01 Sep

Nothing is more gratifying for business owners than seeing a customer returning or coming back to the business (or using the service) over and over again; this is how we can measure that we are doing something right and that our effort and dedication is paying off. We would even like to thank them for choosing us in a sea of well known options, new ones, cheaper or more expensive, etc (our direct or indirect competition).

When I started my first venture in a small city in Colombia many years ago, I experienced how “easy” it was to make our customers come back; by providing great and familiar service, a good product, making changes based on our customers’ feedback, etc. Our customers felt heard, appreciated and most importantly, they felt part of the business - an ideal situation for any business! 

When I moved to Melbourne a few years later and opened up a restaurant in Melbourne’s CBD - a whole new story began...  

A massive task ahead of us: how to get noticed amongst the absolute plethora of amazing dining options that Melbourne already offered? How could we retain our customers? How could we acquire more customers?

We became marketing experts to make the most out of the budget we had for Facebook, Google ads, and other advertising channels, and at the same time we had to become graphic designers because the content has to look great too. We had to become IT experts as well, so we could capture, keep and track customers’ data and use it for newsletters and emails, all while having to carry out more traditional restaurateur duties, which was already enough work. 

Did we have time for all of that?

We didn’t (and still don’t!) However, it is completely necessary as we are part of the 85,000 options Australians have to eat out, including 22,000 restaurants and nearly 7,000 pubs and bars. In the Melbourne CBD alone, there's 1,600 cafes and restaurants our customers can choose from!

So, we decided to get on board with third-party services that could help us with those tasks, delivery platforms (Ubereats and Deliveroo), reservation and POS system platforms (The Fork and Vectron), restaurant discounts platforms (Eatclub, Zomato). We saw a great advantage in using them (at first glance), as we got customers, our brand appeared in an app, we could run everything smoothly in the restaurant to take orders and print out bills. 

However, going deeper and looking behind the scenes, are these platforms really helping or damaging us? Of course, it depends, but in most cases when we use them, we are surrendering our business soul: our brand, our customers’ data, our profit margin… you name it.

Do we have the $300 million that Mc Donald’s does to spend on personalisation and  decision logic technology to actually change their campaigns based on customer’s trends and likes? Unfortunately not… 

In the end, as restaurateurs we do need platforms, we need tools, but we need tools that are fair for every party involved. Fortunately, we are seeing changes in this front, with platforms created to actually benefit everyone in the chain.

For a booking system and data collection, I recommend NowBookIt, as we pay one flat monthly fee and our customers’ data is not shared with anyone else. For delivery services, RideOn Australia also charges a reasonable flat fee; no 30-35% commissions plus hidden extra fees. 

And our very own startup, the Loop App, an online ordering app that helps you connect directly with your customers and increase retention and engagement, is also available at a fixed monthly fee. 

The beauty of these new generation of platforms is the disruption of the “high commission/data control” model that current platforms use to extort business owners.

If we own a restaurant, cafe or a bar, it means that we love the industry, we love the hard work and we love to share experiences with the people, but we need to come together and find ways and different options that actually help us improve and grow. We need to support the new services and tools that are being created to help the industry, so platforms and software tools don’t have to be considered a necessary evil but a great support for our businesses and customers.

If you know new platforms and systems that are created to help the industry, share them with us! Happy to give them a try and spread the word!

Marcela Rodriguez


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