than ever before. The challenge that a CRM solves is keeping that data organized and accessible. Not to mention, it enables you to have a database for your email marketing.

  • Customer Order History and Preferences: A restaurant CRM platform has the functionality to store previous orders, and customer information, and help staff notice trends. For instance, CRMs can empower your servers to point out new dishes that might appeal to dine-in customers or enable your online shop to do quick recall and bring up past dishes that buyers might want to try again. Knowing past takeout orders gives your staff the ability to say “Same thing as last time?”, which can build customer loyalty.

  • Customer Dietary Restrictions: A restaurant experience, no matter where it occurs, should be one where the menu offers an array of options. A restaurant CRM solution can note food allergies and preferences so customers can have an inclusive and safe restaurant experience from anywhere at any time.

  • Customer Birthdays and Anniversaries: A visit to one’s favorite restaurant can be the perfect way to celebrate a birthday or an anniversary. With those dates on file, restaurants can contact customers near those special days with personalized messages that entice them to come celebrate at the restaurant in real time.

Why use an integrated restaurant CRM?

Information is a powerful tool, and it’s an especially useful tool as a point-of-sale resource for your restaurant. With celebrations and personal information just a click away in your restaurant CRM system, the customer experience can be efficient and personalized. 

Greg Gibbs of Chicago Bagel Authority says "At the end of the day, it comes down to the data and what we’re able to achieve because of it." For example, Chicago Bagel Authority made $1,600 in direct sales off of a single “Miss You” email campaign sent to past guests who hadn’t visited in a while.

To learn more about how Chicago Bagel Authority uses Toast Marketing, read their story here.

How a CRM helps you engage and retain customers

Here are three benefits an integrated restaurant CRM can provide:

Send emails to new customers and old regulars

Word-of-mouth buzz and traditional advertising are still effective means of engaging potential visitors in the restaurant industry. In fact, 24% of restaurant goers are still using word of mouth to discover new restaurants. But an email campaign incorporated into your integrated restaurant CRM helps restaurant owners appeal to former regulars and potential newbies alike. 

For potential new visitors, the Toast Marketing tool can build customer lists and email templates so restaurants can execute strategic and targeted email rapports with new customers. This marketing tool also allows restaurants to measure actionable insights such as open rates and collect foundational email statistics that allow you to adjust your campaign and keep new customers primed. 

As for lapsed customers, Toast Marketing enables you to schedule outreach and engage old visitors and try to regain their interest at the most opportune times. Users of the marketing tool who sent “Miss You” messages to customers saw 9.4% of visitors return within two weeks, leading to $488 in revenue.


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Understand customer ordering patterns

Integrated restaurant CRM software helps restaurants sift through the massive amounts of customer data, serving up only the information they need at any given time. With previous visits and preferences at your fingertips with a CRM integrated into your point-of-sale technology, restaurants can streamline their suggestive approach to improve the dining experience.

The Toast Go 2, our updated handheld POS, incorporates a litany of customer ordering insights, then rolls them all into a portable, hands-free customer experience that gets diners their dish of choice quickly and conveniently.

Power your loyalty program

An integrated restaurant CRM isn’t just handy during transactions. It also gives restaurants the guest information needed to reward its most frequent and loyal visitors. 

Toast Loyalty gives restaurants the necessary tools to tailor a loyalty program to their liking. Restaurants can craft their own personal experiences such as signup bonuses and birthday rewards, establish dollar-to-points exchange rates, and roll all that into a restaurant-specific gift card. This can entice your loyalists to come back and repeat business time and time again. Plus, restaurants can get a clear picture of their repeat customers and see who is primed to recoup those reward incentives. 

Best Restaurant CRMs

So what’s the top CRM for your specific restaurant business? That’s dependent on your current POS, restaurant operations, and workflows. Here is a list of the best CRMs for top-tier customer interactions:

  • Toast

  • Popmenu

  • OpenTable

  • Eat App

  • Upserve

  • SugarCRM

  • SevenRooms

Improve the Experience to Boost Retention

Good (and bad) restaurant experiences stick with customers and are shared frequently, both verbally and on social media. A CRM restaurant system houses all the guest data necessary to make that experience an end-to-end happening for customers. 

Restaurants can use a CRM to show all the customer support at the table, in their inboxes, and wherever else to inspire loyalty and build a rich collection of engaged and avid customers.

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DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.