It used to be difficult for restaurants to take ownership of their online presence, leaving many at the mercy of third-party aggregators or having to pay hefty bills for ads and placements.
But thanks to tools like Google Business Profiles and Facebook Business Pages, restaurants can now take charge of their own online promotion and customer acquisition, Nezar Kadhem, founder and CEO of the platform, told PYMNTS. UAE-based catering Eat App, in an interview.
As a hospitality business, “you no longer need to rely on an aggregator to promote you, now you can take that control into your hands […] to become visible on both Google and the Facebook ecosystem,” Kadhem said, adding that “we’re seeing a huge trend [of] restaurants taking over marketing and trying to acquire customers directly.
To further help hospitality businesses attract customers, Eat App has implemented a reservation system that connects restaurants to all the different online platforms through which diners discover new restaurants. Through this, companies can “build a spider’s web that allows these diners not only to discover the restaurant but also to provide their telephone number, e-mail address [address or] their name,” Kadhem explained.
Additionally, with the Eat App, consumers can experience a smoother journey from discovery to booking, he added, whether they started on TripAdvisor, which is popular in tourist destinations, Instagram, Careem or l one of 11 other booking channels the software integrates with. .
Beyond acquiring new customers, the app can also help businesses improve their return rates, which Kadhem says average around 18% in the restaurant industry, regardless of either their location or their size.
Referring to retention as a lagging indicator, he said the issue is usually resolved once other key performance metrics are met: “If your customer experience is great, both from a digital footprint than when dining out, it usually solves your retention issues.”
And with the right data, including contact information collected during the first booking, email automations can be a powerful tool for winning repeat customers, Kadhem noted.
Restaurants vs dark kitchens
Available in 60 countries, the Eat App solution offers its founder global visibility into the needs of businesses in the hospitality sector. And according to Kadhem, there is a common thread: “They all want to increase attendance. They want to run a more successful restaurant and they want to keep bringing customers back.
It can be difficult to achieve this when operating in different regions with different languages and payment systems, but rather than adding new languages and local integrations, Kadhem said the company is following the activity. “Where we have the concentration of customers, we will build the widgets and front-end solutions to support those languages,” he said.
The same goes for payments. Thanks to the payment partners chosen by Eat App, including Stripe and Checkout.com, restaurants have the possibility to choose a payment method adapted to their customers.
“As long as restaurants can create a Stripe account or a Checkout account, [they can] leverage these payment gateways to hold credit cards or charge customers,” he explained.
Regarding emerging trends in the restaurant industry, Kadhem highlighted the growing importance of dark kitchens, which he says challenge the unitary economics of food delivery in general.
What it doesn’t anticipate, however, is a scenario where restaurants have to compete with these cloud kitchens, as each model has unique benefits to offer customers.
“What restaurants are designed to do is welcome customers and provide a phenomenal hospitality experience and excellent customer experience,” he noted. Ghost kitchens, on the other hand, “are going to provide a healthy unit economy, the most reasonably priced, highest quality food delivery.”
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