This post is by Restaurant SmartBrief contributor Janet Forgrieve.
As the debate about whether OpenTable is worth the cost goes on among some restaurateurs, many establishments find the online reservation site well worth it, if only for the dossiers they can compile on regular customers and guests they hope to turn into regulars.
Much of the coverage and expert advice on restaurants and social media centers on using tools such as Facebook and Twitter for marketing, but it also works the other way. Customers’ tweets, postings, blog entries and other personal musings are public fodder, available to eateries looking to personalize their customer relationships. OpenTable allows restaurants to keep all that information and more in a report that’s filed under the guest’s name and easily accessed when the customer makes a reservation or arrives for a meal. The system allows restaurant staffers to enter all kinds of personal and pertinent information on guests into the report, and the comments can only be accessed by employees of the restaurant.
A story in this week’s New York Post calls it “spying,” and the database does allow servers to share negative comments about difficult customers and note whether a guest has ever skimped on a tip, complained about everything or skipped out on a check. But the real point of the service is to compile information that’s likely to help forge relationships that make guests feel at home and appreciated. Tracking and commemorating birthdays, anniversaries and other key events in people’s lives isn’t a new strategy for some high-end restaurants that have spent decades cultivating a core of regular customers.
Some owners such as Four Seasons’ co-owner Julian Niccolini have flourished in their careers by making a practice of knowing their regular customers and keeping track of their lives, the Post story says. OpenTable’s dossier system allows more restaurants to adopt similar strategies, ensuring customers feel well taken care of and making them want to return on a regular basis.
Do you use OpenTable to keep track of important data on your best customers? How did you cultivate customer relationships before the digital age? Join the conversation in the comments.