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People
Jun 10, 2024
2
 min read

Get to know the six nonprofit organizations that received an annual grant in 2024 from Olo’s Donor Advised Fund at the Tides Foundation.

Olo For Good, ESG

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In March 2021, we created Olo For Good and joined Pledge 1%, committing one percent of our equity, employees’ time, and product to social impact and environmental sustainability causes. 

Since then, as part of our annual grant process, Olo has given more than $9 million to 17 nonprofit organizations focused on restaurant workers, food insecurity, sustainability, and diversity.

Each organization below received a $150,000 grant in 2024 from Olo’s Donor Advised Fund at the Tides Foundation. Keep scrolling to learn about their important work and how you can get involved.

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The 2024 Olo For Good annual grant recipients

American Farmland Trust

American Farmland Trust was founded in 1980 to protect agricultural land, promote environmentally sound farming practices, and keep farmers on the land. AFT advances farmland protection through agricultural conservation easements, smart growth, and tax policies. Additionally, it advances farming practices that prevent erosion and rebuild soil health through contour farming, no-till, cover crops, crop rotations, intensive rotational grazing, and precision agriculture. 

Emma’s Torch

Emma’s Torch is a nonprofit social enterprise providing refugees with in-depth culinary, employability, equity, and empowerment training. Throughout the program, students learn in both a classroom and apprentice setting at its cafes and catering businesses. The organization aims to set students up for successful employment in the restaurant industry and provide a community to build supportive relationships.

Food Recovery Network
Credit Food Recovery Network

Food Recovery Network

Food Recovery Network was founded in 2011 by college students who saw quality food thrown away daily on campus. Today it unites 6,000+ U.S. college students, food suppliers, farmers, and local businesses in the fight against climate change and hunger by recovering surplus food from across the supply chain and donating it to nonprofits that feed people experiencing hunger. 

Giving Kitchen

Giving Kitchen provides emergency assistance to food service workers through financial support and a network of low or no-cost community resources. When a food service worker experiences an injury, illness, housing disaster, or other trauma, they can apply for financial assistance to cover living expenses. Giving Kitchen’s Stability Network connects people to resources related to housing, social services, and more.

Heart of Dinner
Credit Heart of Dinner

Heart of Dinner

Heart of Dinner addresses food insecurity, social isolation, and loneliness among Asian American seniors who live in under-resourced and underinvested communities. The nonprofit delivers care packages of nutritious prepared lunchboxes and fresh produce every Wednesday to 650+ elders, paired with a handwritten and illustrated letter in their native language to bring warmth and comfort.

Partnership with Native Americans

Partnership With Native Americans is committed to championing hope for a brighter future for Native Americans living on remote, isolated, and impoverished reservations. Collaborating for nearly 30 years with its reservation partners, the organization provides consistent material aid, educational support, and community-based services to Native Americans with the highest need in the U.S.

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How to get involved

Individuals or nonprofit organizations that want to get involved with Olo For Good or explore potential partnership opportunities are encouraged to email [email protected].

Stay tuned for the announcement of our next batch of Olo For Good annual grant recipients in early 2025.

For more information about how Olo supports nonprofits via Olo For Good—and our ongoing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) strategy—visit our ESG page.

Main Photo Credit: Food Recovery Network

People
Jun 5, 2024
3
 min read

Find out what brought Nathan Torres, a Director of Product Management, to Olo four years ago, how the pandemic impacted his view of the industry, and why now’s the time for restaurants to seize on catering demand.

Team Olo, Catering, Catering+

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Since joining Olo in early 2020, Nathan Torres has worked his way up from Product Manager for Catering and Switchboard to a Director of Product Management. In his current role, Nathan oversees product managers focused on Olo's Catering+, Expo, and Host solutions, as well as onboarding and invoicing.

Find out why Nathan wanted to work for Olo, how the pandemic impacted his view of the restaurant industry, and why he thinks now’s the time for restaurants to seize on catering demand.

What originally drew you to Olo?

Nathan Torres: I first learned about Olo from Ken Marks (VP of Product). Until talking with Ken, I hadn’t thought about what went into online ordering experiences, fulfillment, handoff, etc. This piqued my interest, alongside Olo’s mission and the robustness of the platform.

After that conversation, I started digging into the restaurant technology space and paid close attention to my own online ordering experiences. I was fascinated by how restaurants utilized technology to create unique guest experiences.

When an opportunity opened for a Product Manager at Olo, I jumped in and the rest is history.

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How did the pandemic impact your view of the restaurant industry and Olo’s role in it?

NT: I was at Olo for about six weeks when the pandemic upended the industry. In-store ordering was no longer viable, so online ordering was the only way to connect guests to restaurants.

I was amazed at how fast restaurants adapted and used Olo’s platform to meet the needs of their guests and employees. It sheds light on how important our work is for enabling restaurants to provide the best guest experience and operate efficiently and safely—especially during difficult times.

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Catering demand is booming. What role will catering play for restaurants in the coming years?

NT: Catering is projected to grow by over $50 billion over the next 8 years. This is a huge growth opportunity for restaurants, but it's also table stakes for ensuring restaurants have stable recurring revenue. 

Many Olo customers have shared that catering sales are typically more stable year over year than single to-go orders, which are more reactive to economic pressures.

What are some lesser-known ways restaurants benefit from catering?

NT: The marketing value that catering provides is tremendous. Your restaurant's food is being experienced by many guests, which opens the door for more individual to-go orders, or even more catering orders for professional or social events in the future. 

Catering orders are also much more profitable. You can staff appropriately, order ingredients as needed, and fulfill high-value orders with fewer people.

Related case study: Learn how Salsarita’s catapulted catering sales with Catering+

Do you have any tips for driving catering sales?

NT: 

1. Make your menu approachable

Catering orderers need guidance on which menu items will best suit their needs. Provide helpful information, such as how many people each catering package feeds and examples of events that pair well with each package. 

2. Get the word out 

Lunch meetings, sporting events, company parties, social gatherings, holidays, and appreciation days are happening all the time. Let people know your restaurant can provide a great catering experience for any occasion. That way, you're top of mind for anyone planning an event.

3. Treat every catering order like a high-stakes order

Providing an optimal experience for the catering orderer and the many guests consuming your food is mission-critical. It can make or break the opportunity for additional growth.

Visit our careers page for more information about Team Olo and to apply for one of our job openings. 

To learn about Olo’s fully integrated restaurant catering solution, check out Catering+.

Insights
May 23, 2024
6
 min read

Learn strategies for designing high-impact restaurant surveys to understand guests better, improve the dining experience, and propel your business forward.

Restaurant survey best practices, Sentiment

Restaurant surveys can be valuable for collecting guest feedback to improve your business and drive acquisition, retention, and growth.

But guest engagement isn’t guaranteed.

The most effective restaurant surveys are highly intentional in design. Leading brands carefully consider every aspect before launching a survey—from the audience, objective, timing, and communication channel to the type, flow, and exact wording of each question.

Why? Because the more thought you put into designing a survey upfront, the easier it will be to execute, analyze responses, and take action based on the feedback.

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The importance of soliciting restaurant guest feedback

The best way to find out how restaurant guests feel about your menu, service, team, and more is to ask them directly. Don’t wait until they leave an online review, which could damage your reputation and turn off prospective guests.

By proactively soliciting feedback—via email, SMS, app, or website—you can show guests you value their opinions and recover unhappy ones before their negative experience impacts sales. 

Survey data can help you identify brand advocates, churn risks, trends, areas of improvement, and growth opportunities. For example, you might discover guests wish your restaurant were open later, a stellar employee is driving repeat visits, or you need more convenient payment options.

Strategic survey design is the key to unlocking these critical insights, which can be used to propel your restaurant business forward. Keep scrolling to find proven techniques for creating high-impact surveys guests want to take.

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15 best practices for creating restaurant surveys that produce actionable insights

What good is a survey if no one completes it? Follow these best practices to make your next one an easy and rewarding guest experience—with fruitful results your brand can use.

1. Design with a purpose

Set clear goals for your survey, considering the decisions to be made based on the insights gathered. Align your questions with the analysis and data needed to achieve those goals, ensuring they make sense within the guest journey for relevance and timeliness.

2. Provide context

Tell guests why you want feedback and provide a clear call to action. For example, if your restaurant is dedicated to providing outstanding service, you could preface the survey with your mission. Guests are more inclined to respond if they understand your intentions.

3. Leverage automation

With a restaurant-specific automated survey solution, you can solicit feedback directly after an event (completed order, post-reservation, etc.) and apply time delays so guests can effectively evaluate the dining experience, such as 1-2 hours after an order. Keep in mind that surveys tied to transactional events should focus on that event—with limited promotional content for legal compliance.

4. Refine your audience

Apply business rules to capture a representative sample without inundating regulars with feedback requests. Use qualifying questions to get responses from your target audience—implementing quotas for different guest segments to prevent skewed results—and determine if respondents should complete the survey once or multiple times in a given timeframe.

5. Personalize if possible

Personalized surveys can improve response rates and data quality. Just be sure it adds value vs. distracts from the message. For example, if the formatting of the name doesn’t match the message, it can throw off guests (“Dear JOHN,” “Dear Smith, John,” etc.).

6. Create a logical flow

Use a logical question flow when structuring your survey so guests can easily follow along. Place important questions early on to maximize the response count.

7. Use the right question type

Only ask questions pertinent to the business that lead to action. Here are some pros and cons of each question type to help determine the best option for your use case.

  • Single-select vs. multi-select: If you use these common question types, ensure each answer is completely distinct from the others and all possible responses are covered. Include “Other” or “None of the above” when appropriate and randomize the list of responses to reduce order bias.

  • Scale: Scales come in a few forms: agree/disagree, very easy/very difficult, and not at all satisfied/very satisfied. Whichever you choose, stay consistent throughout your survey.

  • Matrix/grid: A matrix can combine related questions for a better respondent experience—but it’s rarely mobile-friendly. It typically features multiple statements or attributes as the “rows” with a consistent scale or set of response options for the “columns.” Limit the number of “rows” since they are essentially separate questions.

  • Open-ended: Free-form text responses are great for capturing unknowns and getting feedback in the guest’s words. But use these sparingly as they can be taxing for the respondent and difficult to analyze.

8. Choose your words wisely

Use clear, concise, and unambiguous language for accurate, high-quality responses. Avoid longwinded and double questions—such as “Were you satisfied with the speed and the quality of service?”—which will produce junk data.

9. Don't force a response

Allow guests to select “N/A” if the question does not pertain to their dining experience. Without that option, they’ll be forced to pick a random answer which will skew your results.

10. Invite guests to opt in

Grow your restaurant marketing database by enabling guests to opt in to email marketing or SMS communications at the end of the survey. A simple check box will empower guests to express interest in hearing more from your brand, without having to answer another question.

11. Be mindful of length

Keep surveys concise and restricted to necessary questions. Only reference duration if realistic. Underquoting the time it takes to complete may cause frustration or lead to survey abandonment.

12. Offer an incentive

Increase participation in longer surveys by giving guests an irresistible incentive. Think gift cards, a discount on a future meal, branded swag, early access to an LTO, etc.

13. Test and modify

If you’re not getting your desired response rate, A/B test email copy and subject lines, try a different distribution channel (SMS, email, etc.), provide an incentive, adjust the distribution timing, or try a different question type for the opener. Send any reminders thoughtfully to encourage participation without overwhelming guests. 

Examples of subject lines to boost survey participation

  • Your feedback requested | Survey invite from Buffy’s
  • Help shape Buffy’s loyalty program
  • $5 off for your opinion | Buffy’s survey invite
  • Get free fries for sharing your Buffy’s delivery experience
  • Thanks for ordering Buffy’s! Tell us how we did
  • Your voice, our priority | Share your feedback
  • We want to hear from you! (+ Enter to win a Buffy’s gift card)

14. Be empathetic to respondents

Design surveys for a positive user experience by prioritizing mobile-friendliness, accessibility, readability, and length. Be honest with yourself: would you take your survey? If not, you’ve got some changes to make.

15. Share your results

Let relevant stakeholders know about guest feedback to drive informed decision-making across departments. Use these insights to implement meaningful improvements in the guest experience to drive retention and acquisition. Don’t be afraid to share testimonials on social media and your website.

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How to take your restaurant surveys to the next level

By being highly intentional in every aspect of your survey design—from your audience to question type and timing—you’ll get high-quality data to support sound decision-making across your business. The key is pairing these best practices with the right technology. 

An automated and fully integrated survey solution will enable you to easily create a frictionless experience for guest feedback that delivers actionable insights without extra manual work for your brand. 

Request a demo to learn how Sentiment can help you create automated restaurant surveys that unlock actionable guest insights.

Insights
May 14, 2024
5
 min read

Learn the ins and outs of restaurant marketing automation—how brands benefit, important stats, 12 examples you can actually use, and how to get started.

Restaurant Marketing Automation, Marketing Automation for Restaurants

Imagine having unlimited time and resources to develop marketing campaigns for every single restaurant guest based on their unique behavior. This is precisely what marketing automation unlocks—it turns one-to-one marketing from an aspiration to a reality.

Why is personalization so important? Because people want to feel seen. In a recent survey, restaurant guests said personalized recommendations (70%) and emails featuring their name (59%) made them feel known. When guests feel connected to your brand, they’re more likely to return and spend more.

It’s one of the reasons leading restaurants like Sonny’s BBQ and First Watch have largely moved away from batch-and-blast guest communications to hyper-targeted automations powered by data.

Here are a few ways restaurants can benefit from marketing automation.

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Benefits of marketing automation for restaurants

  • Scalably orchestrate multi-touchpoint guest journeys that drive order frequency, retention, and spend
  • Maximize marketing ROI and deepen relationships with guests by reaching them at the right time, on their preferred marketing channel, with the right message
  • Save time and manual work with a tool that offers a guided automation builder and a library of recommended automations—no IT support required

For further proof of its effectiveness, look at the following statistics.

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Marketing automation stats restaurants should know

  • $5.44 is the average return for every $1 spent on marketing automation
  • Automated welcome emails from restaurants have an average open rate of ​​75%
  • The average re-order rate from automated reminders for takeout is 15%
  • First Watch email recipients spent $2.7M within 90 days of the brand launching a marketing automation
  • Sonny’s BBQ saw a 50% increase in marketing subscribers and a 32% lift in engaged contacts with behavior-based automations

When done correctly, marketing automation can help you drive restaurant guests further down the funnel to habituation, all based on their unique interactions with your brand.

Download the Restaurant Marketing Guide

Questions to answer before launching marketing automations

It’s important to clearly define your objective and how you plan to influence guest behavior before launching a marketing automation. To achieve your desired outcome, you must reach a subset of guests at the ideal time on their preferred marketing channel—with impactful messaging. 

Ask yourself the following questions to get the most bang for your buck.

Strategy

  • What are the guest behaviors you are trying to encourage? (move guests from one to three visits, get off-premise-only guests to try dining in, etc.)
  • When a guest takes a specific action, what would you like to happen?
  • How are you measuring guest engagement and lifetime value?

Journey orchestration

  • What data sources and events are you capturing in your CRM or guest data platform (GDP)?
  • How would you ideally configure the guest journey in different scenarios?

Execution

  • What content do you want to display to the guest?
  • What channels will you be using to reach guests?

Once you have a game plan, you can develop targeted, timely automations to nudge each guest archetype toward your desired business outcomes. Keep scrolling for some restaurant-specific examples.

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12 examples of restaurant marketing automations

A high-spending guest who orders three times a year shouldn’t receive the same marketing message as a low-spending but consistent regular. The same goes for meat lovers and vegetarians. 

With your GDP, you can create complex guest segments—by purchase behavior, order frequency, dietary preferences, preferred marketing channel, and more—and use marketing automation to influence their behavior. 

Here are some examples of automations you can set up by guest archetype.

Infrequent visitors, high spend

  1. Post-order messaging: Nurture first-timers with a welcome series or a survey and send them an offer to encourage another order
  2. Promote loyalty: Send a post-order thank you message to deepen your connection with these guests and invite them to join your loyalty program 
  3. Winback campaign: Improve order frequency by reminding these guests about their favorite menu items and consider enticing them with an LTO

Infrequent visitors, low spend

  1. Promote new items: Pique their interest by featuring new items related to their past purchases and providing an exclusive offer to try them
  2. Solicit feedback: Proactively send guests post-order, post-visit, or item-specific surveys to identify what is causing positive and negative experiences—and address any issues before they impact sales
  3. Targeted offers: Increase engagement and retention with a personalized birthday message and special redeemable treat

Frequent visitors, high spend

  1. Nurture and retain: Suggest related premium menu items or food pairings to these guests based on their order history to increase margins
  2. Cross-sell or upsell: Drive spend by highlighting your most popular and profitable takeout menu items to your off-premise regulars
  3. Solicit reviews: To boost retention, ask your VIPs to leave a review and reward their loyalty with early access to promotions and events

Frequent visitors, low spend

  1. Upsell: Showcase LTOs and food pairings that high-value guests often order 
  2. Promote value: Highlight savings with bundled menu items to increase average check size
  3. Target offers: Slip a special dine-in-only promotion in their takeout bag to encourage on-premise orders

Now that you’ve got some inspiration for guest segments and automations, let’s get into the building blocks of marketing automation.

Steps for setting up a restaurant marketing automation

With a restaurant-specific marketing automation tool, you can get started in a few steps.

1. Set trigger: The action, behavior, or event that prompts the automation

Examples: Order completed, party seated, guest birthday, etc.

2. Pre-entry filter: Additional conditions a guest must meet to be eligible for the automation

  • Examples: Event, segment, attribute, etc.

3. Entry recurrence: Frequency in which guests enter the automation when meeting other criteria

  • Examples: Every time, only the first time, once every X days

4. Add action: Final output of the automation received by the guest

  • Examples: Send email, SMS, MMS, push notification, etc.

How Olo can help

No matter how familiar you are with automations, Olo Engage can help you level up and scale your restaurant’s one-to-one marketing program. By leveraging Olo’s GDP and Marketing solutions, you can build automated guest journeys with behavior-based personalization and maximize campaign ROI.

“If you have insight into purchase behaviors, dietary restrictions, payments, and preferences all in one place, you can drive guest lifetime value,” said Ray Gallagher, VP & GM Engage. “When you serve guests the right information at the right time, you can influence their behavior—like increasing order frequency and check average—long-term.”

For more information about how marketing automation can save your restaurant time and drive revenue, request a demo of Olo Engage.

Download the Guest Lifetime Value ebook

Photo by Ono Kosuki at Pexels

People
May 2, 2024
4
 min read

We’ve transformed the Olo Community experience to enable our customers to learn collaboratively, grow professionally, and network. Learn about all of the new features—and how to join.

Olo Community

We created the Olo Community in 2022 after witnessing the spirit of camaraderie at our annual customer conference, Beyond4. We wanted to create a space online for our restaurant customers to exchange knowledge, seek support, influence product development, and network—regardless of time or location and at no additional charge.

Since launch, we’ve facilitated fruitful roundtable discussions—from upselling strategies to personalizing the digital-first guest experience to leveraging data and AI—and unleashed the power of relationship-building in the restaurant industry. But we knew we’d only scratched the surface of what was possible.

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Today we’re excited to unveil a new and improved Olo Community experience designed for even more collaborative learning, professional growth, and participation in Community- and Olo-led events. Here are a few ways we’ve enhanced the experience for our customers.

New Features of the Olo Community

  • Networking: Discover and message fellow Olo customers who are in or near your location
  • Events: Access Olo- and Community-led events—roundtables, product feedback sessions, networking, etc.—or host your own
  • Community feed: View the latest Olo Community happenings in one, easy-to-read list
  • Roadmap input: Help shape Olo’s roadmap in real time by voting and commenting on upcoming product features
  • Feature requests: Request new features and vote or comment on others’ requests to help Olo prioritize high-value product enhancements
  • Device compatibility: Easily access the Olo Community via desktop or mobile device
  • Chat room: Talk to industry peers, ask questions, and share knowledge
  • Direct access to Olo: Connect with Olo employees across departments
  • Rewards: Unlock rewards—including press, webinar, and speaking opportunities, feature previews, social media highlights, and invite-only event access—by actively participating and making positive contributions to the Community

This exciting new chapter for the Olo Community would not have been possible without the support and input of restaurant leaders like Leah Arp, Director of Brand Innovation at Your Pie, and Adam Kinsinger, Director of Information Technology at WaBa Grill.

We asked Leah and Adam to share their experience in the Olo Community and why it's a valuable resource for restaurant brands.

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Q&A with Olo Community Members Leah Arp and Adam Kinsinger

Why did you join the Olo Community?

Leah Arp: I joined the Olo Community to expand my learning beyond traditional industry sources like trade magazines or websites. Real peer-to-peer interactions, thought sharing, and collaborations offer deeper insights and make for more impactful strategizing for our brand roadmaps.

Adam Kinsinger: Navigating the ever-evolving landscape of restaurant technology presents a unique set of challenges. Integrating technical solutions seamlessly into our structured back-of-house operations isn’t always straightforward. As a small team, we often grapple with limited resources and lengthy testing cycles. But our journey took an exciting turn when we joined the Olo community.

What are some of the benefits of being a member?

LA: Access to a broader network within and beyond Olo’s sphere provides valuable industry connections. Observing the strategic directions of other brands offers fresh perspectives to enhance our own. Additionally, the Community provides curated, relevant information, sparing members from inbox clutter and irrelevant LinkedIn content.

AK: Engaging with leaders from diverse backgrounds and operational contexts has been eye-opening. The Olo community fosters dialogue, enriching our understanding of technology’s role in the restaurant industry. It’s more than just a network; it’s a brain trust that propels us forward. Whether it’s tackling technical hurdles or staying ahead of the curve, the Olo Community’s insights have been invaluable.

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What have you learned from peers in the Olo Community?

LA: I’ve gained insight into strategies for menu management—including approaches to handling 86ing, upselling, categorization, etc.—and balancing remodels to accommodate off-premise and dine-in business. It’s also been beneficial to talk with peers who have knowledge of and experiences with other technology partners and how they are utilized to streamline operations.

AK: The Olo community extends beyond individual capabilities. Learning from others’ successes (and failures) has allowed us to tailor strategies to our brand. Imagine having a pool of unbiased peers to consult when selecting tech partners. It’s a backstage pass to practical solutions and innovative ideas—far beyond what a typical knowledge base offers.

At its core, the Olo Community is about camaraderie. We share a common goal: enhancing guest satisfaction, operational efficiency, and hospitality. This shared purpose encourages open communication and collaboration. We’re not just solving problems; we’re building connections.

How has your involvement helped you and your brand?

LA: Seeing industry peers validate similar conclusions and focus areas bolsters my confidence in recommendations and ideas. Observing the successes and failures of others allows for the refinement and optimization of our tactics and approaches.

AK: Our involvement in the Olo Community has refined our business strategies. But it’s also been a catalyst for personal growth. Insights gained from interactions with fellow members have shaped our digital engagement approach, strengthened the WaBa Grill brand, and helped me better realize a vision of using technology to deliver excellent hospitality.

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How to join the Olo Community

To maintain the integrity of the Olo Community and ensure everyone feels free to ask for help and share knowledge, membership is restricted to customers. If your restaurant brand currently uses Olo and you’d like to join the Community, contact your Customer Success Manager for assistance. 

Not using Olo yet? Reach out to start a conversation.

Insights
Apr 25, 2024
4
 min read

Everyone’s buzzing about guest lifetime value. Learn more about this critical metric and how restaurants can use it to propel their business forward.

Guest Lifetime Value, GLV

Personalization used to be a differentiator. Now, guests expect it

To meet those expectations and drive profitable acquisition, retention, and growth, leading restaurant brands are prioritizing a new metric: guest lifetime value (GLV).

Keep scrolling for a basic overview of GLV, including four questions to help you increase it over time. Then, download our ebook, “Guest Lifetime Value: The Real North-Star Metric for Restaurants,” to find out why GLV matters more than ever for restaurants and how to use it to propel your business forward.

Download our Guest Lifetime Value ebook

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What is guest lifetime value?

Guest lifetime value is the revenue generated from each guest throughout their relationship with the brand. In other words, it’s how valuable a guest is to your business, not just on a transaction basis, but with regard to their recency, frequency, and spend.

By focusing on GLV, you can use real guest data to predict three key things: 

  • Which guests will come back
  • How often they will come back
  • How much they will spend

… and use that intel to make strategic business decisions—from marketing to real estate.

How restaurants can be truly guest-focused

A good understanding of your GLV depends on which behaviors you’re tracking and if they’re linked to a single source of truth. A guest data platform, for example, can tell you exactly where and why your guests spend money—and measure the impact of repeat orders, marketing dollars spent, and beyond—by ingesting data from multiple sources across your tech stack.

The endgame is turning all this insight into action to improve your guest experience. And, once you know how your best guests behave, you can leverage that knowledge to put first-time or infrequent guests on a proven path to high-GLV.

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4 pivotal questions to drive guest lifetime value

To give you a sense of what this looks like in practice, here are four behavior-based questions you can ask to drive GLV:

1. Are you making it easy for your guests to dine how they want?

It’s never been more important to meet guests where they are. If a high percentage of your guests order food to-go, focusing your menu innovation and streamlining systems around online ordering, pick-up, and delivery will be critical for driving GLV.

Similarly, when evaluating your on-premise guest experience, ease of ordering and payment can directly impact order frequency and spend. Convenient ordering methods like self-service kiosks—favored by 65% of all adults if given the option—and QR codes can provide faster service and more control over order customization and accuracy.

 

2. Are you using your guests’ preferred method of communication? 

If your guests are highly engaged with email, create more targeted email content. If they are more active on social media, build processes to interact with comments, posts, and mentions—and share guest content on your channels. And if you’re unsure about their preferred method of communication, look at your data—or better yet, ask them.

Unified guest data and a fully integrated restaurant marketing solution will help you determine the sweet spot—time, day, channel, and messaging—to reach each guest so they return sooner, spend more, and become increasingly valuable to your brand.

Related Case Study: How First Watch drives online orders with guest frequency campaigns

Hear leaders from bartaco, California Fish Grill, and First Watch share how guest lifetime value is changing the way they run their restaurants and driving better results.

3. Do you proactively provide opportunities for guests to give feedback?

According to “The Data-Driven Restaurant,” a Market Leader Report from Nation’s Restaurant News Intelligence, leading brands cite online reviews and ratings (63%) and voice-of-the-guest feedback (34%) as key data categories for measuring guest satisfaction.

Considering guest satisfaction can directly impact check size, tip amount, return visits, and your brand’s online reputation, it’s important to solicit feedback proactively. You can drive GLV—and potentially thwart negative reviews—with automated surveys that show guests you value their opinions. Bonus points for offering a delicious incentive … free fries, anyone?

4. Do you cater to your guests’ regional behaviors and preferences?

Your guests’ dine-in/to-go ratio, favorite dishes, and order frequency likely differ by location. Taking action based on guest behaviors unique to each location is a best practice in driving up GLV. 

For example, brands like Starbucks and Sonic use their drive-thru screen or app to highlight popular menu items or “local favorites” at the specific location where a guest is ordering. This type of data-driven recommendation can create a sense of community similar to hometown pride—and inspire guests to try something new.

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Dive deep into guest lifetime value

Pivoting to GLV as your north star means focusing on actual guest behavior. Restaurant brands can boost profitability over time by analyzing metrics like order frequency, average spend, favorite menu items, preferred daypart, and go-to sales channel—and then taking impactful actions to enhance the guest experience.

Whether you’re new to the concept of GLV or simply looking for fresh ways to leverage the metric across your business, our new Guest Lifetime Value ebook can help. In it, you’ll find out

  • Why top brands are focused on GLV and how you can access this essential guest insight
  • How order recency, frequency, and spend can impact restaurant success and vary by service model and food type—with benchmarks
  • How to increase GLV and, therefore, revenue by focusing on individual guest behavior and leveraging those insights across departments

Click the button below to get your copy.

Download our Guest Lifetime Value ebook

Ready to use guest lifetime value to grow your business? Request a demo of Engage, Olo’s restaurant data and marketing platform.

Insights
Apr 22, 2024
4
 min read

Is your restaurant’s online ordering platform still meeting the needs of your guests and business? Here’s how to tell if it’s time for an upgrade.

Online Ordering Platform, Restaurant Online Ordering Platform

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Online ordering has rapidly become table stakes for the restaurant industry. For many brands, it started as a make-or-break decision to weather pandemic shutdowns. The faster you got up and running, the smaller the blow to your bottom line.

Whether your restaurant adopted online ordering proactively or reactively, the system that worked for your brand at the beginning of your digital journey may no longer meet the needs of your guests or your business.

To help you determine if it’s time to transition to an enterprise-grade online ordering platform, we’ve compiled a list of telltale signs you’ve outgrown your current system.

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1. Your menu is difficult for guests to navigate

Large, complex menus can be challenging for guests to navigate online. Salad and pizza brands, for example, often have unlimited combinations and modifiers—not to mention location-specific items, limited-time offers (LTOs), etc. The longer it takes for guests to build their carts, the higher the chance they’ll abandon their order or settle for a smaller basket—and perhaps even not return.

2. Inaccurate lead times are causing problems

When your restaurant is busy, inaccurate lead times can be catastrophic. If you can’t control how and when orders hit your restaurant, operational inefficiency will create a domino effect on your business. Guests will cancel online orders or request refunds because their food isn’t fresh. Delivery couriers will arrive too early or too late. Stressed-out employees will quit. And negative online reviews will hurt your brand’s reputation.

3. Your guests have limited payment options

91% of consumers say a satisfying checkout experience significantly influences the likelihood of returning to a merchant. If your guests can’t securely check out without a password, use their digital wallet, or pay with the card on file, you’re leaving dollars on the table. 

4. You’re adding more franchisees

As your restaurant brand expands and order volume increases, you need a reliable online ordering system that can keep up. Adding franchisees will be extremely difficult without multiple levels of permissions and controls, different data views, and various reports.

5. As your order volume rises, so do your transaction fees

Variable prices and transaction fees can make budgeting a challenge as you add more restaurant locations. If your brand aims to expand and order volume is rising, you’ll want simplified, scalable pricing to keep more profit and prevent high-volume locations from paying more than others.

6. You can’t customize your tech stack

Legacy systems and point solutions are inhibiting your restaurant’s growth. The needs of your guests and your business have likely changed since you launched online ordering, and they’ll continue to evolve. In the coming years, you’ll reevaluate solutions, want to add new partners, and identify opportunities to set apart your guest experience. But without a customizable and fully integrated tech stack, you’ll be stuck.

7. Your guest data lives in silos 

If your guest data is disjointed, stuck in legacy systems, or held hostage by a vendor, you’re not getting a comprehensive view of your guest journey. And you can’t leverage that intel across departments to make smarter business decisions.

8. You have limited marketing capabilities

Segmenting guests, personalizing and automating marketing communications, and maximizing campaign ROI is virtually impossible if your online ordering platform isn’t seamlessly sharing guest data with your restaurant marketing solution. Why? Because insights like purchase history, order frequency, and dietary preferences are essential for increasing repeat orders, basket size, and the lifetime value of your guests. 

9. You can’t easily launch additional channels

To diversify your revenue streams with cateringthe fastest-growing sales channel in the industry—or a virtual brand, you need an online ordering platform that supports multiple sales channels. Without a unified system, you can expect to juggle dashboards, tablets, and reports. It’s the perfect storm of inefficiency, human error, stressed employees, and unhappy guests.

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Ready to upgrade your online ordering platform?

When it comes to your restaurant tech stack, the cost of complacency can be extremely high. If your online ordering platform isn’t meeting the needs of digital-first guests, your sales will reflect it. Expect abandoned carts, refund requests, negative reviews, and overwhelmed team members. 

As your restaurant brand grows, so should your capabilities. And with the right system, growth doesn’t have to be painful.

A restaurant-specific, enterprise-grade online ordering platform will enable you to

  • Optimize your menu for faster checkout, including showcasing seasonal items and LTOs
  • Increase basket size by offering personalized suggestions and relevant menu items/combinations to guests
  • Maximize efficiency and sales with built-in capacity management tools, like AI-assisted order throttling, that integrate POS and KDS data
  • Eliminate lead time guesswork, reduce courier wait time, ensure guests get the fresh food they paid for, and reduce the burden on team members during rushes
  • Reduce cart abandonment and boost repeat orders with convenient payment options and a seamless, secure checkout process
  • Collect more first-party data to better understand and serve guests, retain more revenue, and scale your business
  • Set your marketing team up for success with all the guest insights necessary to turn first-time visitors into loyal brand advocates
  • Easily add new sales channels, like catering and virtual concepts—and manage all orders from one dashboard
  • Remain agile and choose the best tools to scale your business with hundreds of potential integrations
  • Keep more profit as you grow with flat, subscription-style fees
  • Attract more franchisees

Time for an upgrade? Schedule your free consultation with an Olo expert to discover what Olo’s enterprise-grade solution can do for your restaurant.

Download the direct ordering ebook
Product
Apr 11, 2024
2
 min read

Learn about the top product enhancements released in Q1 2024, including smart cross-sells, Catering+ production sheets, fundraiser coupons, and more.

Spring Release, Product Release, Olo Features

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In Q1 2024, Olo rolled out 13 major product enhancements across Order, Pay, and Engage to help restaurant operators unlock new revenue streams and create more seamless, convenient guest experiences.

Keep scrolling for a deep dive into our three most significant enhancements—how they work, why they matter, and who benefits.

Head to the Spring Release page for the complete list of new features and to watch Olo’s product experts unveil them onstage at Beyond4. You’ll also learn about the general availability of card-present payments via kiosk, plus how OrderReady AI—one of our Summer 2023 product enhancements—has positively impacted P.F. Chang’s.

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Smart cross-sells


What it is:
Dynamic, personalized menu suggestions for guests powered by AI

How it works: Smart cross-sells leverage machine learning to provide personalized menu suggestions directly in the guest’s cart.

Why it matters: By intelligently recommending items based on contextual factors such as order history, location menu, and current cart contents, smart cross-sells eliminate the struggle of navigating extensive menus, increase guest engagement, and lead to higher average transactions.

How restaurants benefit:
This new ordering feature empowers brands to increase guest engagement and average order value (AOV) by providing personalized suggestions to guests during the ordering and checkout process—with no manual implementation or upkeep.

How guests benefit:
Guests receive helpful suggestions tailored to their preferences during the ordering process, which reduces the time spent navigating the menu.

Catering+ production sheets


What it is:
An intuitive interface that allows brands to map ingredients and related quantities to products in the menu

How it works: Production sheets can be used by kitchens to prep for large-volume orders—or quantify the ingredients and items needed to fulfill upcoming orders for a given period.

Why it matters: Catering orders require careful planning and coordination, including pre-arranged ingredient quantities and necessary utensils, packaging, and display. Catering+ production sheets make it easier to stay organized.

How restaurants benefit:
This new Catering+ feature enables kitchen and operating staff to prepare and execute catering orders efficiently.

How guests benefit:
Guests can rest assured their catering orders will include everything they paid for.

Related: The Catering Boom: 7 Reasons Your Restaurant Can't Afford to Miss Out

Fundraiser coupons


What it is: A seamless way for restaurants to facilitate local fundraisers via online ordering

How it works:
Brands can create a unique coupon code for each fundraiser and reconcile it within the Olo Dashboard.

Why it matters:
Restaurants can positively impact the communities they serve by empowering local businesses to raise funds through online ordering.

How restaurants benefit:
This feature saves restaurant marketers time and streamlines operations by enabling them to track and reconcile fundraiser campaigns directly within the Olo Dashboard.

How guests benefit:
Businesses and other organizations can easily raise funds for charitable causes by partnering with restaurants in their community.

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Getting started


Visit our Spring Release page for a full list of product enhancements released in Q1 2024. Olo customers can reach out to their CSMs to learn more about these features and how to put them to good use. 

Not using Olo yet? Contact our team to start a conversation.

Insights
Mar 27, 2024
5
 min read

When it comes to fostering restaurant loyalty, acquiring new guests, and driving sales on social media, these Olo customers know exactly what they’re doing. Find out why they’re winning and what your brand can learn from their success.

Restaurant Social Media Post Examples, Restaurant Marketing

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Some restaurant brands make social media look effortless. Their posts get dozens of comments, thousands of likes, and, in some cases, millions of views. 

But behind every social-savvy restaurant is a team of strategists (shoutout teams of one!) with clearly defined goals who know their brand inside out, recognize the value of each platform, deeply understand the interests of their target audience, and keep up with the latest trends.

Why put in so much energy? Because social media is essential for reaching current and potential guests, especially those under 40. And, despite inflation, roughly 40% of Gen Z and Millennials intend to splurge on restaurants this year. 

No matter the size of your brand or budget, you can learn a thing or two by studying the social media accounts of the following 10 Olo customers. Though they vary greatly in size, service model, social strategy, and audience, each of these restaurant brands has a firmly established brand identity, highly engaged fans, and a whole lot of creativity.

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10 social media-savvy restaurants to follow + 23 post examples to learn from

1. Shake Shack

Shake Shack makes guests and employees feel valued by treating social media as a conversation.

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Why they’re winning 

  • Responsive community management—the brand almost always replies to/likes well-intentioned comments
  • Platform-differentiated content, including Reels for Instagram and short thoughts for X 
  • Social listening and agility to hop on trends, like the Tweet pictured above
  • Bright photography that matches its brand identity 
  • Employees featured in video content

Start following

Instagram, X, TikTok, Facebook

2. Jimmy John’s

Few brands wield the power of social media quite like Jimmy John’s—from teaming up with influencers to capitalizing on the popularity of TV shows and trends.

Why they’re winning

Start following

Instagram, X, Facebook, TikTok

3. Bodega

Bodega uses a mix of professional and lo-fi imagery, coupled with user-generated content, to bring the brand to life on social media.

Why they’re winning

Start following

Instagram, TikTok

4. Chili’s

Chili’s is famous for its social media agility—and quick wit.

Why they’re winning

Start following

Instagram, X, Facebook, TikTok

5. Dave’s Hot Chicken

One look at Dave’s Hot Chicken’s social media profiles and you’ll feel the heat.

Why they’re winning 

  • Craveable Instagram feed that feels hot when viewed holistically 
  • Social and pop culture listening, like this shoutout by a University of Michigan defensive lineman after the championship
  • Many captions promote new locations to generate awareness and drive visits

Start following

Instagram, X, Facebook, TikTok

6. Bluestone Lane

Bluestone Lane’s social strategy is tailor-made for its target market and often features user-generated content.

Why they’re winning

  • Incorporation of user-generated content in the posting strategy
  • Brand collaborations, like this partnership with New York Magazine
  • Consistent brand identity—from the voice/tone of the captions to the visual aesthetic and use of the word “locals” when referring to loyal guests
  • It’s clear the brand knows exactly who its target audience is and tailors to their interests

Start following

Instagram, Facebook, TikTok

7. Ocean Prime

Ocean Prime’s Instagram feed is consistently on-brand with visually cohesive images and videos.

Why they’re winning

  • With a parent Instagram account and location-specific accounts, guests can keep track of local events, specials, and updates like this renovation announcement. The accounts also share content to boost brand reach and location awareness.
  • Photography and story highlights are visually cohesive and consistently on-brand 
  • The link in bio tree on Instagram gives users an easy way to visit the brand’s website, make reservations, view career opportunities, and purchase gift cards

Start following

Instagram, Facebook

8. Pokeworks

Pokeworks demonstrates how its dishes come together in mouthwatering video content.

Why they’re winning

  • Social feed shows off fresh ingredients with vibrant colors
  • Video content gives the audience a behind-the-scenes look at how their favorite menu items are made—with tips for enhancing flavor
  • Instagram story highlights make it easy for fans to locate the menu and view grab-and-go items

Start following

Instagram, X, Facebook, TikTok

9. Heirloom Hospitality

Heirloom Hospitality spotlights employees and gives guests a sneak peek at what’s being served across its five concepts.

Why they’re winning 

  • All five concepts are spotlighted on Heirloom’s corporate social media accounts
  • Video content humanizes the brand by featuring employees
  • High-quality imagery showcases each concept’s unique design and aligns with the restaurant group’s mission to “create enlightened experiences” for guests

Start following

Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn

10. Smashburger

Smashburger collaborates with influencers to extend its reach and gives fans a reason to follow with exclusive deals.

Why they’re winning

Start following

Instagram, X, Facebook, TikTok

Key learnings to inspire your restaurant’s social strategy

Scrolling through the examples above, you probably noticed a few recurring themes. Regardless of their size or service model, social media-savvy restaurants have a few things in common: an established brand identity, clear objectives, a deep understanding of their audience, platform-specific content (including user-generated), friendly interaction with followers, helpful links, and a willingness to think outside the box.

When formulating your own restaurant’s social media strategy, remember: you get out what you put in. Don’t let social media be an afterthought. Meet your guests where they are online, lean into their interests, and start driving revenue.

Get more tips to help your restaurant reach Gen Z and Millennials on social media. And check out Engage to find out how Olo’s restaurant marketing platform can support your guest acquisition and retention goals.

Photo by Spencer Davis at Unsplash

Insights
Mar 20, 2024
4
 min read

Olo Founder and CEO Noah Glass provides five key takeaways from our 5th annual Beyond4 customer conference in Palm Springs.

Beyond4

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On behalf of Team Olo, huge thanks to all who joined us in Palm Springs for our 5th annual Beyond4 customer conference. It was great to see so many familiar faces and form new friendships.

Beyond4 is always my favorite week of the year because we get to step out of work mode and into a creative, fun, and safe space with our Olo community. There’s nothing quite like gathering in person with restaurant leaders to hear about the topics most important to the industry—and share how Olo can help increase orders, streamline operations, and improve the guest experience to grow their businesses.

At this year’s event, attendees had the opportunity to hear from some of the industry’s top thought leaders—including Danny Meyer, Scott Lawton, and more—connect with peers through panel discussions and share groups, get hands-on product training, and gain insight into Olo’s innovation roadmap with a surprise, on-stage announcement.

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Scroll for a few of the key takeaways from Beyond4 2024 and be sure to watch my closing keynote:

1. Limited service shouldn’t mean limited hospitality

Hospitality shouldn’t be reserved for full-service restaurants. With the help of modern technology, all service models now have the power to do more with less and make every guest feel like a regular. 

For example, with a fully integrated tech stack, you can:

  • Eliminate tedious tasks like manually entering orders into the POS and free up employees to focus on guests
  • Get a 360-degree view of each guest, including purchase behavior, dietary restrictions, preferred payment method, favorite marketing channel, lifetime value, and more
  • Offer guests personalized menu recommendations based on previous orders
  • Turn one-timers into repeat guests and win back churn risks via strategic marketing automations

The key to enabling hospitality at scale is comprehensive guest data. And—thanks to the explosion of on- and off-premise digital ordering, AI, and machine learning—restaurants have more data at their disposal than ever before.

2.  Olo Pay card-present payment processing via POS

While many restaurants have embraced technology in the last five years, we’re still in the early innings of the industry’s digital transformation. In fact, according to consumer data firm Circana, 84% of restaurant transactions today are non-digital.

That’s all about to change with support from our Olo Pay flagship POS partner, Qu.

I had the great honor of announcing Olo Pay card-present payment processing via POS at Beyond4 alongside Qu CEO Amir Hudda. 

By integrating with Qu POS, Olo Pay will touch 100% of restaurant transactions (off-premise and on-premise) and pull item-level data into the Olo GDP. Every guest. Every order.

We’re deeply honored to continue demonstrating the power of an open platform, scale, and 300+ best-of-breed partners to drive innovation for restaurants and guests. 

It’s safe to say the race to 100% digital is on.

3. Now’s the time to invest in catering 

With the potential to represent up to 20% of total revenue, restaurant brands are buzzing about the surge in catering demand. Largely fueled by the return to office and large in-person events, catering represents an opportunity for restaurants to diversify their revenue streams, boost guest acquisition, and bolster their reputation in the community. 

We heard from multiple customers that streamlining catering operations, improving the catering guest experience, and growing their first-party guest database with direct catering orders are mission-critical to their business.

Related: The Catering Boom: 7 Reasons Your Restaurant Can't Afford to Miss Out

4. When it comes to implementing technology, restaurants want a white-glove experience

It should come as no surprise that Olo customers believe in the power of technology. But understanding its value and seeing its value are two different things.

We introduced Professional Services to shorten the time to value for our restaurant brands. And we were blown away by the response at Beyond4. 

Restaurants crave best practice consultancy, launch support, and ongoing maintenance customized to their business needs and goals.

Simply put: a white-glove experience.

Many brands don’t have the time or resources to ensure they’re getting the most out of their tech stack. We’re proud to do the heavy lifting to ensure our customers are set up for success.

5. The restaurant community is powerful

Between rising food costs, a tough labor market, and overall inflation fatigue, restaurants of all sizes are feeling the squeeze right now. And yet, the positive energy and optimism at Beyond4 was palpable. It was a great reminder of just how strong the restaurant community is. 

When we created our annual conference five years ago, we not only wanted to deepen our relationship with Olo customers but also to provide an opportunity for restaurant industry peers to connect and learn from each other. 

It is a true privilege to witness our customers bond over shared experiences—like eliminating operational pain points and testing personalization strategies—and discover new growth opportunities each and every year.

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Signing off on Beyond4 2024

The central theme of Beyond4 2024 was accelerating the future of the restaurant industry. Thanks to widespread tech adoption and a treasure trove of newly accessible guest data, that future is now. 

Moving forward, the key to sustainable growth will be leveraging that data to personalize guest interactions, power business decisions, and maximize revenue. 

As Dave Harris of Shake Shack said, “It’s not an offline business and an online business. It’s one business.”

Ready to scale your restaurant business? Check out the latest Olo enhancements enabling restaurants to accelerate the future and request a demo of Olo’s restaurant platform.

People
Mar 14, 2024
3
 min read

Get to know Brooke Heinzmann, Olo’s Director of Product Marketing and recipient of a 2024 Top Women in Restaurant Technology Award.

Team Olo

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This week at MURTEC, Olo’s Director of Product Marketing, Brooke Heinzmann, received a Top Women in Restaurant Technology “Innovator” Award from Hospitality Technology. The award is presented to forward-thinking women who have positively transformed the food-service technology space by creating or deploying emerging technologies that reimagine how things are done while paving the way for future technologies.

Since joining Olo in 2021, Brooke has leveraged her 15 years of product marketing leadership experience at Nielsen and her deep understanding of the power of SaaS to develop and scale Olo’s product releases. In that time, she has launched 80+ major features across our three solution suites: Order, Pay, and Engage.

We sat down with Brooke to learn more about her journey at Olo, why data is now table stakes across industries, key focus areas for growth-minded restaurants, and more.

Congratulations on your Top Women in Restaurant Technology Award! What does it mean to you?

Brooke Heinzmann: I am honored to win this award on behalf of Olo and women in restaurant technology. It energizes me to push that much harder in 2024 to accelerate the future of the restaurant industry.

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You’ve spearheaded some major product launches at Olo. Can you highlight a few? 

BH: Shortly after joining Olo, I helped with the full launch (general availability) of Olo Pay. It’s exciting to see restaurants benefit from streamlined payment processes and integrated fraud prevention. And with continuous innovation, including card-present payment processing via POS and kiosk, we’re just getting started.

I also had the opportunity to launch Borderless, our passwordless checkout experience. I’ve loved watching Borderless grow to become the checkout of choice for a variety of restaurants. Guests enjoy an accelerated checkout and brands enjoy more guest sign-ins and visit frequency. It’s a win-win!

OrderReady AI is another standout. Olo is always developing new ways to help restaurants tackle capacity management, which assists with throughput and the guest experience. 

Lastly (and most recently), we launched Catering+, our robust catering platform. I’m proud that we can empower restaurants to unlock new revenue streams and maximize efficiency—especially in challenging times.

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Data is a throughline in your career, from working at Nielsen to Olo. Why has leveraging data become table stakes across industries? 

BH: Everyone wants to connect and feel seen. Data enables all brands—whether it’s a restaurant or an advertiser—to reach their target audience, tailor the experience to individual preferences, and deepen the relationship. Or, as we like to call it at Olo: hospitality at scale.

What are two areas growth-minded restaurant brands should focus on?

BH: I am particularly excited about the resurgence of catering. This is a high-value channel that, when done right, can be a huge revenue driver for brands. Think about all the guests a brand touches with just one catering order. It’s the best advertising!

In addition, I firmly believe there are so many ways we can use technology to make experiences more human, particularly on-premise and at the drive-thru.

In honor of Women's History Month, name three women leaders who inspire you on a personal or professional level—and why. 

BH: 

1) Priya Thinagar, EVP of Technology at Olo

Priya has an exceptional gift for taking very complex topics and transforming them into very simple ones. She is a servant leader, always empowering her team to do hard things.

2) Martha Krusemark, my granny

While unfortunately, she’s no longer with us, her advice still runs my life today. She taught me to always trust my instincts and to throw myself in all the way.

3) Lauren Magnas, VP of Product Marketing at Nielsen

Lauren is a breath of fresh air. She has gone through so much personally and professionally. She always comes out on top thanks to her determination. She doesn’t let her circumstances define her outcomes.

To learn more about Team Olo and apply for one of our job openings, visit our careers page

Insights
Mar 7, 2024
3
 min read

Now is the perfect time for restaurants to launch or bolster their catering program. Find out why demand is skyrocketing—and how your brand can seize the opportunity.

Catering, Restaurant Catering

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Pre-pandemic, catering was the fastest-growing sales channel in the restaurant industry. While that upward trajectory stalled with COVID-19, catering is back in a big way.

In fact, catering business is expected to grow at a rate of 6.2% in the next 8 years, reaching over $124 billion by 2032. 

The catering boom presents a lucrative opportunity for restaurants to capitalize on evolving consumer behaviors and preferences. It’s no wonder leading brands are investing heavily in the channel. 

Keep scrolling to find out what factors are contributing to its rise in popularity—and how your brand can seize the opportunity.

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7 Reasons Your Restaurant Can't Afford to Miss Out on Catering

1. Revenue potential

Catering's contribution to restaurant sales is significant, with the potential to represent up to 20% of total revenue. The average catering ticket today is $350—10x the average mealtime ticket of $35. That’s a significant lift from 2020, when the average catering ticket was $280. With catering, restaurants can diversify their revenue streams and benefit from recurring revenue courtesy of regulars who order weekly or monthly.

2. Return to office

While consumer spending is trending down, business spending is going up. Office catering is increasing as employers seek low-cost strategies to incentivize remote workers to return to the office and increase employee engagement. This is good news for restaurants as workplace catering often generates higher frequency and average checks than other catering jobs. 

In some cases, the hybrid workforce has made it easier for restaurants to anticipate catering orders since Tuesday through Thursday are popular days to work in-office. Additionally, with fewer employees on site, some businesses have embraced catering as a budget-friendly alternative to a cafeteria.

3. Events

Business travel is expected to exceed pre-pandemic levels by about 6% in 2024. With most travel restrictions in the rearview mirror, more employers are hosting corporate events that bring employees and clients together in person. Additionally, large social gatherings continue to grow in popularity—from holiday parties to weddings, and everything in between. 

In addition to being lucrative, event catering can create valuable networking opportunities for restaurants with event planners, venues, and other vendors.

4. Tax-exempt organizations

There are 1.7 million tax-exempt organizations—including schools, religious groups, and nonprofits—in America. That is a massive, untapped catering market for your restaurant to serve. A catering platform with built-in tax-exemption capabilities can ensure your brand stays compliant and organized while removing taxes from qualified orders.

5. Guest acquisition

Catering is a great way for restaurants to increase brand awareness and acquire new guests. When people experience your food and service at off-site events, they are more likely to visit your restaurant and tell their friends about it.

You can replicate your restaurant experience for catering guests (and drive repeat orders) with branded packaging and marketing collateral, regular communication, integrated loyalty, and a commitment to guest satisfaction.

6. Brand reputation

Dependable catering can help your brand build trust within your community. When schools, businesses, and other local groups know they can consistently count on your restaurant to deliver high-quality food in large quantities exactly when they need it, your reputation—word on the street, online reviews, etc.—and bottom line will be positively impacted. 

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7. Seamless setup

Lastly, modern restaurant technology has made launching catering a seamless process. Olo’s Catering+, for example, is a fully integrated solution designed to help restaurants maximize efficiency and profitability. 

Catering+ streamlines operations via direct POS integrations and a single dashboard for managing all digital orders, so you can spend less time keying in orders and more time focusing on guests. With built-in capacity management tools, you can stay on top of high order volumes and provide accurate lead times based on a holistic view of the kitchen. 

Furthermore, with Catering+, you can provide a positive and consistent guest experience by enabling them to order catering directly through your restaurant. More direct orders mean more revenue, guest data, and opportunities for your brand to grow.

Ready to grow your business with catering? Learn more about Catering+ and request a demo to see how Olo can help you maximize restaurant efficiency and profitability.

Insights
Feb 22, 2024
5
 min read

Want to drive younger generations to your restaurant? Learn 10 ways to effectively market your brand to Gen Z and Millennials on social media.

Marketing, Restaurant Social Media Marketing, Restaurant Social Media Strategy

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According to a 2022 survey by MGH, 53% of Millennial TikTok users and 38% of TikTok users from across all generations (approximately 51.8 million people) have visited or ordered from a restaurant after seeing the eatery on the platform.

Needless to say, social media has become an essential avenue for finding and attracting new guests—especially those under the age of 40.

 

But it’s not enough to post an occasional video or photo. Restaurants need to outline specific goals for each social platform—building brand awareness, engaging directly with guests, showcasing unique offerings, driving app downloads, etc.—and spend time cultivating a community around their brand.

Success will look slightly different for each restaurant, but you’ll be better positioned to reach Gen Z and Millennials if you follow these tips.

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1. Make a great first impression

A recent study by PYMNTS found 37% of diners search for restaurant information by accessing content from a restaurant’s social media page. That share jumped up to 42% for Gen Z and 46% for Millennials.

If you think of social media as the front porch of your restaurant brand, what do you want your guests’ first impression to be? Consider everything from the look and feel, to the information provided, reviews, and engagement with followers.

2. Have a clearly defined brand persona

Imagine your restaurant brand was a real person. How would they speak? Are they playful, thought-provoking, punny, or personable? And what would they care about?

A brand persona with these types of details can serve as a filter to ensure consistency across every caption, image, video, etc., and build trust with your audience on social media.

3. Prioritize quality over quantity

Focus your efforts on two or three major social platforms, so you don’t spread yourself too thin or appear inauthentic to your audience. If you’re unsure which social channels are worth the investment, consider your current guest demographics, look at referral traffic sources in Google Analytics, and/or survey your guests with high lifetime value (LTV).

It’s important to know what your competitors do well on social, but also what they don’t. Seize opportunities to engage your target audience in new ways and, most importantly, stay laser-focused on your brand’s goals.

4. Optimize everything

To ensure guests can easily find your restaurant and engage with your brand, fill out every aspect of your social media profiles, including the bio, online ordering links, location details, contact information, etc. And take advantage of platform-specific features like busy hours, reviews, and buttons that enhance the user experience.

Create a clear call-to-action—like “Order online” or “Reserve a table”—to maximize conversions, and use your bio to spotlight noteworthy happenings (“Coming soon to Madison Square Park,” “Get free fries when you become a loyalty member,” “New flavor alert: Score a double-fudge brownie for a limited time,” etc.).

5. Think of it as a conversation

The key to bringing hospitality online and creating community around your brand on social media is communicating directly with current and prospective guests. At the end of the day, people want to feel seen and valued.

Social-savvy restaurants not only respond when guests tag them in a photo, comment on a post, or leave a review, but also share user-generated content to reinforce their bond with guests. Branded hashtags and geotagging are great ways to source user-generated photos and videos to supplement your content calendar.

Download Olo's Restaurant Marketing Guide

6. Embrace authenticity

People go on social media to feel connected, inspired, and educated. And Gen Z, in particular, craves authenticity and transparency from brands.

So instead of trying to be perfectly polished and promotional at all times, embrace the real on social media. For example, well-lit, expensive photography is important for your website, app, and menu, but your social followers also want natural, lo-fi content (it’s proven to get 40% more views than hi-fi visuals).

7. Go all in on video

Photography and carousels go a long way, but video is still king—TikTok alone has 1 billion+ monthly active users. Restaurants can seize on its popularity by telling visual stories of their food, brand, employees, and guests.

For example:

  • A catering order being prepared
  • Piping-hot food coming off the line
  • Employees sharing their favorite toppings
  • Meet the “Guest of the Month”
  • The origin story of your famous queso
  • A DIY smoothie tutorial

8. Be consistent

When it comes to curating your restaurant’s Instagram profile, consistency—from the overall look of your grid to the posting schedule—is key. In fact, 30% of Millennial diners actively avoid restaurants with a weak Instagram presence.

A strategic content strategy can help. Establish a regular posting cadence with recurring themes (food, drinks, people, restaurant vibe, brand story, user-generated content, etc.) and an aesthetically pleasing brand color palette.

9. Do good

Gen Z is heavily invested in social issues, particularly as they play out online. As such, they’re 72% more likely to buy from a company that contributes to social causes—and Millennials aren’t far behind at 69%.

By demonstrating your restaurant brand values on social channels, you can foster community and loyalty through transparency and goodwill.

10. Leverage influencers

Nearly half of Gen Z has made a purchase based on a recommendation from a social media influencer because they trust their opinion. And it doesn’t have to be a celebrity. You can leverage micro-influencers with strong engagement in your restaurant community to help drive sales, followers, and general awareness via co-branded posts.

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From Likes to Loyalty

When it comes to marketing to Gen Z and Millennials on social media, restaurants need to be highly intentional and authentic. Anything less and you risk missing out on an increasingly valuable segment of your target market.

By taking these steps, you can boost brand awareness, grow your following, drive orders, give regulars an easy way to advocate for your business and set your brand apart from the competition.

For more inspiration, check out 23 restaurant social media post examples from social-savvy Olo customers like Chili's, Jimmy John's, and more.

Need a restaurant marketing platform to support your guest acquisition and retention goals? Check out Engage and request a demo today.

Photo by Maksim Goncharenok at Pexels

People
Feb 7, 2024
3
 min read

Get to know the Oloites of Color employee resource group (ERG). Learn how the ERG creates a space for Olo employees to come together—and different ways allies can show support.

Oloites of Color, Team Olo, ERG

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Like many remote employees, Giselle Francisco joined Olo in late 2021 with the hope of connecting with coworkers beyond daily Zoom calls and Slack notifications. She quickly found her community in the Oloites of Color employee resource group (ERG).

Founded in 2020, Oloites of Color is one of several ERGs at Olo. ERGs are voluntary, employee-led groups that foster a diverse and inclusive workplace. Each group organizes events and initiatives to advance professional development, strengthen internal relations, and build communities and allyship.

Oloites of Color was specifically created to provide a safe space for members and allies to discuss inclusion, opportunity, and education in the workplace and local communities.

For Giselle, Oloites of Color represented an opportunity to incorporate her passion for activism into her day job, learn from coworkers with different backgrounds, bond over shared experiences, and promote the value of DEI. So when a leadership position opened up within the ERG, she jumped at it.

We sat down with Giselle to get her take on why ERGs like Oloites of Color are so important in the workplace and how allies can demonstrate support year-round.

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How do ERGs like Oloites of Color enrich employees’ lives?


Giselle Francisco:
I come from the restaurant and hotel industries where you’re constantly interacting with people. When you transition to a remote position, messaging apps and email can feel limiting. ERGs give you that much-needed exposure to others at the company.

I look at it this way: You're on the job for 8+ hours per day. If you can carve out 30 minutes to an hour, once a month or once a quarter to unplug, connect with your coworkers, and learn something new, you'll be the better for it.

For example, when the Oloites of Color ERG meets up, members can discuss any adversity they may face because of their identity, share about their career progression, and learn more about others. Our events also create a space for allies to gain understanding. 

The 20% of my time that I spend with the ERG makes the 80% of time I spend on my regular work so much more worthwhile.

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Why is it important to promote a better understanding of colleagues from diverse backgrounds?


GF:
Learning is a good thing for everyone—regardless of how you identify. When we start a dialogue with coworkers from multicultural backgrounds, we can better understand how they approach situations and their way of thinking. 

Many people don’t realize that your background can impact how others see you, and vice versa. We can eliminate a lot of assumptions and mental gymnastics with open conversation. 

Additionally, diversity enriches everyone. Learning from other cultures and backgrounds exposes us to things like new foods, languages, and perspectives.

How can allies show support for communities of color year-round?


GF:
A big part of demonstrating support is doing the hard, internal work of recognizing your privileges. Those privileges can be minute or on a grander scale. 

Once we can appreciate our privileges, we can better understand why others may not be as privileged—and how we can elevate them. It could be as simple as giving bus fare to someone struggling or packing an extra lunch for a child in need. 

Small actions and repetition are better than no action at all. For example, during Black History Month, allies can demonstrate support through small actions like reading books by Black authors, visiting Black-owned businesses, and purchasing or viewing art by Black artists.

It’s also important to have conversations with communities of color and listen intently. Try to understand their perspective and the differences in experiences. There is a lot of uncomfortable history. But we have to get uncomfortable to be comfortable.

Learn more about Olo’s ESG efforts, get to know our employee resource groups (ERGs), and join our team.

Product
Jan 25, 2024
3
 min read

Discover the top product enhancements released in Q4 2023, including tax-exempt status for Catering+, split checks and survey integrations for pay at table, and expanded availability of Borderless checkout.

Winter Release, Product Release

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As annual results come in and 2024 strategies get set, restaurant operators are looking for innovative ways to reach and delight new guests. In Q4 2023, Olo unveiled eight major product enhancements designed to help brands unlock new revenue streams and create more seamless, convenient ordering experiences.

Keep scrolling for a deep dive into our three most significant enhancements—how they work, why they matter, and who benefits.

For a complete list of new features and to hear what Olo COO Jo Lambert is most excited about, head to the Winter Release page. There you’ll also see the positive impact of one of our Fall 2023 product enhancements: Olo Pay’s Automated Dispute Response feature.

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Catering+: Tax-Exempt Status


What it is:
Catering+ can now recognize and authenticate tax-exempt status within the Olo Dashboard.

How it works: Users can authorize tax-exempt status for guests, validate expiration dates on file, apply appropriate pricing, and complete catering orders for tax-exempt organizations.

Why it matters: To fully capitalize on catering demand, restaurant brands must be able to tap into the critical segment of 1.7 million registered tax-exempt organizations in the U.S.

How restaurants benefit:
Many brands today manually adjust and record tax exemption for catering orders, causing inefficiency and compliance issues. This new feature unlocks a larger segment of the catering market for restaurants and makes tax-exemption management more efficient.

How guests benefit:
Tax-exempt organizations, like nonprofit, civic, and religious entities, can now easily place catering orders from their favorite restaurant brands.

Pay at Table: Split Checks and Survey Integrations

What it is: 

  • Split checks: Using pay at table, dine-in guests can split the bill however they choose—without the help of a server.
  • Survey integrations: Once the bill has been paid, restaurants can survey guests on their experience to gather valuable feedback in real time.


How it works: 

  • Split checks: Guests scan a QR code on their receipt and can elect to split the bill equally, split by items, or define specific amounts to be paid by each guest. 
  • Survey integrations: Customers using Sentiment can now integrate with pay at table to trigger post-transaction surveys and get in-the-moment feedback on the guest experience.


Why it matters:
 

  • Split checks: Splitting the check multiple ways is a high friction point for servers and guests. The process is typically time-consuming, manual, and requires multiple steps. 
  • Survey integrations: One of the biggest benefits of digitizing on-premise orders is collecting guest insights. Yet, post-transaction feedback is traditionally difficult to obtain.


How restaurants benefit:
 

  • Split checks: By creating a frictionless on-premise checkout experience, restaurant brands can boost guest satisfaction, tips, and table turnover.
  • Survey integrations: Surveys enable restaurants to demonstrate they value guest feedback and use those actionable insights to improve the business.


How guests benefit: 

  • Split checks: Whether guests are dining with a group or splitting the check with a date, they can now pay using their mobile device—with their digital wallet, if desired—and easily divvy up the bill.
  • Survey integrations: Guests get the opportunity to provide feedback while it’s fresh in their minds and potentially shape future dining experiences.

Borderless Checkout: Expanded Availability

What it is: Olo’s Borderless checkout feature is now available to all customers using Serve, our white-label online ordering solution.

How it works:
Borderless was built to make the restaurant checkout process as quick and simple as possible. The first time guests enter their payment and contact details, they can save that information for future use.

Because that information is saved at the platform level, guests can speed through checkout for each subsequent purchase—with that restaurant brand or others in the Borderless network—without having to remember a password or re-enter information. All they have to do is enter their email address or phone number and input the one-time code they receive to verify their identity and authenticate the purchase.

Why it matters: Digital-first guests demand a secure and frictionless checkout experience. But until now, Borderless checkout was only available to brands on Olo Pay. With this expanded availability, more brands can meet guest expectations for a seamless checkout experience and maximize digital sales.

How restaurants benefit:
Brands using Serve have seen increases in checkout conversion and order frequency with Borderless—at no additional cost.

How guests benefit:
Guests can securely speed through checkout without the hassle of recalling passwords or manually entering payment information. And, because of our integration with loyalty partners on Serve, guests can earn and redeem loyalty rewards while using Borderless.

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Getting Started


Visit our Winter Release page for a full list of all product enhancements released in Q4 2023. Olo customers can reach out to their CSMs to learn more about these features and how to put them to good use. 


Not using Olo yet? Contact our team to start a conversation.

Insights
Jan 23, 2024
4
 min read

To help you boost efficiency and maximize profit on your busiest days, we’ve compiled 10 best practices covering everything from menu optimization to order throttling.

Restaurant Best Practices, High-Volume, Order Management

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High-volume days like the Super Bowl and Valentine's Day present exciting opportunities and unique challenges for restaurants—especially amidst the ongoing labor shortage. To maximize sales and meet the expectations of digital-first guests during peak times, brands must leverage digital solutions that simplify order management, streamline operations, and increase throughput.

It all starts with strategic planning. Get your team ready for the rush by following these best practices covering everything from menu optimization to order throttling.

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1. Planning

Preparation is critical for ensuring you have sufficient inventory, staff, and resources for high-volume days—so start early. Expect an increase in on- and off-premise orders, and leverage historical data and trends to predict what’s coming.

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*Olo Tip:
Ordering customers can set specific hours for accepting online orders on high-volume days without affecting general restaurant hours via the Olo Dashboard.

2. Staffing

With the ongoing labor shortage, it’s important to cross-train staff so they can easily switch roles during busy periods. This flexibility can reduce stress among employees and ensure guests’ needs are prioritized, despite a surge in demand.


*Olo Tip:
Host users can leverage Shift Notes to communicate important information with employees before they start their shift (work assignment changes, Valentine’s Day specials, reservations made by high-value guests, etc.)

3. Menu

Paring down your menu to popular items and limited-time specials can help streamline kitchen operations and expedite order preparation. On game day, for example, think finger foods like chicken wings and crowd-pleasing dips.


*Olo Tip:
Sync users can count on Olo’s listings management tool to automatically syndicate menu changes, holiday hours, and other up-to-date restaurant information across the web.

4. Online Ordering Optimization

Make sure your direct ordering channels are optimized to provide a frictionless guest experience and maximize revenue. A mobile-friendly design, passwordless login, and multiple payment options are just a few ways to boost cart conversion and repeat orders, especially on high-volume days.


*Olo Tip:
Ordering customers can leverage upselling to increase ticket size and expose guests to new menu items.

5. Tech Integration

When orders are flying in from your website, app, POS, and third-party marketplaces, seamless tech integration is essential. Only when your restaurant systems share data in real time can you effectively manage capacity, prevent manual errors, and deliver an optimal guest experience.


*Olo Tip:
For frictionless integration with zero data silos, use Olo’s 300+ partner ecosystem and download the Buyers Guide to Future-Proofing Your Restaurant Tech Stack.

Restaurant Tech Buyer's Guide

6. Capacity Management

Set your brand up for success on high-volume days using any capacity management tools built into your online ordering platform. Order throttling, for example, can be a useful strategy for mitigating an influx of digital orders during a given period.


*Olo Tip:
Ordering customers can take advantage of three throttling strategies to control how, and when, orders hit their restaurants: Orders-in-Progress Limits, Make Time Minutes Per Period, and Orders Per Window.

7. Catering

Enable guests to buy in bulk by creating catering packages for special occasions and a simple process for ordering. Use off-peak hours to prepare catering orders, boost efficiency, and maximize kitchen resources. And don’t forget about pack slips, which can help ensure you have everything you need for each order before handoff.


*Olo Tip:
Catering+ customers can serve tax-exempt organizations and set up house accounts to reward VIPs with a streamlined purchasing process.

8. Delivery and Pickup Logistics

Ensure your order confirmation message provides detailed instructions so guests know where and when to pick up their order or when to expect their delivery. Establish dedicated pickup areas with clear signage inside your restaurant to prevent congestion and wait times. Lastly, optimize delivery routes to ensure timely service and foster a positive experience for delivery guests.


*Olo Tip:
Rails users can solve operational challenges linked to high order volumes with marketplace-specific controls that allow you to disable individual marketplaces or pause all Rails orders. Dispatch users can manage delivery issues if they occur using Olo’s delivery rescue and automated guest refund features.

9. Reservations and Waitlist

Give guests the ability to join your waitlist or make a reservation with one click no matter where they search online. Offer direct booking on your website, Google listing, and social pages so you own the relationship and pay zero fees. Reservations and a digital waitlist can enhance the guest experience and reduce stress for employees.


*Olo Tip:
Brands using Host can drive more bookings and maximize revenue potential by expanding the reservation window—up to six hours on either side—if a guest's selected time is unavailable.

10. Marketing

Generate excitement in the weeks leading up to special events and holidays with promotions and discounts to encourage guests to order early and make reservations. Doing so will drive sales and alleviate pressure on employees. Leverage your website, app, social media, email, SMS, and digital advertising to spread the word and ensure your brand is top of mind when guests make plans.


*Olo Tip: Olo’s AI Creative Assistant makes it easy for Marketing users to craft high-converting promotional emails in a fraction of the time.

What’s to Gain?

By embracing digital solutions, streamlining processes, and strategizing ahead of time, your restaurant will not only survive a surge in demand but come to welcome it.


Start by laying a strong foundation with seamless tech integration and online ordering optimization, putting your guests’ needs and desires first. Look for opportunities to boost employee morale and alleviate burdens such as tedious, manual work. Get ready to monitor analytics and feedback in real time. And lastly, be sure to review your data afterward to improve sales and the guest experience next go-around.

For detailed information about how your restaurant brand can more effectively manage high-volume days and maximize revenue during peak times, talk to our team of experts.

Photo Credit Priscilla du Preez from Unsplash

Insights
Jan 11, 2024
4
 min read

Driving restaurant app downloads is just the beginning. Discover retention strategies to keep your app users engaged—the key to sustained growth and profit.

Restaurant App, Increase Restaurant Mobile App Engagement

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Every restaurant brand wants to increase mobile app downloads, but the real challenge is user retention. Research shows the worldwide mobile app retention rate across 31 categories is 25.3% on Day 1, before falling to 5.7% by Day 30.

With 3.56 million mobile apps in Google Play and 1.86 million in the App Store, it’s not hard to see why—countless apps are vying for our attention at any given time.

So how do you keep your restaurant app users coming back, spending more, and engaging with your brand in new ways?

The answer is a combination of intuitive design, user-centric features, and hyper-personalized communication. By implementing the following strategies, you can make your restaurant mobile app an essential part of the guest experience.

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9 Ways to Boost Restaurant App Engagement

Intuitive User Interface

A frictionless user interface (UI) is critical for keeping guests engaged in your restaurant mobile app. Ensure the navigation is straightforward and prioritize a seamless checkout process so guests never have to wonder how to order or pay for their favorite menu items from their preferred location. Leverage feedback and reviews to continually enhance the guest experience.

Push Notifications

Keep your restaurant app users informed and engaged via push notifications. Perfectly timed nudges about exclusive discounts, new menu additions, holiday promotions, or something as simple as dinner planning can help drive app orders (e.g., “Fresh out of dinner ideas? Today only get $5 off when you order a taco family meal in the app. 🌮”) Just don’t overdo it. Too many irrelevant push notifications could prompt users to turn them off or delete your app altogether.

Loyalty Rewards

Integrate your loyalty program to enable repeat guests to accrue and redeem rewards every time they order through your app. Offer points for every app purchase and enable users to cash them in for discounts or free items. Use the guest’s purchase history and communication preferences to tailor offers to their interests and behaviors (e.g., free cheesy bread the next time they order pizza on a Friday via the app.) This not only incentivizes app usage but also fosters a sense of appreciation among your loyal guests.

Which Wich showcases its user experience and rewards program on the App Store

Tailored Recommendations

71 percent of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions. And 76 percent get frustrated when this doesn’t happen. It’s no wonder the highest-performing restaurant apps leverage data to tailor the guest experience to each individual. Personalized content (“Welcome back, [Name]. It’s great to see you again”) and recommendations based on purchase history (“Psst … our egg rolls and kung pao chicken are a match made in heaven 😋”), local favorites, etc. can boost guest satisfaction and keep app users coming back.

Gamification

Entertain and motivate users by incorporating game design elements like badges, rewards, points, and scoreboards that offer a sense of achievement. When coupled with prizes, these fun challenges can build awareness, engagement, community, and sales. For example, Olo helped Denny’s launch a gamified rewards program with personalized challenges that unlock exclusive rewards (e.g., visit four times in one month for a free Grand Slam breakfast).

App-Only Content

One of the best ways to retain users is by offering exclusive content and promotions only available in the app. Once guests understand the perks of being an app user—early access to new menu items, insider swag, LTOs, etc.—they’re more likely to make it part of their dining routine.

Cinnabon provides exclusive offers to app users

Subscriptions

Restaurant subscriptions like Panera’s Unlimited Sip Club or Taco Bell’s Taco Lover’s Pass have soared in popularity by offering guests new ways to save on their favorite menu items. By creating a subscription exclusive to app users, you can increase downloads, visit frequency, long-term loyalty, and profit.

Gift Cards

Enable app users to redeem and purchase gift cards directly from your app. A convenient and seamless process will ensure your restaurant is top of mind for gifting occasions like birthdays, the holidays, and “just because.”

Regular App Updates

To keep users active, prioritize regular app enhancements and bug fixes. Whenever you unveil a new feature or have improved existing functionality, clearly communicate the change to users—with an emphasis on the benefits. This is especially important when an enhancement is made in direct response to user feedback. Your efforts to improve the guest experience will speak volumes about your brand’s dedication to their happiness.

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The Key to Reducing Churn

For your restaurant app to become an essential part of your off-premise experience, it needs the same level of care and attention as dine-in guests receive. By taking a user-centered approach to your app design, functionality, messaging, and communications, you can help ensure users keep placing app orders—and refer their friends. Furthermore, brands that leverage data to serve up personalized recommendations, high-value rewards, and perfectly timed push notifications will ultimately drive the most profit and long-term loyalty.

Want to drive more restaurant app user engagement? On average, Olo customers see a 108% higher conversion rate with our online ordering app. Learn more and talk to our team of experts about Olo Ordering today.

Photo Credit Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Product
Dec 21, 2023
3
 min read

As we close out 2023, here’s a quick look at the top product enhancements we released in each suite: Order, Pay, and Engage.

Product Features

In 2023, Team Olo worked hard to enable hospitality at scale for our restaurant brand customers by releasing 40+ product enhancements across our three product suites: Order, Pay, and Engage.

Each feature solves common pain points experienced by restaurants today and sets our customers up for success in the future. Here are the top product enhancements we unveiled this year—and, most importantly, how restaurants and guests benefit. 

Order

1. Catering+ with House Accounts

Pain Point: Lack of integration between other ordering and catering solutions creates friction in the guest experience and makes order management challenging

Solution: Enterprise-grade catering solution that integrates seamlessly with existing mealtime ordering platforms and all major POS systems

Benefits: Restaurant brands can capitalize on catering demand and generate more revenue via a robust ordering engine with simplified order management. Additionally, with House Accounts, brands can offer flexible payment options to repeat catering guests.

2. Pay at Table

Pain Point: Restaurant staff have to do multiple table touches, and guests endure a long wait time for the check after finishing their meal

Solution: Guests pay and tip digitally by scanning a QR code with their mobile device

Benefits: Guests can experience the traditional hospitality of ordering through a server—without the hassle of waiting on a check after eating. Frictionless guest experience = happy, repeat guests. Additionally, Pay at Table increases efficiency and guest data collection for the restaurant brand.

3. OrderReady AI

Pain Point: Inaccurate order ready-time predictions produced by manual input

Solution: Machine-learning-based capacity management solution that generates highly accurate ready-time predictions using current capacity and detailed check data in real-time

Benefits: Brands can satisfy guest and partner expectations around timing, maintain food quality, and optimize restaurant operations. Additionally, this feature eliminates the need for manual inputs, guesswork, and ongoing management. In turn, guests know exactly when to pick up their food so it’s fresh, and they’ll spend less time waiting, which increases satisfaction.

Pay

1. Automated Fraud Dispute

Pain Point: Given the time-consuming nature and traditionally low win rate for chargebacks, restaurant brands often leave disputes uncontested—resulting in lost revenue

Solution: Olo Pay's Automated Fraud Dispute feature automatically responds to certain unaddressed disputes using Olo’s internal ordering data

Benefits: This feature increases chargeback response and win rates while eliminating the need for any manual intervention by the restaurant brand. It enables the brand to keep more revenue and spend less on battling fraud.

2. Card-Present Payments via Kiosk

Pain Point: Labor challenges and complicated payment processes

Solution: A fully branded, self-service kiosk that enables restaurants to accept card-present payments through Olo Pay

Benefits: Card-present payments via kiosk help restaurants conquer labor challenges, boost on-premise ticket size, and begin processing 100% of orders through digital channels. Brands also enjoy simplified reconciliation, refunding, and voiding processes.

Engage

1. AI Creative Assistant

Pain Point: It’s difficult to create engaging restaurant marketing content at scale, especially as resource-strapped brands struggle to balance multiple priorities

Solution: A generative AI tool built right into the Email Design Editor

Benefits: Marketing AI Creative Assistant reduces the time it takes to go from idea to campaign execution. Using starter prompts, AI Creative Assistant enables marketers to quickly generate compelling copy within the Email Design Editor, which can easily be refined to match the brand’s voice.

2. Computed Properties

Pain Point: Restaurants want to better understand and serve guests but can’t effectively collect, analyze, or act on guest data

Solution: Computed Properties, a feature of Olo’s Guest Data Platform (GDP), are guest-level calculations kept up-to-date as guests interact with a restaurant brand, such as the number of orders in the last 30 days.

Benefits: With Computed Properties, brands can create robust guest segmentation, personalize marketing communications to maximize ROI, and pass valuable guest insights to other systems in their tech stack.

If you’re already an Olo customer, connect with your Customer Success Manager to find out how to implement these features. If you’re not using Olo yet, reach out to our team of restaurant experts.

People
Dec 21, 2023
2
 min read

Read a special holiday message from Olo Founder and CEO Noah Glass.

Holiday Message

Dear Friends of Olo -

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Continuing the momentum of the last few years, 2023 marked another pivotal year for restaurant technology and the restaurant industry. Online ordering for pick-up, where Olo started 18 years ago, is now table stakes for restaurant brands of all sizes. And there’s increasing interest in new digital realms like on-premise and drive-thru digital orders, personalized guest engagement, frictionless checkout, AI, robotics, and autonomous vehicles. Exciting, isn't it?

On the other hand, some people express reservations. Are we sacrificing the human touch that makes dining out special? Do we risk turning our beloved restaurants into impersonal, automated spaces? These concerns are valid and they stem from our deep-seated love for the unique experiences restaurants offer.

Restaurants are more than just places to savor a meal—they're where memories are made, and connections are forged. We especially cherish the familiarity of our local spots and the warmth of a team member who remembers our name or order. It's the Cheers effect. It's been very hard—nearly impossible—to replicate at scale. 

Olo's mission is to change that: to enable Hospitality at Scale™  and live at the intersection of technology and hospitality. Where high-tech can be more high-touch, not less. A world where every guest can feel like a regular. I believe we can achieve that vision together and Olo is in a unique position to help restaurants do so.

Olo processes over 2 million transactions per day across our portfolio of 600+ restaurant brands, generating a treasure trove of data. We know if someone always removes cheese from their burger. We know if someone orders three shots of espresso in the morning and only one if it’s after noon. We know if they’ve been to a brand dozens of times but never to this location. All of those pieces, with the guest’s permission, can be shared to craft personalized experiences for regulars and first-timers alike, irrespective of the brand, the number of employees, the service model, or the handoff mode.

Our promise to you is clear: we're here to Accelerate the Future of restaurant technology—a concept that’s brought to life in our new brand narrative video. In 2 short minutes, you can learn how we got to where we are today, and where we’re headed.  

From our pioneering role two decades ago to our ongoing commitment, we look forward to partnering with each of you to deliver meaningful, cutting-edge solutions through our open ecosystem and three solution suites: Order, Pay, and Engage. Innovations like Borderless, which provides a secure and passwordless sign-in and check-out experience across participating Olo brands, exemplify our ongoing dedication to Hospitality at Scale. 

When I think about Olo’s mission, I consider the vital and urgent role of hospitality in today's world. Amidst disheartening news cycles, it's evident that respect, curiosity, and empathy are often in short supply. Here, I see hospitality as an antidote—a force for positive change. As we approach the new year, let's carry the spirit of our mission, and may we usher in a more hospitable world together.

I express my sincere gratitude for your partnership and wish you a joyous holiday season. We're proud to be on this journey together. Let’s go!

My best, Noah

Olo | Hospitality at Scale™

Insights
Dec 13, 2023
3
 min read

Fraud is a big problem for the restaurant industry. Learn about five fraud trends every restaurant should be aware of, plus what your brand can do about them.

Restaurant Fraud Trends

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As we enter 2024, many in the restaurant industry continue to feel the ripple effects of the pandemic. While higher food prices, disrupted supply chains, and a labor shortage pose numerous challenges, increased fraud—in-store and online—is eating away at profit margins when they matter most. 

Macroeconomic factors are hard to control, but mitigating fraud is one thing restaurant brands can do to help protect their bottom line and grow as a business. 

Looking ahead, here are some fraud trends restaurants should be aware of:

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1. Account takeovers are a real concern

Account takeovers (ATO) are a hot topic across industries—and for good reason. In 2022, there was a 71% increase in account takeovers across North America. And in 2023, the food and beverage industry, specifically, saw a 485% lift YoY in ATOs.

These prevalent attacks occur when fraudsters steal a user’s account credentials and gain access to an organization’s network. This type of data breach can be very difficult to detect and can cost a business millions to resolve.

2. Delivery fraud is increasing

As demand for digital ordering and food delivery has surged, so has the volume and level of sophistication of restaurant payment fraud—with no signs of slowing down.

In 2021, for example, there was a 115% increase in attempted payment fraud across the food delivery industry during the holidays alone. Additionally, the monetary value of attempted fraud across food delivery apps and websites increased from $35 to $95

As a result, 9 out of 10 merchants in the food industry say managing e-commerce fraud is “very” or “extremely” important to their business strategy.

3. Friendly fraud continues to be a problem

Friendly fraud is one of the most common attacks used against merchants, including restaurants. In fact, friendly fraud rates rose 20-30% in 2022 across global markets.

It occurs when a guest receives an order and then files a complaint to get a refund and keep the items. Since a cardholder dispute initiates the chargeback process, restaurants must spend more time manually overseeing and processing chargebacks, wasting valuable time and resources.

To combat friendly fraud, restaurants should proactively save evidence from orders in case there is a contested charge. It’s also important to be aware of your chargeback rate and what fees you pay to your payment processor each time you receive a chargeback.

4. Guests want a secure checkout process 

Many consumers are aware of and concerned about the increase in fraud. One survey found 62% of people feel fraud is an inevitable risk of online shopping. Furthermore, 58% are uncomfortable entering financial data online to pay for goods and services.

To ensure guests feel safe ordering online in 2024 and beyond, many restaurant brands will invest in modern payment technology, advanced fraud protection, and a secure, accelerated checkout process—including digital wallet support, the ability to save a card on file, and passwordless login.

5. Fraud protection is improving

Fraud prevention is about striking the right balance between reducing fraud and ensuring guests can order with ease. As fraud schemes become more complex, restaurants will look for new ways to protect their digital business. 

Some restaurant payment solutions use machine learning to identify and accept legitimate orders—and intelligently fight against bad actors. Olo Pay, for example, helped WaBa Grill reduce fraud by over 30% and saved Lucille’s Bar-B-Que an estimated $1.1 million by blocking nearly 6K high-risk orders.

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To effectively protect and grow your digital business, talk with your current payment processor about how they are addressing the challenges above. And don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions

When you’re ready to scale, reach out to our team of payment experts to learn how Olo Pay helps restaurants combat fraud today and prevent future threats.

Download the Payments Playbook

Insights
Dec 7, 2023
4
 min read

Want to drive more downloads for your restaurant mobile app? Get effective strategies to boost app discoverability, users, reviews, and sales.

Restaurant App, Increase Restaurant Mobile App Downloads

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Restaurant mobile apps have quickly evolved from nice-to-have to essential for meeting the needs of digital-first guests. Recent studies have shown 40% of guests prefer to order directly through a restaurant’s website or app.

Why?

For one, they’re convenient. A well-designed restaurant app will enable guests to quickly find and reorder their favorite menu items, use the credit card on file or their digital wallet, redeem loyalty rewards, select their preferred handoff mode, and be on their way to a delicious meal in no time.

Second, restaurant apps can tailor the guest experience to each individual. Personalized greetings and recommendations or offers based on order history can make guests feel understood, appreciated, and loyal to the brand.

Additionally, 45% of consumers now compare the cost of using third-party apps with a restaurant’s direct ordering channels.

But it’s not enough to have a restaurant app. Brands, and especially marketers, are tasked with continuously driving downloads and app engagement. To help you grow your app user base, we’ve compiled a list of proven strategies.

Download the Direct Ordering Ebook

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11 Tips for Driving Restaurant App Downloads

People now manage their lives with smartphones, using 10 apps daily on average. You can help more of your guests find, understand the value of, and download your app by taking the following steps.


Prioritize the User Experience

If you want guests to download your app, you must put their needs first. A frictionless user experience is critical for driving downloads, prolonged app usage, and positive reviews. Make sure your app is user-friendly, branded, and convenient. Guests should be able to find their favorite menu items, order, and pay quickly and easily. Conduct regular user testing to identify and address any pain points before they impact your reviews and revenue.

Optimize for App Stores

Boost your restaurant app’s discoverability within the App Store and Google Play by incorporating relevant keywords in the title, description, and keyword fields. Include compelling descriptions that emphasize the perks of downloading—speed of service, ability to save favorite items, loyalty incentives, etc.—plus mouthwatering imagery to make your brand stand out from the competition. 

Del Taco showcases its user experience and perks in the App Store

Make Regular App Updates

A mobile app isn’t something you can set and forget. To provide the best guest experience and attract new users, regularly update your app with small improvements each month, such as bug fixes, new features, UX enhancements, device compatibility, etc. 

Unsure if your brand can deliver? Read Build vs. Buy Restaurant Software Debate: Top 5 Considerations.


Promote Your App on Your Website

One of the best ways to let current and prospective guests know about your restaurant app is to make the download call-to-action prominent on your website. Include a visual of the in-app experience, some information about the benefits of downloading, and offer an incentive, like free fries on your first app order.

How Auntie Anne’s promotes its mobile app on its website


Leverage Social Media

Utilize your restaurant’s social media accounts to promote your restaurant app. Use imagery and video to showcase the user experience, advantages, features, and exclusive perks for app users. To extend your brand’s reach and drive more app downloads, consider teaming up with influencers and other local businesses.

Advertise Your Restaurant App

Launch data-driven digital marketing campaigns across social media and Google to boost app awareness and downloads among current and prospective guests. To maximize your marketing ROI and lower acquisition costs, leverage your guest segments and create lookalike audiences that share their interests and behaviors. To ensure your ad breaks through the noise, use concise messaging, consistent branding, and an eye-catching visual.

Incorporate QR Codes

Make it easy for guests to download your restaurant app by incorporating QR codes into your menus, promotional materials, in-store signage, ads, and more. The fewer steps, the better!

Offer Exclusive In-App Deals

Encourage guests to download and use your restaurant app by offering promotions only available to users. Perks can include LTOs, special discounts, early access to new menu items, insider swag, etc. Be sure to tease these benefits in your marketing campaigns—the fear of missing out can be a powerful motivator.

MOOYAH incentivizes guests to download its app with exclusive perks


Use Email and SMS Marketing

Promote your restaurant app to your existing guests via email and SMS messages. Highlight key features, benefits, and exclusive promotions available to users. Personalize the content to appeal to guests’ interests and purchase history (e.g., happy hour regulars get $5 off their next purchase when they download the app).


Set Up a Referral Program

Implement a referral program to incentivize existing app users to refer people they know. Offer perks to the referrer and the new user to boost guest satisfaction, foster loyalty, and gain more users.


Solicit and Respond to App Reviews

Use in-app notifications to encourage satisfied users to leave a review. Positive app reviews will increase your brand’s visibility and downloads. Be sure to publicly respond to all feedback—positive and negative—to build trust and credibility. Timely responses signal to restaurant regulars their opinions matter and demonstrate to prospective guests your brand values the guest experience.


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Next Up: User Retention

Of course, getting guests to download your restaurant app is only step one. The real challenge is retaining users over time. After all, 25% of mobile apps are abandoned after only one use.

Stay tuned for strategies to keep your app users engaged—the key to sustained growth and profit.

Want to drive more direct digital sales? On average, Olo customers see a 108% higher conversion rate with our online ordering app. Learn more and talk to our team of experts about Olo Ordering today.

People
Nov 21, 2023
3
 min read

Meet Mingming Zhang, our Principal Data Scientist. Get her take on the biggest challenges and opportunities for restaurant data—plus, the role of AI and machine learning in the restaurant industry.

Team Olo, Data Science, Data

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Our Principal Data Scientist, Mingming Zhang, joined Olo two years ago as part of our acquisition of Wisely. There she led the data science team and earned a 2021 Top Women in Restaurant Technology Award for her work on algorithms that accurately predict restaurant wait times and proprietary natural language processing (NLP) that annotates the sentiment of online restaurant reviews.

Before Wisely, Mingming was a Data Science Manager at Domino’s, where she was tasked with projects like combating fraud with machine learning.

Scroll to learn how all of that experience informs her team’s work at Olo, what she considers to be the biggest challenge and opportunity for restaurant data, and her thoughts on the role of AI and machine learning in the industry.

Reflecting on the last two years at Olo, what are you most proud of?  

Mingming Zhang: I’m most proud of the machine learning and data science platform we’ve built. In less than two years, we’ve rolled out a few algorithmic products based on these platforms to our customers.

I’m also proud of the culture shift toward data-driven decision-making. The A/B testing framework we built has enabled our product managers to measure impact and iterate quickly based on data. We can also build case studies backed by rigorous data methods to demonstrate the metrics improvement for better product adoption.

How does the work of our Data Science team benefit restaurant brands?

MZ: The work of our Data Science and Engineering teams allows brands to reap the benefits of AI with minimal investment. For example, the OrderReady AI machine-learning solution we delivered to help restaurants manage their capacity is built on a modern data and machine-learning stack that Olo invested heavily in building and maintaining. We did it so our customers don’t have to build their own capacity solutions and can invest in their core business.

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What is the biggest challenge and biggest opportunity for restaurant data?

MZ: Restaurant data is usually generated across multiple vendors or touchpoints such as online ordering, waitlist, POS, payments, marketing campaigns, KDS, guest feedback, etc. It requires deep business process knowledge to understand how these data points interact with each other and how they impact the key metrics. Without an understanding of restaurant business processes, it can be challenging to turn massive amounts of data into actionable insights.

The biggest opportunity for restaurant data lies in two aspects: driving a personalized guest experience and driving higher operational efficiency. Restaurants can use data to tailor their services, whether on- or off-premise, to individual guest preferences. Personalization could also extend to targeted marketing strategies and loyalty programs based on individual dining history.

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The potential for restaurant data to drive higher operational efficiency is equally transformative. Capacity management with an AI solution is a great example. We have also seen restaurant brands successfully use machine learning solutions to manage supply chain and labor schedules. With the emergence of generative AI, restaurants can use voice AI to reduce the cost of taking orders and level up their service.

Machine learning and AI will play a much bigger role in the restaurant industry in the next five years. This is the time to leap in.

How can restaurants use data to enable hospitality at scale?

MZ: Data can revolutionize every aspect of a restaurant business—from personalizing the guest experience to building targeted marketing campaigns, optimizing the menu, and improving day-to-day operations. But for this revolution to happen, restaurants need to foster a culture of data thinking within the company, starting with educating the team on what data can do. Any transformation starts with people’s mindset.

To learn more about Team Olo and apply for one of our job openings, visit our careers page

Insights
Nov 16, 2023
4
 min read

Find inspiration for your next restaurant marketing campaign with this list of ideas for boosting guest retention, frequency, spending, and engagement.

Restaurant Marketing, Restaurant Marketing Campaign Ideas

With so many competing priorities—from building brand awareness to acquisition and retention—it can be challenging for restaurant marketers to determine where to start—let alone come up with campaign ideas.

To help alleviate that burden and ensure you get the most bang for your buck, we’ve compiled a list of campaign ideas that leverage data to personalize the guest experience, drive profit, and maximize guest lifetime value.

As you build out your restaurant marketing plan for 2024, consider testing some of these campaigns to see what resonates with your guests.

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1. Encourage Dine-in-Only Guests To Order Online

When guests engage with your brand in multiple ways, they become more valuable. You can meet dine-in-only guests where they are by marketing your takeout/delivery program in-restaurant. Offer to-go-only specials, off-menu items, or discounts when guests order online during a specific timeframe. Consider incorporating a promo code (e.g., 10% off your first online order) on signage, receipts, and online campaigns targeting dine-in guests who haven’t ordered online before.

2. Use Social Media To Boost Slow Dayparts

If evenings are slow, promote weeknight specials on Instagram and Facebook with share-worthy photos in your feed and behind-the-scenes content in your stories. Expand your brand’s reach by including a prompt to “tag a friend in the comments who deserves a weeknight out.”

3. Drive Social Engagement in Restaurant

Add a menu insert offering free dessert (“Monday Sundae”?) to any guest who posts their dinner on Instagram and tags your brand. Then, repost user-generated content to your feed to drive engagement.

4. Attract New Guests With Targeted Advertising

Maximize the ROI of your acquisition campaigns by leveraging your current guest segments to target prospective guests who share interests and behaviors with your regulars. For example, you could create a “weeknight dinner lookalike audience” for paid search and social ads.

5. Partner With Local Businesses and Influencers

Team up with a local movie theater for a “dinner and movie” promotion. Then, incentivize local social media influencers to get the word out by offering a free meal in exchange for sharing the news with their fanbase.

6. Personalize Follow-Up Messages

Studies have shown 91% of people are more likely to shop with brands that recognize, remember, and provide relevant offers and recommendations. Boost retention by using triggered campaigns and feedback surveys to reengage guests with content that feels personal (“Thanks for coming in, Mark! How’d we do?”)

7. Drive Frequency by Staying Top-of-Mind

A guest returning for a second visit exponentially increases the likelihood of building brand loyalty. Target an audience of “Recent Email Opt-Ins” or “Haven’t Visited in Last 30 Days” with an email campaign and special offer.

8. Retarget Across Channels

Remarket to WiFi sign-ups, marketing subscribers, website visitors, and social followers by uploading the audiences for targeted social and search campaigns. Since these people have already expressed interest in your brand, it’s easier and more cost-effective to advertise to them than to a non-retargeting audience.

9. Create a Feeling of Exclusivity

Build urgency and FOMO through limited-time offers, specials only available on certain days, and secret off-menu items shared on social media and with email or SMS subscribers.

10. Increase Visits by Promoting Your Purpose

Research shows 62% of consumers prefer purpose-driven brands that take a stand on issues like sustainability, transparency, and fair employment practices. Use your marketing channels to share your brand values and empower guests to support your philanthropy (e.g., offer a portion of proceeds from lunch to a charity fighting childhood hunger). Whether you support local farmers or employees’ continuing education, you can tell their stories with a “Spotlight” series on your website, email newsletter, and social media.

11. Reengage Lapsed Guests

Extend the guest life cycle by re-attracting churn risks. Send a triggered email to an audience of “Last Visit Longer Than 60 Days” with personalized copy that shows you’ve noticed they haven’t been in lately.

12. Appeal to the Crowd-Conscious

When weekday regulars avoid crowded Saturdays, build a campaign prompting them to join the waitlist from home using your website, app, or Google listing. Emphasize the convenience and speed of service.

13. Convert Weekend Regulars to Weekday

Remind your weekend regulars they can enjoy their favorite menu items any time by launching a midweek business lunch campaign. Sliders for the office, anyone? 

14. Boost Awareness of Catering

Do all your guests know you offer catering? Use your marketing channels to share your offerings, especially leading up to holidays, game days, and wedding season. Showcase your packages, emphasize the benefits of ordering through your brand, and consider adding a special offer, such as free dessert if they order by a certain date.

15. Leverage Guest Lifetime Value

Target a lookalike audience of your top 5% of visitors by guest lifetime value with a social media campaign that includes a lead magnet. For example, offer a $10 bonus certificate for every $50 gift card purchased during the holidays.

Related ebook: Guest Lifetime Value: The Real North-Star Metric for Restaurants

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Get Started in Four Steps

The beauty of this list is that it’s evergreen—any of these campaigns could be turned on throughout the year depending on your brand’s objectives. To get started, follow these steps: 

  1. Define and build your target guest segment
  2. Create and launch the campaign
  3. Measure results and engagement
  4. Optimize and automate what works

Keep in mind your segment, marketing channel(s), and results will change by campaign. And if at first you don’t succeed, try again.

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To find more winning strategies—from leveraging data to optimizing for engagement and maximizing guest lifetime value—download our “Guide to Restaurant Marketing Success.”

Download the 2024 Restaurant Marketing Guide

Need a tech stack that can keep up? Check out Engage, Olo’s restaurant-specific marketing suite, and request a demo today.

Insights
Nov 8, 2023
4
 min read

Discover some of the advantages of offering catering, plus best practices for maximizing revenue with catering this holiday season.

Catering, Catering Best Practices for Restaurants

A December 2022 survey conducted by the National Restaurant Association found three in four consumers planned to eat at a restaurant or order takeout during the holidays. Restaurants can capitalize on that demand this season by offering catering.

Catering has several advantages, which we’ll dive into shortly. But to be successful, restaurants must invest in proper training and infrastructure, such as additional staff, equipment, a reliable ordering platform, and logistical considerations.

Keep scrolling to find out why catering is worth the effort, plus get best practices to help you maximize profit with catering this holiday season.

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Advantages of Offering Catering

The average catering order value is higher than ever at $350. As such, catering can be a lucrative revenue stream for many restaurant brands. 

Catering allows you to tap into a new market segment, such as corporate events, weddings, and parties, which can provide a steady source of income beyond dine-in and delivery. The diversification of services can make your brand more resilient to fluctuations in the market and slow periods.

Catering is also a great way to boost guest retention and acquisition. Existing guests become more valuable to your brand when they place catering orders, and on the flip side, satisfied catering guests may become regulars. By adding catering to your service offerings, you can increase brand awareness and reach a broader audience.

When people experience your food and service at off-site events, they are more likely to visit your restaurant and tell their friends about it. Similarly, catering creates networking opportunities with event planners, venues, and other vendors.

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6 Holiday Catering Best Practices

With businesses, families, and friends gathering for the holidays, there’s no better time to kickstart or grow your catering business. To help you maximize your restaurant revenue during the holidays, here are some catering best practices to follow.

Streamline Your Menu

When crafting your holiday catering menu, make sure it’s easy to produce* and meets the needs of your guests—especially those with high lifetime value. To help control costs, use ingredients that overlap with those featured in your regular menu items. Incorporate items and flavors that people typically associate with holiday gatherings and consider putting a unique spin on them. 

*Pro Tip: To maximize resources in the kitchen and boost staff efficiency, use off-peak hours to prepare catering orders.

Create a Frictionless Ordering Experience

The process of placing a catering order should be as frictionless as your online ordering experience. Consistency—from branding to payment options—is critical for fostering trust and repeat business. Existing guests will expect the same level of service they typically receive from your brand, so be sure to go above and beyond. To encourage repeat catering orders, give high-value guests flexibility in payment options with house accounts (essentially, a line of credit).

Seize Upsell Opportunities

Offer customized catering menus and services, which can result in higher average ticket sales. Special requests, add-ons, and unique offerings can lead to upsell opportunities. For example, your restaurant could offer basic and premium catering packages, the ability to add drinks or desserts—think pumpkin pie, gingerbread cookies, etc.—or even a team to serve event attendees.

Use Capacity Management Tools

When evaluating catering software, look for an enterprise-grade solution that integrates seamlessly with your existing mealtime ordering platforms, has a robust ordering engine, and provides seamless order management. Take advantage of capacity management tools, including lead time and order throttling, to ensure your restaurants aren’t overwhelmed during the holiday rush.

Overcommunicate With Guests

There’s no such thing as overcommunicating when it comes to catering orders. Guests pay a lot for catering, and the pressure of a high-stakes event can set them on edge. To help put guests at ease during an already stressful holiday season, check in the day before or the day of the event to assure them their order is on track* and will be prepared/delivered on time. Don’t forget to follow up for feedback and to show appreciation.

* Pro Tip: Pack slips can help ensure you have everything you need for each order before you hand it off for delivery or pickup.

Spread the Word

Make sure existing and prospective guests know about your catering program using in-restaurant signage, your website/app, social media, email/text, and ads. Tell local businesses, schools, and groups about your holiday offerings, and leverage your restaurant marketing database—including high-value guest segments—to ensure your festive digital ads get in front of the right people. An initial discount or free item is a great way to attract guests. And within your catering campaigns, you can cross-promote services like delivery or takeout.

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Getting Started With Catering

Ready to get started with catering or scale your existing program? Request a demo of Catering+, Olo’s enterprise-grade catering solution. 

Catering+ is a direct ordering channel connected to the rest of Olo’s solution suites. This enables you to take control of your catering orders and all of the associated data, which is seamlessly integrated with your other restaurant systems.

See how Catering+ works in our Fall Release video and start a conversation with our team of experts to maximize your profit this holiday season and beyond.

Photo Credit Elle Hughes from Pexels

Insights
Oct 27, 2023
4
 min read

Learn how Order with Google works, how restaurants and guests benefit, and what makes the Olo integration unique.

Order with Google

Third-party marketplaces have proven vital for boosting brand awareness and guest acquisition. And yet, costly fees and a lack of data ownership negatively impact restaurants and their guests.

To maximize profit, unlock essential guest data, and stay competitive, restaurant brands must reprioritize direct ordering channels. When a guest orders directly through your restaurant website, for example, you own the data and can leverage those insights to drive retention, optimize acquisition campaigns, maximize guest lifetime value, and make informed business decisions.

Though your website and mobile app are paramount, Order with Google (formerly known as Google Food Ordering) is another valuable direct ordering channel. Keep reading to learn how it works, how restaurants and guests benefit, and what makes the Olo integration unique.

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What Is Order With Google?

Order with Google enables restaurant brands to reach prospective guests using Google Search and Google Maps to locate similar restaurants or dishes in their area. Additionally, it helps guests easily find and order directly from nearby restaurants—without leaving the Google platform.

When guests use Order with Google, they see the same menu featured on your brand-owned channels and the orders are sent to your restaurant and processed just like website or app orders. 

The Order with Google experience for Uncle Julio’s

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5 Benefits of Order With Google

To help you better understand the value of Order with Google—from a restaurant brand and guest perspective—we’ve compiled a list of the primary benefits.

1. Frictionless Ordering

When it comes to meeting the needs of digital-first guests, convenience is everything. Order with Google provides a seamless direct ordering experience from your Google Business Profile. Guests can place an order with just a few clicks without being redirected to third-party ordering pages. This can result in higher conversion rates, guest satisfaction, and long-term loyalty.

2. Incremental Revenue

Order with Google is a critical source of incremental restaurant revenue for many brands. Guests can quickly and easily place orders from Google Search or Google Maps, eliminating the need to navigate to your website or a third-party platform. This streamlined process can lead to more direct orders and, ultimately, more revenue for your business by removing third-party fees from the equation.

3. Increased Discoverability

A fully optimized Google listing with an “Order Online” button will ensure people searching for similar restaurants and cuisines will discover your brand. Get tips for optimizing your restaurant’s Google listings so your brand ranks high in search results and stands out with a seamless Order with Google experience.

4. Guest Acquisition

Order with Google is an efficient way to boost restaurant guest acquisition. On average, 81% of guests who order from a brand on Google have never ordered from the brand’s website or app. Of that 81% (incremental guest orders), 16.4% go on to order directly through the brand’s website.

5. First-Party Guest Data

When guests order through third-party marketplaces, the platform owns that data, making it difficult for your restaurant to build a direct relationship with the guest. Order with Google enables you to collect first-party guest data—including who guests are, where they’re coming from, and their purchase behavior—to better serve, recover, and market to them. This data is essential for personalization and making every guest feel like a regular.

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What Makes the Olo Integration Unique

Driving guests into the direct ordering funnel can seem daunting now that third-party marketplaces are ubiquitous. Olo’s Order with Google integration makes it easy to attract and acquire prospective guests—without spending a fortune on advertising—by meeting them where they are: on Google Search and Google Maps.

Unlike third-party marketplaces, orders placed via Google are treated as direct orders within the Olo platform. This ensures Olo customers can collect, analyze, and act on the associated guest data, which is seamlessly integrated.

When guests place a pickup or delivery order via Google, they can view the same menu, images, and pricing as your brand-owned channels—all of which are syndicated by Olo to ensure accuracy. The order is sent to your Olo Dashboard, where it appears alongside orders placed on your website or app so you can leverage all the benefits of Olo, including order throttling, reporting, and analytics.

For a firsthand look at the Order with Google experience, watch the Fall Release video (Order with Google is covered at the 5-minute mark.) Then, check out Uncle Julio’s case study to find out how the brand grew its direct orders, check size, and guest database using Order with Google via Olo.

Download the Direct Ordering Ebook

If you’re already an Olo customer, contact your Customer Success Manager to learn how to implement Order with Google. If you’re not using Olo yet, request a demo to start the conversation.

Insights
Oct 19, 2023
4
 min read

Using insights from conversations with brands of all types and sizes, we’ve compiled a list of trends that will shape restaurant marketing in the coming year—and beyond.

Restaurant Marketing Trends 2024, Restaurant Marketing

As a leading end-to-end restaurant platform, we spend a lot of time talking to brands of all sizes about everyday challenges, goals, and what tech investments they’re making to eliminate pain points and deliver hospitality at scale. These conversations drive our year-round product innovations and shed light on what’s new and next for the industry.

To give you a taste of some of those insights, we’ve compiled a list of trends that will shape restaurant marketing in the coming year. Spoiler alert: Personalizing the guest experience is a common theme.

Keep scrolling to find out what everyone’s buzzing about. Then, download the 2024 Restaurant Marketing Guide for actionable strategies to help you maximize your marketing ROI and do more with less.

Download Olo's 2024 Restaurant Marketing Guide

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1. AI

Now that AI tools like ChatGPT and Olo’s AI Creative Assistant are widely accessible, restaurant marketers will spend less time on tedious tasks like writing email copy or social captions and more time segmenting audiences, testing, and learning.

AI will supercharge marketers’ creativity and help maximize their output by turning simple prompts into relevant, attention-grabbing headlines, body copy, and CTAs they can easily refine to match their brand’s voice, tone, and style.

2. Automation

Brands will use restaurant marketing automation tools to lighten their load and drive sales across channels. By leveraging automated triggers, filters, and time delays, marketers can make every message feel personal to each guest. 

The key will be finding ways to positively influence guest behavior as they move through the lifecycle—such as incentivizing dine-in guests to order online—and using automations to drive them further down the funnel to habituation.

3. Personalization

Restaurant marketers will use first-party guest data to tailor communications and promotions to individual preferences, order history, and behavior. Why? Because 71% of consumers expect brands to deliver personalized experiences and 76% get frustrated when they don’t.

By incorporating personalization into campaign strategy—including channel, audience segmentation, targeting, and messaging—marketers can boost ROI, sales, visit frequency, and overall guest engagement.

4. Guest Data Platform

Many restaurants will invest in a Guest Data Platform—sometimes referred to as a Customer Data Platform (CDP)—which connects all types and sources of guest data into individual profiles so they can sort, analyze, and act on those insights instantly.

With a GDP, restaurants will be able to more effectively market to 100% of guests—not just loyalty members—and create conditional messaging flows that turn one-time visitors into regulars.

5. Lifetime Value

As more brands discover that 60% of their revenue is driven by 20% of guests, restaurant marketers will begin to use guest lifetime value (GLV)—or how much revenue each guest generates throughout their relationship with the brand—to inform their retention and acquisition strategies.

With GLV, they’ll be able to do things like:

  • Determine which channel, offers, and messaging have the highest ROI potential
  • Build segments to ensure all guests become more valuable over time
  • Create lookalike audiences to reach potential guests who behave similarly and share the interests of high-value guests
  • Promote and incentivize behaviors high-value guests are known to exhibit 

To unlock and leverage GLV, marketers first need an integrated restaurant tech stack that harnesses first-party data from across the guest journey and makes it actionable. Learn all about GLV and how to use it to propel your business forward in our ebook, Guest Lifetime Value: The Real North-Star Metric for Restaurants.

6. Gamified Loyalty

Some restaurant brands will level up their loyalty programs with gamification to drive engagement, awareness, and sales. These fun challenges reward participating guests with points, prizes, free food, etc.

For example, Olo helped Denny’s launch a gamified rewards program that provides guests with monthly offers and personalized challenges that unlock never-before-seen rewards (e.g., visit four times in one month for a free Grand Slam breakfast).

7. Short-Form Video Content

Demand for short-form video remains sky-high—66% of consumers consider it the most engaging social media content. As such, restaurants will continue to use TikTok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube to boost awareness and engagement, especially among younger guests.

Short-form videos can be a powerful acquisition and retention tool for restaurants when used strategically. In the new year, expect to see top brands leveraging short-term video for things like LTO teasers, brand challenges, behind-the-scenes tours, dish prep, team member intros, and user-generated content.

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Key Considerations Before Jumping on a Trend

Before jumping on the trend train, it’s important to remember no two restaurant brands are exactly the same. What works for one may not work for another. 

For example,

  • Data: If your brand is at the start of its digital journey, you may simply need data that is accessible and usable (in other words, a CRM). But if your brand is more mature, a GDP will enable you to unify and enrich guest profiles, send data to business intelligence tools, and leverage guest lifetime value across your business.
  • Social media: If your high-value guests live on TikTok, short-form video could be your sweet spot. But if they don’t, you’ll want to focus on growing a following on the social platform where they—and prospective guests who behave like them—actually spend their time.

To determine which trends will yield the best ROI for your restaurant brand, you must consider your unique business needs, goals, budget, guest experience, operations, marketing team capabilities, etc.

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Get the Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Marketing

No matter the size of your brand or digital maturity level, you can learn actionable strategies for maximizing ROI and doing more with less in our new ebook, Win More in 2024: Your Guide to Restaurant Marketing Success. In it, you’ll find:

  1. Beginner, intermediate, and advanced strategies for leveling up in four focus areas: data, audiences, content distribution, and loyalty
  2. Interactive checklists to help you track your progress throughout the year
  3. Tips for leveraging guest data across your entire business—from your menu to real estate

 

Click the button below to get your copy.

Download Olo's 2024 Restaurant Marketing Guide


Request a demo to find out how Olo’s Engage suite can help you crush your marketing goals next year and beyond.

Product
Oct 12, 2023
5
 min read

Learn about the four most significant product enhancements released by Olo in Q3—including how they work, why they matter, and who will benefit.

Fall Release, Product Release

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In Q3, Olo introduced 11 new features across our three product suites: Order, Pay, and Engage. These customer-driven product enhancements are designed to boost guest acquisition, retention, and operational efficiency.

Keep scrolling for a detailed breakdown of our four most significant enhancements—how they work, why they matter, and who benefits.

To watch the release video and see a complete list of new features, visit our Fall Release page.

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Catering+ with House Accounts

What it is: An enterprise-ready catering platform that includes robust ordering, management, and payments, including House Accounts

How it works: The process of placing a catering order is the same as a mealtime order. Guests select the handoff mode and location, schedule the order, and then submit. Brands can easily manage catering orders within the same Olo Dashboard as all other orders—plus, create House Accounts for VIPs. Simply set up net terms and extend a line of credit so your regulars can order catering today and pay later.

Why it matters: Catering is predicted to be one of the top-growth sales channels over the next year, with high-value orders averaging $350/transaction. Olo’s enterprise-ready Catering+ works alongside our core mealtime ordering solution to sync up operations and enable restaurants to tap into a new, high-margin revenue stream.

How restaurants benefit: With Catering+, you can manage all orders in the same, intuitive Olo Dashboard you use for mealtime orders. Already integrated with many POS systems and loyalty programs, Catering+ is a great way to drive more direct digital orders and avoid costly delivery commissions. Additionally, House Accounts enable you to reward VIPs with a better guest experience and streamlined purchasing process. 

How guests benefit: Guests can place catering orders directly from the restaurant brands they know and trust. Regulars can order today and pay later with a House Account.

Order with Google

What it is: An easy way for guests to order directly from your restaurant brand—without leaving Google Search or Maps

How it works: Your restaurant’s digital menu is syndicated to Google via Olo. Ordering options appear in your Google Business Profile on Search and Maps. Accurate orders are sent directly to your POS and processed just like website or app orders. Your brand captures guest data for remarketing and fostering long-term loyalty.

Why it matters: On average, 81% of guests who order from a restaurant on Google have never placed a direct digital order from them before. And of that 81%, 16% place subsequent orders directly through the restaurant’s website. Additionally, 20% of Order with Google guests reorder from the same brand via Google.

How restaurants benefit: Restaurants that offer a seamless Order with Google experience benefit from increased discoverability, conversion rates, and guest acquisition. Since orders placed via Google Search and Maps are equivalent to direct orders made on your website or app, you own your guest relationship and data, enabling you to better understand, serve, and market to guests.

How guests benefit: Guests using Google Search or Maps to locate restaurants or particular dishes in their area can easily find and order directly from brands—without having to navigate to a different website or app. Fewer clicks = happier guests.

Enhanced Sentiment Module

What it is: A holistic reputation management platform designed to help restaurants aggregate and respond to reviews before they impact sales

How it works: Sentiment aggregates guest feedback from popular review sites across the web, including Facebook, Google, and Yelp, into a single dashboard, so you can easily organize, escalate, and respond to feedback. 

The sentiment analysis tool makes it easy to filter reviews by source, location, date, rating, keywords, etc. to better understand what’s driving positive and negative experiences. You can also leverage generative AI, personalization, and pre-approved response libraries to ensure brand consistency in your replies.

Why it matters: Many restaurant brands struggle to reliably monitor and engage with guest feedback at scale. There are countless feedback channels to manage and it can be difficult to unlock actionable insights. Sentiment eliminates all of these pain points in one user-friendly platform.

How restaurants benefit: Made for multi-location restaurant brands, Sentiment helps brands listen, analyze, and adapt to feedback in real time—without having to log into review platforms one by one. You can leverage these aggregated insights to foster brand loyalty, win back unhappy guests, and turn review sites into reliable acquisition channels.

How guests benefit: When restaurant brands reply to reviews—positive and negative—guests feel seen and appreciated. Additionally, it signals to prospective guests that the brand prioritizes guest satisfaction.

Marketing AI Creative Assistant

What it is: A feature within the Email Design Editor that enables brands using Olo Marketing to quickly generate content at scale

How it works: Powered by OpenAI and built directly into our Email Design Editor, AI Creative Assistant can be accessed from four content modules: Title, Paragraph, List, and Button. 

Within the build preview for each content module, you can click the “Write with AI” button and tell AI Creative Assistant exactly what you’re looking for (e.g., “a click-worthy subject line about launching catering”). You can then decide to use the generated copy as is, make it your own, or create a new prompt.

Why it matters: Busy restaurant marketers often don’t have the bandwidth to write and test email copy to see what converts. AI Creative Assistant was built to help you do more with less.

How restaurants benefit: AI Creative Assistant enables you to maximize your marketing output and supercharge your creativity with artificial intelligence. Use starter prompts to quickly generate copy, so you can focus your energy on analyzing campaign results and optimizing for conversion.

How guests benefit: Restaurant guests who opt into marketing communications want to hear from your brand. By leveraging AI Creative Assistant, you can ensure they receive clear, consistent, on-brand emails about your latest offerings, pickup options, social channels, loyalty program, and more at a regular cadence.

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Getting Started

Visit our Fall Release page to watch the release video and learn about all 11 of our recent product enhancements. If you’re already an Olo customer, reach out to your Customer Success Manager with any questions and to find out how to implement these features. If you’re not using Olo yet, request a demo to start the conversation.

People
Oct 6, 2023
3
 min read

Get to know Ray Gallagher, VP & GM Engage, and learn how his team works to solve the pain points of busy restaurant marketers and operators every day.

Team Olo

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This week, we’re spotlighting Ray Gallagher, VP & GM Engage. Ray joined Olo as Vice President of Customer Experience in 2021 through our acquisition of Wisely.

Ray has over 20 years of experience in strategic leadership and operational excellence on both the brand and technology sides of the restaurant industry. He has a track record of fostering cross-functional collaboration and executing dynamic strategies across product, data, customer success, sales, and marketing.

As VP & GM, Ray is focused on driving the growth and success of Olo’s Engage product suite.

Keep reading to get to know Ray and learn how his team works to solve the pain points of busy restaurant marketers and operators every day.

Looking back on your first two years at Olo, what are you most proud of?  

Ray Gallagher: I’m incredibly proud of our team and what we accomplish together daily to provide excellent products and services to our brands. The Engage team at Olo is hard-working, intelligent, and an incredible group of talented individuals. As our team continues to grow, we are thrilled to enhance the product suite based on evolving market needs and brand feedback. 

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How has the Engage suite evolved since the Wisely acquisition?

RG: There have been meaningful benefits from joining Olo, including significant resources and support available to our teams as we scale the platform.

Our Guest Data Platform (GDP) launched Computed Properties this year, which allows brands to create customized attributes for advanced guest segmentation and ultimately improve personalized marketing communication.

We also recently launched generative AI features in our Marketing and Sentiment products, which support busy marketers and operators.

In your conversations with restaurants, what are brands looking to accomplish?

RG: Brands are doing more with less and expectations to drive incremental revenue are higher than ever. Also, brands are looking to reduce complexity and consolidate their tech stack to drive efficiency. We are always listening and looking to drive our products forward with this feedback in mind.

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As more restaurants recognize the value of data, how will guest lifetime value come into play?

RG: A framework we like to talk about is Collect / Analyze / Act. Once brands have their guest data collection dialed in, we guide them toward thoughtful analysis before batching and blasting the same marketing message to all guests. 

The Engage product suite makes it easy to segment guests based on enriched data attributes, including AI/ML smart properties such as Predictive Guest Lifetime Value (GLV) and Six-Month Churn Risk. Once you identify high-value guests, you can drive various strategies to act on the data, including automated journeys to win back lapsed or high churn-risk guests, or drive high-potential guests to a higher sustained GLV. 

We encourage brands to leverage GLV data for any key decisions in marketing, menu engineering, staffing, feedback, and real estate site selection. 

Download the Guest Lifetime Value ebook

What is one piece of advice for restaurants today? 

RG: Get control of your first-party guest data. Third-party marketplaces can be a meaningful revenue stream. However, brands do not own that data or the guest relationship. 

Prioritizing your direct channels for both on- and off-premise allows you to truly own your guest data, which unlocks your ability to personalize interactions and drive GLV by making every guest feel like a regular.

To learn more about Team Olo and apply for one of our job openings, visit our careers page

Insights
Sep 28, 2023
4
 min read

Learn strategies to wow and, most importantly, retain restaurant guests who order food delivery by offering a consistent guest experience.

Restaurant Delivery, Restaurant Delivery Best Practices

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Just as restaurant brands aim to provide exceptional hospitality to dine-in guests, it’s equally important to create a consistent guest experience for delivery orders. In other words, off-premise guests should expect the same caliber of service, food quality, ease of ordering and payment, branding, etc. as in-restaurant guests.

But how do you control the off-premise guest experience when third-party marketplaces capture the lion’s share of restaurant orders? In this blog post, we’ll explore strategies for restaurants to wow and, most importantly, retain guests who order food delivery.

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1. Invest in a Digital Ordering Platform

The foundation of a positive off-premise guest experience is an intuitive digital ordering platform. If you haven’t done so already, invest in restaurant software that puts the user first.

Whether you decide to build or buy, you can help foster trust and loyalty between your guests and your brand by ensuring your website and app have the following:

  • Mobile-friendly design
  • Easy navigation
  • Straightforward messaging
  • Full menu with high-quality images
  • Consistent branding
  • Multiple handoff modes (curbside, drive-thru, delivery, etc.)
  • Secure payment options (digital wallet support, ability to save cards, etc.)
  • Frictionless path to checkout

While third-party marketplaces have proven vital for boosting awareness and guest acquisition, direct ordering channels are essential for maximizing profit, unlocking actionable guest data, and scaling your restaurant brand. The more guests you can empower to order direct, the better.

Download our Direct Ordering Ebook

2. Prioritize Your Packaging

Your kitchen staff works hard to prepare delicious food—don’t let it go to waste with subpar packaging. To ensure takeout food stays fresh from pickup to delivery, consider investing in high-quality, eco-friendly packaging materials that are easy to seal and maintain the temperature of their contents. 

Branding is a key component here. Standardized packaging that reinforces your restaurant’s visual identity helps build trust with guests, strengthens your reputation, and makes social sharing a piece of cake—especially for guests who order via third-party marketplaces. Think branded boxes, bags, napkins, and any additional marketing collateral (e.g., “Next time order direct for $5 off!” coupon).

When prepping a takeout order for transit, separate items by temperature to preserve their quality and prevent food safety issues. The last thing you want is for your guest to end up with a wilted salad or for leaks to dampen the guest experience. Lastly, to prevent tampering after handoff—and give guests peace of mind—you can add a seal to packages.

3. Implement Quality Control Processes

When guests order food off a menu, they expect it to arrive looking like (or very similar to) the photo. You can keep off-premise guests happy and protect your brand’s image online by training kitchen staff to follow standardized recipes and plating guidelines when preparing takeout food, including consistent portion sizes, garnishes, and presentation.

A quality control process can help your team verify all takeout orders meet your brand’s standards for accuracy, temperature, taste, and presentation before delivery handoff. This step is critical for preventing errors and negative reviews.

4. Equip Your Delivery Team

If you have your own delivery fleet, your couriers should serve as an extension of your brand. Provide them with the same guest service training as in-restaurant employees so they are polite, professional, and punctual. Emphasize the importance of handling food carefully and following safety protocols during transportation.

To help build trust with off-premise guests and increase brand recognition, delivery team members should have branded clothing or delivery bags. This makes them easily identifiable and contributes to the overall consistency of the guest experience. 

Bonus points for branded vehicles with your restaurant’s name, logo, and contact information, which will keep your brand top-of-mind for existing guests and prospective guests on the road.

5. Add a Personal Touch

While it might seem challenging to personalize delivery orders, small gestures can help create a positive association with your brand. It could be as simple as including complimentary items like condiments, utensils, or even a little appetizer/side (egg rolls, pastries, naan, etc.) in their to-go bag.

A handwritten note thanking the guest for their order or offering a discount on their next visit can further enhance the delivery experience. This type of care and attention to detail is one way to show off-premise guests the same level of hospitality they would receive in your restaurant. 

6. Clearly Communicate With Guests

Just as you would let on-premise guests know if the item they ordered is being prepared, taking a little longer than expected, or is no longer available, off-premise guests also deserve clear and consistent communication. 

By sending order confirmation messages, estimated delivery times, delay notifications, and follow-up communications, you are staying true to your brand's promise of reliability and putting the guest first. 

7. Solicit Feedback From Delivery Orders

One of the best ways to ensure delivery guests have a consistently positive experience is to request feedback. Use follow-up surveys, your website, push notifications, social media, and other channels to gain insight into any delivery issues or areas in need of improvement.

Consider implementing a sentiment analysis tool to aggregate, respond to, and analyze the sentiment of your restaurant reviews from across the web. That way, you can uncover emerging trends in delivery guest satisfaction, address problems before they impact sales, and win back unhappy guests.

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How Restaurants Benefit From Enhancing the Delivery Experience

The key to scaling your delivery business is ensuring every part of the process—from placing the order to food preparation to handoff—meets your brand’s standards for hospitality, quality, and reliability.

By taking these steps to provide a consistent guest experience for delivery orders, you can build a 5-star reputation for your restaurant brand, foster long-term loyalty, and attract new guests.

Learn more about our delivery solutions—Dispatch and Rails—or request a demo to find out how Olo can help scale your delivery business.

Insights
Sep 14, 2023
3
 min read

Recent headlines about rising credit card fees have stoked confusion and fear among restaurants. Find out what’s actually happening, what it means for your brand, and what you can do about it.

Restaurant Payment Processing, Olo Pay

Recent headlines in The Wall Street Journal and New York Times about rising credit card fees have stoked confusion and fear among many restaurant brands, which already operate on thin margins.

To help make sense of what’s happening—and, most importantly, what’s not—we’re breaking down the news, what it means for restaurants, and what you can do about it. 

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What was reported

On Aug. 30, 2023, The Wall Street Journal reported Visa and Mastercard are planning to increase fees many merchants pay when they accept guests’ credit cards beginning in October and April. As a result, merchants could shell out an additional $502 million annually in fees. Mastercard and Visa have since put out statements refuting the claims in the article.

Adding to the confusion is a New York Times piece from Aug. 14, 2023, that talks about the impact of credit card fees on restaurants. However, most of the examples refer to processor fees (not fees issued by credit card brands) or exaggerate the effect of network fee updates released by the card brands.

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What’s actually happening—and what it means for restaurants

In reality, only Visa adjusted interchange (IC) rates during this release, and just for online transactions, not in-store transactions. But both Visa and Mastercard added or increased a few network fees. Restaurant brands, like all other merchants that accept credit cards, will have to incur the fees associated with Visa’s—and any other credit card brand’s—rising rates.

 

The greater threat, especially for restaurant brands, is payment processing fees. While they may look simple on paper, the devil is in the details. For example, a payment processor might offer a rate of 2.9% + $0.35 per transaction. It seems straightforward, but the cost of accepting payments goes beyond the processing fee and often includes charges not shown in the rate.

Over the years, we’ve heard from numerous restaurant brands about payment processors hiding fees, overcharging for services, and even charging for unnecessary items without consent.

Download our Payments Playbook

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What you can do about it

While restaurant brands, unfortunately, have to eat credit card fees, many don’t realize most processor-level fees are negotiable. As a result, some have increased menu prices or added a surcharge to pass the extra cost on to guests.

Here are a few things you can do to manage the high cost of accepting payments: 

  1. Carefully review all statements every month.
    Look at the fine print and encourage your franchisees to do the same. Some payment processors won’t contact you about fee adjustments or increases. Instead, they make it your responsibility to catch the change in a statement or learn about it by monitoring their website or blog. If something looks off, notify your payment processor.

  2. Negotiate processor-assessed fees.
    You can negotiate any fee assessed by your payment processor—especially if you’re up for contract renewal. If you’re being charged monthly fees, ask if they are assessed by the processor or by the credit card brand. It can be hard to distinguish. If, for example, your merchant statement shows a $15/month charge listed in the “Other Fees” category, it’s worth flagging unless there is a specific service you signed up for and are using.

  3. Explore other restaurant payment solutions.
    You no longer have to settle for legacy payment processors with excessive fees, inaccessible data, limited functionality, and security issues. Consider switching to a modern, restaurant-specific payment stack designed to help you drive digital sales, prevent fraud, and streamline day-to-day payment processes—with transparent, up-front pricing.

When evaluating payment stacks, restaurant brands often look for the cheapest rate. Once locked in, they tend to stick to the provider—regardless of any issues that arise—due to the hassle of switching. Onboarding a new payment processor alone can take weeks, but most often takes months. And yet, inaction can come with a high price tag. Let our team of restaurant payment experts help ensure you keep as much of your hard-earned revenue as possible. 

Learn more about our restaurant payment platform, Olo Pay, and contact our team to start protecting and growing your digital business.

Photo by Kindel Media at Pexels

Insights
Sep 8, 2023
3
 min read

Olo Founder and CEO Noah Glass recently appeared on the “Restaurant Unstoppable” podcast. Read highlights from his conversation with host Eric Cacciatore, then listen to or watch the full interview.

Restaurant Unstoppable, Noah Glass

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Olo Founder and CEO Noah Glass recently sat down with Eric Cacciatore of the Restaurant Unstoppable Podcast to discuss Olo’s evolution—from a text-message ordering solution to an industry-leading open SaaS platform—and how restaurant brands are leveraging technology to optimize operations, enhance the guest experience, and maximize revenue.

Keep scrolling to read some of the main takeaways. Then, listen to the full podcast or watch the episode on YouTube.

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The Build vs. Buy Debate

As with most conversations surrounding restaurant technology, build vs. buy was a hot topic. Noah and Eric discussed the fact that not every brand has the budget or resources to build its own tech stack, as well as the common misconception that build vs. buy is a one-time choice.

 

In addition to the upfront cost of building software, for example, restaurants also have to consider the ongoing costs of regular maintenance and ensuring optimal performance, security, and reliability as guests’ needs change and technology evolves.

Download the Buyer's Guide to Future-Proofing Your Restaurant Tech Stack

Why Direct Ordering Matters

While Noah and Eric acknowledge in the podcast that third-party marketplaces have proven vital for boosting brand awareness and guest acquisition, they talk at length about the benefits of direct ordering for restaurants and guests alike.

Noah explains that restaurant brands want as many people as possible to order directly from their website or app to collect essential first-party data (visit frequency, favorite menu items, purchase behavior, lifetime value, etc.). These insights enable them to better understand, serve, and market to guests. 

When guests order via third-party marketplaces, restaurants are blocked from that data altogether. To stay competitive, Noah recommends brands look to the hotel and travel industries—which went through the same battle 15 years ago with online travel agencies—to find strategies for empowering guests to order direct. For example, brands can offer direct orderers the lowest prices, access to the full menu, loyalty rewards, and other perks.

He goes on to say that because restaurants want the kitchen to be at peak capacity through the most profitable channels, they should prioritize those that enable them to make the most profit, own the guest relationship, and retain guests. In other words, direct ordering.

The Power of First-Party Guest Data

To further illustrate the value of direct ordering, Noah shares some of the benefits with listeners, including owning the guest relationship, building actionable guest profiles, and driving retention. He explains that when you can access and analyze first-party data from digital touchpoints throughout the guest journey, you can offer next-level hospitality by predicting their needs and also influence their behavior.

For example, rather than sending batch-and-blast emails to everyone, you can make guests feel heard and appreciated by tailoring messages, recommendations, and offers to individual preferences, purchase history, and more.

As they talk through the possibilities, Noah and Eric come to the same conclusion: restaurant brands that view data as a superpower—and use it to enhance the guest experience—will come out on top.

Download the Direct Ordering Ebook

Unlocking Guest Lifetime Value

When discussing where the restaurant industry is headed, guest lifetime value (GLV)—what Noah refers to as ”the north star metric for restaurant operators in the digital era”—takes center stage. 

He shares that beyond ordering and payments, a guest data platform (GDP) can turn insights from every digital touchpoint into one, unified guest profile. This enables brands to unlock the lifetime value of nearly 100% of guests and leverage that data to make informed business decisions across departments, including marketing, real estate, and operations.

To maximize ROI across the board, he says restaurants must be able to discern which guests are most valuable by recency, frequency, and spending, and which guests are simply one-time visitors motivated by a discount. Why? Because, on average, 60% of restaurant revenue is driven by just 20% of guests.

Noah advises brands to be careful not to confuse loyalty members with high-GLV guests. A loyalty program is considered high-performing if it accounts for just 25–35% of a restaurant brand's guest base—and that may not include those with high GLV. 

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Preparing For a Passwordless Future

Eric and Noah go on to talk about restaurant payments and how brands are racing to meet the evolving needs of digital-first guests.

When digital orderers elect to check out anonymously, Noah says it’s a lose-lose situation for the guest and the restaurant. Guests have to re-enter their custom order and payment information each time they return, whereas brands can’t tie the transaction back to a guest profile. In other words, the restaurant doesn’t know if that guest has ordered 20 times before or is brand new.

To eliminate friction in the checkout process, he says some restaurant brands are following in the footsteps of e-commerce and adopting modern payment solutions that offer passwordless login, digital wallet support, and increased security.

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Want to go deeper on all of these topics? Listen to the full podcast or click the button below to watch the episode on YouTube. 

To learn more about Olo’s end-to-end open SaaS platform for restaurants, request a demo.

Photo credit: Restaurant Unstoppable

People
Aug 28, 2023
2
 min read

Meet our new Chief People Officer, Sherri Manning. Learn why she chose Olo, her takeaways from working at other rapid-growth tech companies, and her thoughts on fostering community in a remote work environment.

Team Olo

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This week, we’re spotlighting the newest addition to our Executive Team, Chief People Officer Sherri Manning.

Sherri brings 20 years of experience leading People and Culture initiatives for globally recognized companies and late-stage startups, including, most recently, BigCommerce.

Keep reading to learn what drew her to the role, the lessons she learned while working in HR at other fast-growing tech companies, and how she aims to enhance Olo’s company culture.

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What attracted you to this role?  

I was drawn to Olo—and, specifically, the position of Chief People Officer—for a few reasons. For one, the company culture is caring, engaged, and collaborative. I’m also energized by the leadership team, the business opportunity, and Noah’s exciting and disruptive vision.

Have you identified any areas for growth in Olo's company culture? 

I’m interested in keeping and enhancing Olo’s wonderful culture and foundation of values. To do that, I want to partner with the People + Culture team and other employees to determine how we scale our culture and values in this changing environment of operating as a public, high-growth, geographically distributed company.

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How will you apply your learnings from previous roles to Olo?  

Leading HR at rapid-growth SaaS tech companies has been an exhilarating career experience. Some of the lessons learned that I look forward to sharing with the Olo team include agility in scaling, crisis management, cultural preservation, employee retention in high-pressure environments, adaptive compensation strategies, and enhanced cross-functional collaboration.

What's your vision for the People + Culture team?

The P+C team promises to support and guide as we attract, retain, develop, and inspire a diverse group of employees who execute Olo’s vision and business plans.

How can remote-friendly companies like Olo foster community among employees? 

Fostering a community in a remote-friendly environment requires intentionality, creativity, and consistent effort. However, when done well, the results can be as impactful as those in traditional office settings. 

There are many ways to do that, including holding regular virtual meetings, virtual team-building activities, dedicated chat channels, mentorship programs, feedback mechanisms, peer recognition programs, collaboration tools, and shared values and goals. 

I'm confident that we have the right people involved to help us continue to “up our game” at Olo in this new era of remote and hybrid work.

To learn more about Team Olo and apply for one of our remote-friendly job openings, visit our careers page.

Insights
Aug 17, 2023
7
 min read

To meet the expectations of digital-first guests, restaurant brands are racing to update and optimize their tech stack. But the question of whether to build, buy, or build and buy restaurant tech isn’t always straightforward. Find out why.

Build vs. Buy, Restaurant Software, Restaurant Tech

There are a lot of factors outside of a restaurant brand’s control—rising food costs and competition to name a few. And yet, the one thing you can control is the guest experience.

We’re not just talking about on-premise, either. According to the National Restaurant Association, 16% fewer people are dining in-restaurant today compared to pre-pandemic levels.

 

To meet the needs and expectations of digital-first guests—on-premise and off-premise—all types of restaurant brands are racing to update and optimize their tech stack.

 

Given the industry is still in the early innings of its digital transformation, brands often find themselves navigating a mix of legacy tech and newer tools that can be hard to connect.

 

For smaller, emerging brands, buying restaurant software from tech vendors is usually a no-brainer. But for larger, more resourced brands, the debate can shift to build vs. buy or build and buy.

Download Olo's Buyer's Guide to Future Proofing Your Restaurant Tech Stack

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What’s Attractive About Building Custom Restaurant Software

The power of building native technology lies in owning the roadmap and defining the priorities—restaurant brands can determine exactly what matters and build it, even if they’re the only brand in the world that values those capabilities. This level of control is alluring, especially for bigger brands, that might have more resources to take on a custom build.

Additionally, working with external software partners can get complicated. For one, some tech vendors control restaurants’ guest data. A scaling tech company may also get sold to a large corporation only for the tech roadmap and overall priorities to change. Even more simply, many tech partners fail to deliver on promised updates or oversell the future. 

And, through it all, tech solutions cost money for restaurant brands that famously operate on razor-thin margins.

The Trouble With Building Custom Restaurant Software

Despite the best intentions of building custom restaurant software, brands often find themselves in a quagmire. Restaurants don't specialize in tech.

Even companies like Lyft and Airbnb use Amazon Web Services (AWS). Why? Because specialization makes for a better outcome. A business that specializes in a solution will put the needed resources, rigorous testing, and a world-class team of engineers behind it.

Lyft leverages AWS for its IT infrastructure, data center capacity, etc. so it can focus on building the parts of its product that are differentiated.

The same principle applies to restaurant brands. The need for a POS system or reservations platform is commonplace across the entire industry—execution of the food and guest experience is each brand’s differentiator.

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5 Questions to Ask Before Deciding to Build vs. Buy

1. Will the short- and long-term costs be justified?

For restaurant brands, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to match the operational focus of a tech company intent on building software products that will be resold to thousands of customers. Tech companies invest their time, money, and resources into product design, engineering, maintenance, and optimization to stay competitive in their verticals.

To build a custom software application, a restaurant brand could put a year’s worth of SaaS fees or more into development—while paying a tech partner to keep day-to-day operations running in the meantime—and still not do a better job than a tech partner. And, because the work isn’t ever “done” once a solution is rolled out, the investment doesn’t stop there.

Marginal value invested in the restaurant software application often doesn't justify the marginal cost, because brands are limited on the number of restaurants they can create value for.

2. Can you compete with tech companies to attract and retain top talent?

Because the economics are better for tech companies, they naturally attract talent. Engineers gravitate to companies where they are paid the best. In addition to large salaries, tech companies often provide equity.

On the other hand, restaurant brands have more complex environments—they need ops, culinary, real estate, marketing, and training, in addition to technology.

Beyond the talent aspect, partnering with a restaurant tech company allows you to tap into the knowledge base of a wide range of customers and their guests, integration partners, and a variety of specialists—all in the name of building the best possible solution for an entire industry. A restaurant team building in-house is limited to input from a much smaller pool of experts.

3. Will building tech take focus and resources away from what matters most to your brand?

Werner Vogels coined the term “undifferentiated heavy lifting” to describe all the hard work engineers do that doesn’t add value to the company. This concept inspired Amazon’s development of AWS. Jeff Bezos put it this way, “we build muck so you don’t have to.”

In discussing this theory, Arun Nagarajan, Chief Product and Technology Officer at Evolve and a founding member of Uber Eats, laid it out simply, "building anything is hard. There are things you probably don’t want to build because it doesn’t matter who builds it. If you’re lifting heavy things anyway, lift the things that matter."

Building a memorable, authentic guest experience is what matters most for restaurant brands, and it is already a heavy lift. Shifting focus to building the technology behind those guest experiences may result in resources being spread too thin. 

4. Can guests wait for mission-critical systems to be built?

If a tech solution is a priority and will solve a unique problem for your restaurant business, what is the cost of delaying implementation while it’s built internally?

By the time a tech company finds product market fit, they’ve gone through upwards of five iterations of their product, with rigorous testing, bug fixes, and multiple rounds of addressing user feedback.

Buying a solution comes with hard-earned ease of use, advanced features, product stability, and ongoing support from day zero. Building custom software means likely having one-fifth of the capabilities and ROI on day 365.

Equally as important as time to value is the consideration of points of potential failure once a system is rolled out. Leveraging an outside tech vendor offers risk mitigation against a scenario in which an internal employee exits a company and takes intricate knowledge of a proprietary system with them. (And, a new in-house engineer stepping in could take 3–6 months to ramp.)

5. Beyond the dollar amount, how high is the opportunity cost?

The time spent waiting for a homegrown solution to be ready is not the only cost. The likelihood that it will be underdeveloped compared to existing solutions is high. This may result in missed value that would have come from having a tech partner that drives results immediately.

 

There is also a real probability that a custom-made solution won’t seamlessly integrate with other technologies used by the brand or crucial value-added features. In addition, the difficulty in keeping up with the industry’s evolution at pace will put brands exponentially further behind their competitors. All of this increases opportunity cost long-term.

Watch our NRN Webinar

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Avoiding the Sunk-Cost Fallacy: Pei Wei Case Study

Answering those upfront questions can help you avoid some costly missteps that make it increasingly difficult to course-correct over time. Too often, once material investments are made, brands fall prey to the sunk-cost fallacy and continue iterating on systems that could more easily be replaced with proven solutions already in the market. 

Pei Wei, a fresh Pan-Asian fast-casual restaurant, faced this problem head-on when it saw digital sales decline due to the underwhelming performance of its homegrown ordering solution. Rather than continuing to invest and re-invent, Pei Wei partnered with Olo to revamp its online ordering platform and turn the tide. 

The result? A 36% lift in digital sales in the first 90 days and a 57% increase in ticket size for online orders.

So, What Business Do You Want To Be In? 

The real question restaurant brands need to answer when considering building custom restaurant software is, what business do you actually want to be in?

The work doesn’t stop once the software is built (think: integrations, updates/evolution, analytics, etc.). An increasingly short tech life cycle also means anything built today will be irrelevant in 18 months. The truth is, there is no finish line.

That said, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to assembling the perfect restaurant tech stack. And some brands, especially large, well-resourced ones, may still pursue homegrown solutions to meet their needs. 

Whether you decide to build components in-house, integrate solutions from different vendors, do a little of both, or rely on one end-to-end platform, it’s important to do what’s best for your brand—not just for today but in preparation for what’s to come.

For more important considerations when building out your restaurant tech stack, download our Buyer’s Guide or contact our team of restaurant experts today.

People
Aug 10, 2023
1
 min read

Olo’s 2022 ESG Report outlines our goals and efforts to drive positive change in the communities where we live, work, and serve.

ESG, Team Olo, Sustainability, DEI

We are excited to release Olo’s first ESG Report, which shares our environmental, social, and governance impact efforts.

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Our ESG journey began in 2022 when we underwent our first materiality assessment to better understand the ESG topics most central to our company and stakeholders. 

We identified the following pillars that serve as a guide for our ESG program, strategy, and reporting: People & Culture, Community Impact, Environmental Sustainability, and Responsible & Ethical Growth.

Our first report details Olo’s overall approach to ESG and our progress during the period of Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2022, unless otherwise noted. 

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Highlights include: 

  • Our first published goals across each pillar
  • Detailed workplace demographics
  • The launch of Olo Ties, a mentorship program that supports women and people of color
  • More than 900 employees attended 20+ events hosted by our six Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)
  • Full Scope 1, 2, and 3 carbon emissions disclosure, 2019-2022
  • Olo for Good donated $2.1 million to nine nonprofit organizations
  • Oloites used 811 hours of Volunteer Time Off (VTO)
  • Olo signed onto the Don’t Ban Equality initiative to demonstrate our support for access to reproductive healthcare

Download Olo's 2022 ESG Report

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As we actively work to advance our ESG strategy, we promise to be transparent and share our goals, objectives, and progress. While we are just starting out, we are committed to our short-term goals for each pillar and look forward to sharing more long-term goals in the future.

We intend to report on our ESG efforts and performance annually moving forward. We will continue to enhance our commitments and evolve our programs on an ongoing basis to drive positive change in the communities where we live, work, and serve.

Visit our ESG page for more information. Contact our ESG Team with any feedback or questions related to our ESG program and initiatives.

Product
Aug 8, 2023
3
 min read

Restaurants have begun using AI in innovative ways—from the drive-thru to kitchen automation. Now it’s restaurant marketers’ turn. Learn how to supercharge your content creation with Olo’s AI Creative Assistant.

AI, Restaurant Marketing, AI Creative Assistant

The restaurant industry continues to go through a period of significant transformation, with brands attempting to adapt to changes in guest behavior, staffing shortfalls, and increased pressure on margins.

While each brand has unique struggles based on its size, category, and concept, one feeling appears to be universal: there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything on the to-do list. 

Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing that.

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The Rise of AI in the Restaurant Industry

In the not-too-distant past, AI felt like an abstract concept. Today it’s practically impossible not to hear about or engage with it.

ChatGPT reached 100 million monthly active users just two months after launch, making it the fastest-growing consumer application in history. MarketsandMarkets now projects the overall AI market size to grow to $407 billion by 2027.

It’s not just large tech companies like Google and Microsoft riding the AI wave. Restaurants have begun using AI in innovative ways, too. QSRs like CKE are piloting conversational AI in their drive-thrus. Chipotle is using AI and robotics to perfect its chips. Yum Brands leverages AI to automate the kitchen flow.

Olo has also been an early adopter of AI, helping customers optimize operations and the guest experience with restaurant-specific solutions. 

And now, with the introduction of AI Creative Assistant, we’re enabling restaurants to scale their marketing efforts.

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How Restaurant Marketers Can Use AI to Supercharge Their Content Creation

Olo’s AI Creative Assistant is designed to save restaurant marketers time and enhance their creativity by leveraging powerful generative AI to turn content ideas into compelling copy. 

Built directly into our Email Design Editor, users simply provide starter prompts and AI Creative Assistant will instantly draft relevant, attention-grabbing copy. Users can then refine the suggested copy to match their brand’s voice, tone, preferred length, and styling within the intuitive interface.

Keep scrolling to find out how you can use AI Creative Assistant to reduce your workload.

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Four Use Cases for AI Creative Assistant

The next time you’re tasked with writing a restaurant marketing email, AI Creative Assistant can help you work smarter in four ways:

1) Generating Headlines: Brainstorm ideas for concise, catchy titles that will drive guests to read more.

Example Starter Prompts

  • Write a short title for a new [item] on our restaurant's menu
  • Create a title promoting [exclusive offer/discount] with a compelling call-to-action (CTA)
  • Formulate a title that highlights the [exclusive offer/discount] that expires [expiration date]
  • Write a title for a [restaurant event] on [date] with a compelling CTA

2) Outlining Body Copy: Provide a few details about the essence of the campaign and let AI Creative Assistant craft high-converting email copy for you.

Example Starter Prompts

  • Write a brief paragraph about the launch of our new [menu item] featuring [selling points/ingredients]
  • Create body copy for a promotional email about [subject line or title]
  • Develop a short email to re-engage lapsed guests to our [concept type] encouraging them to come back

 

3) Creating Lists: Develop captivating bullet points that reinforce the main value propositions of the campaign and jump out to content skimmers. 

Example Starter Prompts

  • Explain why our [menu item] is better than others
  • Showcase the value and benefits of joining a [concept type] loyalty program
  • List reasons to subscribe to our [concept type] email newsletter

 

4) Inspiring Action: Develop engaging CTAs that are too irresistible for guests not to click.

Example Starter Prompts

  • Generate compelling CTA options for ordering our [menu item]
  • Generate a CTA suggestion for lapsed guest emails for our restaurant
  • Create a CTA for cross-selling [item] with [item]
  • Create a CTA for [target audience] to join our [concept] loyalty program

Download Olo's 2024 Restaurant Marketing Guide

Start Increasing Your Marketing Output with AI

The restaurant brands that understand, embrace, and leverage AI best will have a significant advantage moving forward. In fact, a McKinsey report on The Economic Potential of Generative AI estimated generative AI could increase the productivity of the marketing function with a value between 5 and 15 percent of total marketing spending. 

Whether you’re just getting started with AI or looking for additional ways to harness its power, the opportunity cost—from boosting creativity to reducing manual work—is too high for restaurant marketers to ignore. Treat AI as an extension of your team that can help you achieve your goals and do more with less.

Current Olo Marketing customers can learn more about AI Creative Assistant in the Help Center. Not a current customer? Contact our team of restaurant experts to learn how AI can help take your business to the next level. 

Photo by Canva Studio at Pexels

People
Jul 28, 2023
2
 min read

Get to know our new COO, Jo Lambert—including what makes her tick, her leadership style, and her thoughts on the opportunity ahead.

Team Olo

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We recently welcomed a new Chief Operating Officer, Jo Lambert, to Team Olo. Jo has built and transformed global digital products at scale across financial services, media, and technology brands, including American Express, PayPal, Venmo, Verizon Media, and Yahoo.

Keep reading to learn what makes Jo tick, her leadership style, and her thoughts on the opportunity ahead for Olo and the restaurant industry.

What attracted you to Olo?

Jo Lambert: Olo is at the forefront of the digital transformation of the trillion-dollar restaurant industry. I’m inspired by the team’s passion for empowering customers to leverage technology to make every guest feel like a regular.

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What can Olo customers and employees look forward to with you as COO?

JL: I believe in customer-focused and purpose-driven product development, which means putting customers first, deeply understanding their needs, and partnering to transform and grow.

 

I am focused on unifying the Order, Pay, and Engage Teams to build solutions that enable our customers to grow and operate their businesses more efficiently in a digital world.

 

You can expect transparency, a trusted partner, and a commitment to innovate and drive growth for our customers.

What makes a good leader?

JL: There are three leadership attributes that I reflect on often, particularly when driving change, bouncing back from challenges, and hiring and developing team members. 

  1. Curiosity and a willingness to take risks. Good leaders recognize they can be bound by their experiences and strive to step outside their comfort zone. Curiosity, challenging the status quo, and taking measured risks can turn what seems impossible into new opportunities.

  2. Effective and frequent communication. Good leaders set clear expectations, coach and inspire teams, and share timely and transparent information with key stakeholders. Active listening is an important skill for being an effective communicator.

  3. Seeking and being open to feedback. Leaders who seek feedback from colleagues, teams, customers, and external stakeholders create an environment of continuous learning and improvement. Feedback helps advance personal growth, team dynamics, processes, and products.

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What are you most excited about at Olo and for the restaurant industry?

JL: Now that guests are used to—and expect—digital ordering, personalization, loyalty, and accelerated checkout, there is a tremendous opportunity to support the restaurant industry through the next phase of its digital transformation.

 

Olo has built an incredible foundation. I am excited to work with the team to expedite innovation and personalization while driving meaningful efficiencies and growth for our brands and partners.

To learn more about Olo and apply for one of our job openings, visit our careers page.

Product
Jul 24, 2023
4
 min read

To prepare for a passwordless future, restaurant brands need a refined approach to digital payments. Learn how Olo Pay’s Borderless checkout feature leads to better guest experiences, more sign-ins, and more frequent purchases.

Borderless, Payments, Olo Pay

There’s little room for friction in the world of e-commerce—and that’s even more true in the restaurant industry. After all, guests turn to digital channels for convenience, and there’s no harder time to handle unexpected hurdles than when you’re hungry.

 

With the likes of Amazon, Shop Pay, and Bolt raising the bar for e-commerce checkouts, it’s no wonder 91% of consumers say a satisfying checkout experience significantly influences the likelihood they will return to a given merchant.

Keep reading to find out how the Borderless checkout feature of Olo Pay irons out some common wrinkles in the restaurant checkout process—so you can deliver a smoother ordering experience that leads to satisfied guests rather than abandoned carts.

 

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Why the Restaurant Industry Is Primed for a Passwordless Future

Recent research reveals the average person has roughly 100 passwords across their various online accounts. Even if the bulk of those are more likely to be reset than remembered due to lack of usage, it’s still a staggering amount.

It should come as no surprise that across all e-commerce segments, 42% of consumers prefer to use the “guest checkout” option when making a purchase. And even for those who do create an account, 75% use a burner email address, according to a 2022 study from Capterra. 

Restaurant guests are no different. Aside from frequent users and those looking to accrue and redeem loyalty rewards, most don’t want to add to their password pile by creating an account every time they order from a new brand. 

To eliminate friction in the checkout process, restaurant brands are beginning to adopt modern payment solutions similar to the ones guests have grown accustomed to within the traditional retail e-commerce segment. 

Olo Pay’s Borderless checkout feature is one example. 

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How Olo Pay’s Borderless Checkout Feature Works—and Why It Matters

Borderless was purpose-built to make the restaurant checkout process as quick and simple as possible. The first time guests enter their payment and contact details, they can save that information for future use. 

Because that information is saved at the platform level, guests can securely speed through checkout for each subsequent purchase—with that specific restaurant brand or others in the Borderless network they’ve never ordered from before—without having to remember a password or re-enter their information. All they have to do is enter their email address or phone number and then input the one-time code they receive to verify their identity and authenticate the purchase.

 

3 Ways Guests Benefit From Borderless

1. Easier Ordering

Guests want to complete their order, yet the average online shopping cart abandonment rate is nearly 70%. Two of the main reasons cited by consumers are mandatory account creation and a long/complicated checkout process. With Borderless, guests can speed through checkout without the hassle of recalling passwords or manually entering information.

2. Increased Security

Another often-cited concern about digital payments relates to security. With data breaches making headlines on a routine basis, it makes sense for guests to have second thoughts every time they’re asked to input their credit card information and try to limit the number of accounts they create. Borderless eliminates the need to re–enter payment information with each transaction and protects sensitive payment information through full PCI compliance.

3. Loyalty Rewards

We’ve integrated Borderless with loyalty partners on Serve to ensure guests can earn and redeem loyalty rewards while enjoying the passwordless login and accelerated checkout experience provided by Borderless. Additionally, guests who sign into their loyalty account can have their delivery address and payment details pre-filled from their Borderless account.

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Borderless in Practice: Din Tai Fung Case Study

Din Tai Fung was one of the first adopters of the Borderless checkout feature of Olo Pay. In the seven months following its implementation, 60,000 Din Tai Fung guests created a Borderless account. Since then, Borderless has positively impacted order frequency, guest sign-ins, and saved cards during checkout.

Lift in Orders Per Guest Using Borderless

Due to the convenient checkout process, existing guests who signed up with Borderless are likely to place 61% more orders throughout the year—or 1.5 more orders per existing guest—compared to those who have not signed up for Borderless.

Increase in Guest Sign-Ins

After Borderless was enabled, Din Tai Fung saw guest sign-ins (Olo legacy and Borderless) before placing an order jump from 31% to 65%—a 109% increase. This strong guest engagement has driven the increase in orders.

More Guests Saving Cards on File

With the introduction of Borderless, more Din Tai Fung guests are opting to save their credit cards on file for smoother checkouts in the future.

Download Olo's Payments Playbook

Ready for the Passwordless Future?  

As guest behaviors rapidly evolve, brands are ramping up investments across their tech stack to keep pace. Unfortunately, payment processing has largely remained a commodity and most legacy providers don’t meet the unique challenges posed within the restaurant industry. 

In the passwordless future, restaurant brands that offer a frictionless checkout will have a competitive advantage. Guests crave convenience as much as their favorite food items. Fortunately, you can give them both. 

Contact our team of restaurant experts to learn how Olo Pay’s Borderless checkout feature can help you meet the needs of today’s digital-first guests.

Photo by Anete Lusina at Pexels

Product
Jul 13, 2023
4
 min read

Get a breakdown of the four most significant product enhancements released by Olo in Q2—including how they work, why they matter, and who will benefit.

Summer Release

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Each quarter, Olo launches a wave of product enhancements to help restaurant brands provide guests with superior hospitality and do more with less. During this year’s Summer Release Event, we unveiled 10 new features across our three product suites: Order, Pay, and Engage.

Here’s a breakdown of our four most significant enhancements—how they work, why they matter, and who benefits.

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Card-Present Payments Via Kiosk

What it is: A fully branded, self-service kiosk that enables restaurants to accept card-present payments through Olo Pay

How it works: Kiosks will use Olo’s ordering API coupled with Olo Pay. 

Guests can order through a kiosk with a digital menu. To check out, they can insert, swipe, or tap to pay through an attached payment terminal, which will accept major credit and debit cards and digital wallets. Guests can then choose to receive a text with their projected wait time and another when their order is ready. 

All card-present reports will be accessible directly through the Olo Dashboard, making payment management easier and more efficient than ever.

Why it matters: Olo Pay now brings all payments—card-present and card-not-present—onto one unified platform for streamlined management. 

How restaurants benefit: By leveraging self-service kiosks with Olo Pay, brands can combat labor challenges, boost ticket size through machine learning, process more orders digitally, and gain a deeper understanding of guests’ behavior. This expansion into card-present payments also simplifies reconciliation, refunding, and voiding processes. 

How guests benefit: Self-service kiosks provide guests with a seamless and intuitive ordering and checkout experience that doesn’t require interaction with an employee.

Borderless/Loyalty Linking

What it is: Borderless integration with loyalty partners on Serve

How it works: Guests can sign in with their Borderless account or their loyalty account and reap the benefits of both. 

If they sign in with Borderless, guests can earn and use loyalty rewards with their order, as indicated on the checkout page. Alternatively, if they sign in to their loyalty account instead of Borderless, all of their payment, contact, and delivery information will already be saved on file so

they don’t have to re-enter it.

Why it matters: Previously, Borderless could be enabled alongside loyalty sign-in. This meant guests had to choose to sign in with Borderless or through their loyalty account. As a result, guests could only experience the benefits of one or the other. Now, they get the best of both worlds.

How restaurants benefit: Brands can offer an elevated and frictionless guest experience that boosts loyalty program participation and guest satisfaction.

How guests benefit: Guests can earn and redeem loyalty rewards while enjoying the passwordless login and accelerated checkout experience provided by Borderless. Additionally, guests who sign into their loyalty account can have their delivery address and payment details pre-filled from their Borderless account.

OrderReady AI

What it is: Machine-learning-based, predictive capacity management 

How it works: Our predictive quoting model ingests current capacity and detailed check data in real-time to generate highly accurate ready-time predictions for use in the ordering flow.

Why it matters: Restaurant brands need to quote accurate order-ready times to their guests and delivery service providers. Our models achieved a quoting accuracy improvement of 20% compared to legacy quoting logic.

How restaurants benefit: Brands can satisfy guest and partner expectations around timing, maintain food quality, and optimize restaurant operations. Additionally, this feature eliminates the need for manual inputs, guesswork, and ongoing management.

How guests benefit: Guests know exactly when to pick up their food so it’s fresh and they’ll spend less time waiting, which increases satisfaction.

Automated Guest Refunds in Dispatch

What it is: Automatic refund process in Dispatch for failed third-party deliveries

How it works: Olo will automatically refund the guest if the following criteria are satisfied: the guest never received their order, the delivery was canceled due to DSPOtherReason, or the DSP has refunded the brand for the delivery. 

Why it matters: The majority of refunds DSPs issue to brands are not passed through to the guest. Guests who are not reimbursed for canceled deliveries have a poor experience and are less likely to order from the same brand again. 

How restaurants benefit: This new feature reduces manual work for operators and helps recover guests by automatically issuing a refund if the guest never received their order and the DSP has provided a full credit to the restaurant.

How guests benefit: Guests are quickly refunded after failed third-party deliveries.

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Check out our quarterly release page for more information about these and other recent product enhancements.

Olo customers can reach out to their CSM to learn more about new features and how to take advantage of them. Not using Olo yet? Contact our team to start a conversation.

Insights
Jun 30, 2023
9
 min read

To stay competitive, restaurants need a strong online presence. Find out how to increase discoverability, sales, and long-term guest loyalty using your website, Google, and social media.

Restaurant Website Design, Restaurant Website Examples, Google Business for Restaurants, Social Media for Restaurants

To remain competitive in the restaurant industry, brands of all sizes and types need to have a strong online presence. A user-friendly website, optimized Google listings, and active social media accounts increase discoverability, drive sales, and help foster long-term guest loyalty.

Here are three ways to boost your restaurant’s visibility online and drive traffic to your website:

1. Prioritize Your Restaurant Website

When people want to learn about a new restaurant today—explore the menu, find nearby locations, view order options, etc.—they’ll often start by looking at the website. And first impressions are everything.

A well-executed website has the power to convert a window shopper into a paying guest, whereas a poorly designed one can quickly drive people away. Consider your website an extension of your restaurant brand. It should mirror the brand colors, messaging, and overall vibe of your brick-and-mortar locations so anyone (existing and new guests) can get a feel for what your business is all about.

When thinking about the design of your restaurant website, put yourself in your guest’s shoes. Carefully consider their end-to-end journey. How easy or difficult is it to find your website? View the menu? Place an order? And what is the experience like on a phone? The less friction, the more likely they’ll place an order, book a reservation, or share with their friends.

You’ll have an easier time attracting and retaining guests by ensuring your restaurant website has these important features:

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Key Elements Of An Effective Restaurant Website

  • Responsive (mobile-friendly) design
  • User-friendly navigation
  • High-quality imagery
  • Clear calls to action (CTAs)
  • Ability to order online, make a reservation, join the waitlist, or download your mobile app
  • Full restaurant menu
  • Attractive, cohesive branding
  • Accurate information (contact info, locations, hours, etc.)
  • Social media links
  • Ability to share feedback about the dining experience
  • Opt-in form for email and SMS marketing

Examples Of Well-Designed Restaurant Websites

‍Jamba

Jamba Juice Website Homepage

Kudos: Jamba’s website is fresh, fun, and brightly colored, just like the brand and its menu. The bold CTA buttons enable guests to quickly place a pickup or delivery order. Rewards and gift cards are also part of the main navigation for easy access. Upon scrolling, guests can download the app for a special offer, sign up for a subscription, or follow on social media.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

Jeni's Website Homepage

Kudos: Jeni’s website features a minimalist, on-brand design with mouthwatering imagery. The navigation is straightforward with a clear “shop now” CTA above the fold. You can easily place a delivery order from the home page, subscribe to the email list, follow on social media, and join the Pint Club.

BurgerFi

BurgerFi Website Homepage

Kudos: High-quality video on BurgerFi’s homepage brings the fresh ingredients to life. The eye is drawn to the bright green “Order Now” button and everything else you might need (menu, locations, rewards, etc.) is easy to find at the top. Further down the page, you can learn about the rewards program and delivery offerings.

Maggiano’s Little Italy

Maggiano's Website Homepage

Kudos: Maggiano’s puts reservations front and center on its home page with a built-in form. Guests can also place an order from a button in the top right corner. The main navigation is straightforward and makes important pages, like the menu, easily accessible. Upon scrolling, guests will find a special offer for downloading the restaurant app, plus information about catering and banquets.

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2. Optimize Your Restaurant’s Google Listings

One of the most common ways guests find places to eat today is by searching online—primarily using Google Search or Maps.

Google now owns 93% of search engine market share worldwide, and according to Google Trends data from the last five years, the search term “restaurants near me” recently reached peak popularity in July 2021.

Furthermore, a recent survey by Toast found that Google reviews (46%) was the most popular place for users to check restaurant ratings online, more popular than Yelp (23%), TripAdvisor (9%) and OpenTable (6%).

But don’t just take our word for it: Look at your guest data. When you review the sources of your online orders or cover count, how many came from Google?

You can easily increase your restaurant visibility, online orders, reservations, and more, by optimizing your Google Business listing, which is tied to your Google Maps listing. In other words, by meeting guests where they are.

But what exactly does optimize mean?

How To Optimize A Restaurant’s Google Business Listing

To rank high in Google Search results and appear in Google Maps when guests are searching for nearby restaurants, you first need to claim your Google Business profile. Be as detailed as possible when filling out your business listing. 

These details include:

  • Category (food type, services offered)
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Website
  • Email
  • Keyword-rich description
  • Menu
  • Business hours
  • Logo
  • Imagery

The three main factors Google considers when ranking local listings:

  1. Relevance: How relevant is your business listing to the search results?
  2. Distance: How far is your brand’s location from the searcher’s location?
  3. Prominence: How well-known is your brand in the offline and online communities?

The more accurate details you provide, the higher the click-through rate your listing will yield.

Leverage Order with Google

Did you know you can offer a seamless direct ordering experience from your Google Business Profile? By leveraging Order with Google, you can ensure guests who are using Google Search or Maps to locate similar restaurants or dishes in their area can easily find and order directly from your brand.

When guests use Order with Google, they see the same menu featured on your brand-owned channels and the orders are sent to your restaurant and processed just like website or app orders. By enabling guests to quickly place a direct digital order without leaving Google, you can eliminate friction in off-premise ordering, increase your online conversion rate, and open the door to new, incremental guests.

Most importantly, unlike third-party marketplaces, Order with Google gives you full ownership of your guest data so you can maximize lifetime value (GLV) and put those insights to work across departments.

You can also give guests the ability to “Reserve a Table” or Join the Waitlist”—right from your Google listing. The fewer hoops guests have to jump through, the better.

Google Business is an essential platform for restaurants to communicate directly with current and potential guests by posting announcements (events, seasonal offerings, safety precautions, etc.), answering questions in the Q&A section, and responding to reviews—good and bad.

With a fully optimized Google listing, you can:

  • Increase conversion (online orders, reservations and waitlist, etc.) by enabling guests to take action directly from the listing
  • Appear on Google Maps when people look for restaurants nearby
  • Enhance the guest experience by making it easier for guests to find information (menu, photos, reviews, answers, etc.) quickly
  • Engage with guests and build trust by responding to questions and reviews
  • Identify opportunities to improve service based on guest feedback and recover guests whose sentiment indicates they may be a churn risk
  • Set your brand apart from the competition

Example Of An Optimized Restaurant Google Listing

Uncle Julio's Restaurant Google Listing

Kudos: Uncle Julio’s has fully optimized Google Business listings and leverages Order with Google through Olo. Guests can easily view the menu and imagery, reserve a table, and order directly from the restaurant without ever leaving Google. Additionally, the brand engages with reviews, which boosts guest satisfaction and attracts potential guests.

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3. Establish A Strong Social Media Presence

According to a 2023 survey by PYMNTS, 37% of diners search for restaurant information by accessing content from a restaurant’s social media page. That share jumped to 42% for Gen Z and 46% for millennials.

Needless to say, social media is a critical avenue for finding and attracting new restaurant guests. But it’s not enough to post an occasional photo. Restaurants must outline specific goals for each platform (building brand awareness, engaging directly with guests, showcasing unique offerings, etc.) and spend time cultivating a community around their brand.

When you’re first getting your restaurant set up on social media, think of quality over quantity. Focus your efforts on two or three major platforms so you don’t spread yourself too thin. If you’re unsure which social channels are worth the investment, consider your current guest demographics, look at referral traffic sources in Google Analytics, and survey guests with high lifetime value.

Let’s say you discover your best guests spend a good chunk of their day on Instagram. Here’s how to make your profile (and your restaurant) attractive to new and existing guests on that platform.

Start by filling out all of your Instagram profile details:

  • Pick a username that accurately reflects your restaurant and is easy to remember
  • Use your restaurant logo for the profile photo
  • Add a link to your website
  • Write a keyword-rich description and include a branded hashtag
  • Set up a shop if you have merchandise
  • Add the option to order food if applicable
  • Add the option to send an email to the restaurant

Social Media Strategy for Restaurants

Next, create a content strategy for posting images on your feed. Here are some tips.

  • Establish a posting cadence by theme: Food, drinks, people, vibe, brand story, user-generated content, etc.
  • Determine what brand voice and tone you’ll use for your captions (playful, thought-provoking, punny, personable, etc.)
  • Identify opportunities to engage with followers by asking questions
  • Create a plan for posting consistently (e.g., at least five days per week, testing different times to measure engagement)
  • Stick to your brand color palette to ensure your feed is aesthetically pleasing (dark and alluring, neutrals, bright and fun, etc.)

In addition to posting images, take advantage of all of Instagram’s features, including Stories, Reels, and Live to get guests excited about your restaurant offerings. For example, post a smoothie tutorial, poll your followers, tell the origin story of your famous queso, or do a live Q&A with everyone’s favorite bartender.

Next, create Story Highlights that will live on your restaurant’s profile for all to see. Consider highlighting menu items, locations, user-generated content, a Q&A about a seasonal offering, and chef tips. 

Examples of Restaurant Brands Winning on Instagram

Instagram Inspiration for Restaurants

Row 1 from left: Sweetgreen showcases salad ingredients, Dunkin’ answers Qs about a seasonal drink, Starbucks outlines its commitment to sustainability, and 16 Handles reveals a new topping. Row 2 from left: First Watch unveils its spring menu, Din Tai Fung shows off its famous dumplings, Lazy Dog tells guests about free delivery, and Hawkers tells its brand story.

When it comes to curating your restaurant’s Instagram profile, consistency—from the overall look of your grid to the posting schedule—is key. In fact, 30% of millennial diners actively avoid restaurants with a weak Instagram presence.

Example Of An Optimized Restaurant Instagram Account

Milk Bar Instagram

Kudos: Milk Bar has a fully optimized Instagram account with high-quality imagery and video that showcase the brand’s signature, brightly colored desserts. The brand uses Story Highlights to further entice visitors and the detailed description invites guests to order, look for Milk Bar at local stores, or shop the feed.

While every social media platform has unique opportunities for optimizing a profile, start with these guidelines:

  • Ensure all profile details are filled out and updated as needed
  • Create a clear CTA to maximize conversions (i.e., Order Online or Reserve a Table)
  • Utilize relevant hashtags to increase discoverability
  • Use location-based tagging when possible to help people find your restaurant
  • Make it easy to contact you with questions or for more information
  • Ensure all images, videos, and messaging are on-brand
  • Seize the opportunity to interact with and learn from current and potential guests
  • Leverage user-generated content to build a community around your brand

Taking these steps on social media will grow your following, boost brand awareness, drive traffic/orders, give regulars an easy way to advocate for your business, enable new guests to find and engage with your brand, and provide an additional digital front door to your restaurant.

Don’t Miss Out on Digital-First Guests

The importance of a strong online presence for restaurants—and businesses in general—cannot be understated. New and existing guests need to be able to find and engage with your brand quickly and easily across platforms.

Your restaurant website, Google listing, and social media accounts—or lack thereof—could be the difference between earning a guest’s business and losing it to a competitor.

Contact our team of restaurant experts to find out how Olo can help your restaurant brand boost visibility, traffic, and sales, online.

Main photo by John Schnobrich at Unsplash

Insights
Jun 23, 2023
4
 min read

Find out why SMS marketing automation works for restaurants, learn campaign strategies, and get inspiration for your next campaign with three examples designed to drive engagement and sales.

SMS Marketing, Restaurant Marketing

As a follow-up to our post about why SMS marketing matters for restaurants, we’re diving deeper into why SMS marketing automations work, the anatomy of an effective campaign, and three examples any brand can use to drive engagement and sales.

The Power of SMS Marketing Automation

Automation might just be the best tool in the SMS marketing toolbox. Before we get into why, here’s a quick definition: SMS automations are marketing text messages that send automatically, triggered by guest behaviors.

For example, with help from a restaurant CRM, you can set up an automation to send right after a guest dines on-premise or places an online order, thanking them for their business and requesting feedback on the experience.

While mass SMS campaigns can drive results for specific goals, SMS automations have real advantages in driving predictable, sustainable results.

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Why SMS Marketing Automations Work for Restaurants

1. They are timely: Because they trigger automatically based on behavior, SMS automations arrive at the right time—whether reminding a guest who hasn’t visited for three weeks of a popular menu item or asking for feedback after an online order closes.‍

2. They are relevant: Message content is tailored to guest actions, increasing responsiveness and building a 1:1 relationship‍.

3. They are consistent: SMS automations don’t rely on a daily, manual marketing effort to be sent—they reach every guest, every time, over time‍.

4. They are targeted: Reaching a guest on their mobile device is, by far, the most personal method of communication.

5. They reach the intended recipient, guaranteed: SMS messages don’t get caught by filters, like email inboxes, and aren’t served alongside competitive ads (as is often the case on social media).

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Anatomy of an Effective SMS Marketing Automation

Despite the built-in power of SMS automations, the content must still be carefully crafted for opens, engagement, and returns.

  • Short, concise, natural copy: Texts should read like they’re coming from a friend.
  • Consistent brand voice: A good SMS campaign should reflect the same voice used on a brand’s website, email campaigns, and social media.
  • Personalized content: Using the recipient’s name is good, but a text that is relevant to the behavior that triggered it makes communications feel organic and personal.
  • Clear call to action: Make clear what you want guests to do when they receive your text and ensure that it aligns with the campaign's objectives.
  • Urgency: LTOs and VIP perks are go-tos, but exciting copy and creative engagement strategies can go a long way to create urgency without direct promos.

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Three SMS Marketing Examples for Restaurants

Once the brainstorming starts, use cases for automated SMS marketing campaigns are limitless. Get inspired and build on the basics of effective SMS campaigns with these examples:

Be the First to Access Special, Value-Add Content  

Campaign Goal: Reward opt-ins and build a 1:1 connection with guests

Trigger: New SMS opt-in from WiFi, website, etc.

SMS Content: Welcome text with exclusive value-added content

Ideas include:

  • Drink recipes that complement takeout offerings or cooking tips from the culinary team
  • A link to your brand’s playlist or to download a coloring sheet 
  • A special survey to provide input on upcoming menu additions 

If You Ordered This, You’ll Love That

Campaign Goal: Drive continued takeout menu exploration and guest frequency

Trigger: Guest ordered [menu item] but not [menu item] (a combo your brand knows drives repeat orders most often)

SMS Content: A simple reminder from a friend about menu items they love, and what they pair well with, is often enough to keep your brand top-of-mind come mealtime

Ideas include:

  • Are you craving an extra order of [menu item]? Asking for a friend. Don’t forget [menu item].
  • Did you know (fun fact about the menu item)?
  • It’s #MeatlessMonday/#TacoTuesday (or another trending food hashtag). Let’s celebrate with [menu item] and [menu item].

“Show this Text” for Perks (Bonus: Creates Urgency)

Campaign Goal: Boost online order frequency and average check

Trigger: Ordered [menu item] online

SMS Content: Incentivize guests with a special perk that’s redeemable when they order online (for a limited time)

Ideas include: 

  • A special incentive tied to a new menu item or a specific day-part lagging in sales (e.g. $5 off your next lunch order)
  • A perk that incentivizes guests to order bundled items that are popular with your most high-value guests (e.g., free __ when you order __)
  • A promotion tied to a new category of items you’re looking to drive a trial of (plant-based offerings, new family meal kits, etc.)

In summary, SMS automations not only save restaurant marketers time and streamline workflow, but they’re also more likely to create immediate and meaningful ROI for the business than most other channels. Leading brands are texting with their most engaged and loyal guests multiple times a week—building a 1:1 relationship by adding value with each message and creating urgency because every SMS is triggered by individual guest behaviors.

Check out Why Restaurant Email Marketing Drives Revenue and our three-part Guide to Restaurant Guest Acquisition for more restaurant marketing strategies.

Download the 2024 Restaurant Marketing Guide

Contact us to learn all the ways our Engage suite can help you automate and personalize your restaurant marketing communications.

Photo Credit Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

People
Jun 15, 2023
4
 min read

In honor of Pride Month, we’re shedding light on the Olo Pride ERG, how Olo supports LGBTQIA+ employees, and how some of our customers are celebrating in June and year-round.

Olo Pride, Pride Month, Restaurants Celebrating Pride Month

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Throughout her career in engineering, Rachael Axtman often felt isolated because of her gender and sexual identity.

It wasn’t until she joined Olo as a Technical Program Manager and got involved with employee resource groups (ERGs) that she felt fully open and free in her work life.

“ERGs made a huge difference for me,” said Rachael. “Connecting with coworkers who face similar struggles really made me feel safe, loved, and included.”

To pay it forward, she became a co-lead of the Olo Pride ERG with Anissa Comonte, Sr. Team Lead, Customer Support. Olo Pride seeks to provide a safe space for employees who identify as LGBTQIA+ and allies to discuss topics that advance the dialogue within the group, as well as the Olo team at large.

“Olo Pride serves as a platform for our community to have a voice and express ourselves,” said Rachael.

Together, she and Anissa aim to make every member feel seen—and educate the broader Olo community—by celebrating LGBTQIA+ holidays and shedding light on important issues such as pronoun usage and discriminatory legislation.

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How Olo Supports LGBTQIA+ During Pride Month and Beyond

Olo is committed to building a diverse, inclusive culture that promotes growth and equity for underrepresented groups, including LGBTQIA+. This includes hiring and focusing on the upward mobility of underrepresented groups across all levels and ensuring all employees feel a sense of belonging.

To show support for LGBTQIA+ employees and celebrate their diverse perspectives, Olo Pride hosts events throughout the year to engage members and allies across the organization. But Pride Month is a celebration like no other. 

Already this June, the group hosted a fireside chat and panel with the Olo Parents ERG, and they have several upcoming events—including a Vogue Class with Cesar Valentino, a Paint n’ Sip Night, a Letter Writing Event, a Pride Bakeoff, and a Walkathon Charity Pride Parade.

Fun events aside, true advocacy is a year-round effort. At Olo, we stand firm against hate and for the rights of all to live safely and without the fear of discrimination based on their gender identity, race, origin, religion, political views, generational differences, or sexual orientation. 

That’s why Olo signed the Business Statement on Anti-LGBTQ State Legislation, along with 324 other companies, stating our opposition to harmful legislation aimed at restricting the access of LGBTQIA+ people.

Additionally, in response to the 491 bills targeting LGBTQIA+ rights across the U.S. in 2023, Olo directed its Donor Advised Fund partner, Tides Foundation, to donate $10,000, split evenly between three organizations fighting anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation: ACLU of Mississippi, ACLU of Oklahoma, and ACLU of Tennessee.

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Restaurant Brands Celebrating Pride Month 2023

We’re proud to see many of our restaurant customers demonstrating similar support for the LGBTQIA+ community during Pride Month and year-round. Here are a few examples:

Noodles & Company

Noodles & Company brought back the Pride Crispy for its annual Pride Month celebration. For the third year, the brand is pledging to donate up to $30,000 to Out & Equal—an organization advocating for LGBTQIA+ workplace equality—with help from Pride Crispy sales in June. Noodles & Company stands in solidarity with the LGBTQIA+ community and, to date, has donated $45,000 to Out & Equal. 

Credit Noodles & Company

Snooze A.M. Eatery

As part of its “Everyone is welcome at our table” campaign, Snooze A.M. Eatery will donate 100% of sales (up to $25K) from its featured Pride Pancake in June to The Trevor Project to help in its mission to end suicide among LGBTQIA+ youth.  Additionally, Snooze will engage its employees in interactive inclusive education and ally training throughout June, and highlight employees on social media as they march in Pride parades throughout the country.

Credit Snooze A.M. Eatery

MOD Pizza

MOD Pizza serves pride—in its food, communities, and culture of belonging—year-round. This June, the brand will donate $0.20 for every Pride Cake sold at MOD Pizza (up to $50K) to the It Gets Better Project and its mission to uplift, empower, and connect LGBTQIA+ youth around the globe. 

Credit MOD Pizza

Insomnia Cookies

This month, Insomnia Cookies is donating $2 from every Pride 12-pack sold to Campus Pride, a national nonprofit for student leaders and campus groups working to create a safer college environment for LGBTQIA+ students. Guests can order a dozen Classic cookies of their choice, wrapped in a celebratory Pride box sleeve, and support the cause.

Credit Insomnia Cookies

Shake Shack

Throughout June, Shake Shack guests can customize any shake or frozen custard by adding sprinkles for $0.50. All sprinkle proceeds will go to PFLAG National, an organization dedicated to supporting, educating, and advocating for LGBTQIA+ people and their loved ones. Outside of the Sprinkled with Pride campaign, Shake Shack is committed to creating an inclusive and empowering culture. For multiple years in a row, the brand has earned a 100% score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index for its support of the LGBTQIA+ community in the workplace.

Credit Shake Shack

Eureka!

Eureka! Restaurant Group is serving up a Pride in Paradise Cocktail all month long in honor of Pride Month. The brand will donate $1 from every Pride in Paradise purchased to The Trevor Project.

Credit Eureka! Restaurant Group

Learn more about Olo’s DEI efforts, including the Olo Pride ERG, and apply for one of our open positions on our careers page.

Insights
Jun 8, 2023
4
 min read

Find out how restaurants can use first-party guest data to create personalized dining experiences that keep guests returning, spending more, and engaging with their brand in new ways.

Personalization, Restaurant Data

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Consumers have become so accustomed to personalized experiences that 91% of people are more likely to shop with brands that recognize, remember, and provide relevant offers and recommendations. While personalization has become table stakes for industries like e-commerce, it remains a competitive advantage within the restaurant industry.

Whether guests are dining on-premise or off, restaurant brands can make every guest feel like a regular by leveraging first-party data to tailor each touch point to their preferences, order history, visit frequency, preferred marketing channel, and more.

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It starts with building an integrated restaurant tech stack that seamlessly shares data (Hint: CRM and CDP are key components). Next, prioritizing direct digital ordering channels is essential because brands have complete ownership of their guest data and relationship.

For a detailed breakdown of how to maximize revenue and scale with direct digital ordering—plus practical tips for empowering guests to order direct—download our ebook: Everything You Need to Know About Direct Ordering.

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How Restaurants Can Use Data to Personalize the Guest Experience

Once a restaurant brand has begun collecting first-party guest data, the options for personalizing the guest experience are endless.

Here are a few examples that will help …

  • strengthen the relationship with guests via elevated hospitality
  • provide a seamless, end-to-end guest journey on- and off-premise
  • create memorable dining experiences that keep guests coming back, spending more, and engaging with the brand in new ways

Individualized Recommendations

No matter how a guest chooses to order—online, drive-thru, counter, kiosk, table, etc.—brands can make them feel valued and encourage them to try new menu items by offering individualized recommendations.

With visibility into a guest’s order history, brands can offer data-driven suggestions in-person or digitally to make the ordering experience seamless and enjoyable. This could include a guest’s favorite dish or new items that align with their dietary restrictions and preferred modifications.

 

Brands can further tailor the guest experience and increase conversion within the digital ordering flow by:

  • Putting the guest’s favorite items at the top for ease of reordering
  • Suggesting items based on their previous orders
  • Presenting relevant item pairings, such as a burger and a beer
  • Giving the guest easy access to their transaction history

1:1 Marketing

Targeted marketing campaigns are critical for driving guest acquisition and retention. Restaurant brands can (and should) use data to segment guests and create personalized offers and promotions to boost sales, visit frequency, and engagement.

For example, a Japanese restaurant could send a personalized email or SMS message to guests who typically order sushi on the weekend, offering a discount on their favorite roll the next time they order lunch Monday-Thursday. A few days later, the brand could launch a social media ad campaign targeting that same guest segment to motivate them to act on the exclusive offer (and keep the brand top of mind).

This type of 1:1 communication—based on insights like purchase behavior, order history, or dietary preferences—can turn one-time visitors into loyal brand advocates with high lifetime value (GLV) by making them feel seen and appreciated.

Download the 2024 Restaurant Marketing Guide

A Tailored Dining Experience

When guest data is easily accessible at every touch point, each team member—whether it’s their first day on the job or their 300th—can recognize regulars upon arrival and tailor every individual’s dining experience to their preferences and behavior.

By training staff to access guest profiles or notes before or during interactions, brands can make every guest feel like a regular. For example:

  • Inquiring if they’d like to start with the wedge salad again
  • Congratulating them on their progress toward a loyalty program milestone
  • Thanking them for their Google review
  • Acknowledging their child’s peanut allergy
  • Noting how the brand is making improvements based on their recent survey feedback

Surprise and Delight

Restaurants of all types can use guest profile data within the restaurant CRM, such as birthdays, anniversaries, or high school graduation, to surprise and delight guests. A special greeting, free dessert, or a small gift can leave a lasting impression.

On a typical day, brands can use data to anticipate the needs and preferences of guests before they arrive for a pickup order or reservation. In those instances, the surprise-and-delight moment could be putting a few extra packets of a guest’s favorite dipping sauce in their to-go bag, or ensuring a guest’s favorite cocktail is waiting for them at their reserved table.

No matter the occasion, this type of elevated hospitality can set a brand apart.

With Personalization, Everyone Wins

When restaurants start using data to personalize and streamline the dining experience, both guests and the brand will benefit. 

Guests will feel valued and well taken care of when their specific needs and preferences are anticipated and accommodated.

In turn, brands can expect this boost in guest satisfaction to positively impact sales, visit frequency, reviews, recommendations, guest lifetime value, and overall growth.

Contact our team to learn how Olo can help your brand harness first-party data and personalize the guest experience to maximize revenue.

People
Jun 1, 2023
3
 min read

Get to know our new EVP Customer, Denise Cox, and EVP Marketing, Shad Foos—including what they’re most excited about at Olo and how customers will benefit from their leadership.

Team Olo

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At Olo, we’re continuously investing in growth—within our company and in support of our customers' digital transformation. The newest additions to our leadership team, Denise Cox and Shad Foos, are evidence of that commitment.

Denise, our new EVP Customer, brings over 25 years of experience in high-tech customer leadership at Omnicell, Cisco, and NetApp. And Shad, our new EVP Marketing, has dedicated his career to building integrated marketing teams and driving brand strategy at B2B SaaS and B2C companies, including SMG.

We asked them both to share what attracted them to Olo, how customers will benefit from their leadership, and what they’re most excited about at the company and for the restaurant industry at large.

What attracted you to Olo? And this role, in particular?

Denise Cox: (1) Noah's vision of the Restaurant of the Future, (2) Olo's approach to customers as true partners—we are fully invested in the success of our customers, and (3) the excitement and support employees have around the Olo culture and the opportunity.

Shad Foos: I love to build and mentor teams, as well as stand up and evolve functions. Olo is an established brand and leader in the space but functions like a start-up. I love working in the restaurant space and consider Olo to be B2B2C, which plays to my combined strengths. Diego Panama (Chief Revenue Officer) and I share a vision for how we can take Olo into its next chapter of growth. Everyone I met through my recruiting, hiring, and onboarding journey confirmed I'm in the right place.

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What can Olo customers look forward to with you leading your department?

DC: Customer experience is a differentiator to maximizing the value customers receive from products, and ongoing service and delivery innovation are essential to Customer Success. Olo customers can look forward to me and my team being true trusted advisors. I am committed to being accessible and transparent in our partnership to ensure we help our customers work to achieve their desired business outcomes.

SF: As a cohesive Marketing function, we will help customers better understand how Olo’s evolving solutions work together, what their ideal digital journeys can and should look like, plus different ways to build more personalized, profitable relationships with guests. Additionally, there are significant opportunities to introduce Olo to new brands across categories and geographies.

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What are you most excited about at Olo—and for the restaurant industry at large?


DC:
I am excited for Olo to be the leader in enabling the restaurant industry to deliver exceptional guest experiences through the use of digital services that make each guest feel cared about.

SF: I'm looking forward to helping foster career growth across my team as we contribute in new ways to the growth of the business. I'm excited to package and position future products, establish an even more powerful brand, and generate content that ultimately helps our customers grow their businesses. When our customers are successful, we're successful. Let's go! 

To learn more about Olo and apply for one of our job openings, visit our careers page.

Insights
May 24, 2023
4
 min read

In the third and final installment of our Guide to Restaurant Guest Acquisition, we cover retention’s role in your acquisition strategy and offer tips for leveraging data to build a healthy guest base.

Marketing, Retention, Acquisition

Now that we’ve broken down the fundamentals of restaurant guest acquisition and shared some winning strategies to test, it’s time to shift focus to retention. 

Once you’ve found and attracted new guests, how do you build a healthy base with high lifetime value (GLV)? The answers are in your restaurant data.

As you start to analyze, consider these four important questions, which should serve as the basis for your guest retention strategy and inform future acquisition efforts.

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Four Questions To Ask When Analyzing Restaurant Data

1. Who have you acquired, when, and how?

2. How are your guests progressing through the guest lifecycle?

3. What characteristics do your guests share?

4. How can you influence behavior to mirror the actions of your most valuable guests?

To keep restaurant guests coming back, you first have to take the time to learn who they are, along with their preferences, motivations, and behaviors. Within your data, you can find out what initially drove guests to your business and why they keep coming back—or why they’ve stopped returning—by looking at things like location, visit frequency, average spend, the preferred method of ordering, time and day of visits, marketing engagement, feedback, acquisition campaign/channel, etc.

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Focusing Retention Efforts With Cohorts and Segments

Rather than attempt to boil the ocean regarding retention, some brands analyze their data by cohorts, or groups of guests acquired at the same time, to evaluate repeat purchasing, churn, spending, reliance on guest acquisition, and other trends over time. By doing so, they can uncover when exactly guests become brand-loyal and why, and create retention campaigns specifically designed to move them forward in the life cycle.

For example, you might discover once guests reach the four-visit mark, you’ve retained them for life. And so, the challenge then is figuring out how to move cohorts from one to two visits, two to three, and beyond.

Additionally (or alternatively), you can analyze your restaurant data by guest segments based on shared characteristics, such as guests with high GLV, website visitors, online orderers, on-premise guests, weekend warriors, Wi-Fi signups, catering orderers, and more. 

To ensure each segment becomes more valuable to your restaurant brand over time, you should be thinking about ways to influence their behavior in a positive way. For example:

  • Giving weekend warriors a reason to also visit during the week, like Happy Hour or live music
  • Encouraging email subscribers to sign up for SMS messaging for insider perks
  • Inviting dine-in guests to skip the line with QR code ordering or online ordering
  • Directing online orderers to download your user-friendly restaurant app for quicker service
  • Incentivizing churn risks to return with an enticing offer

Download the 2024 Restaurant Marketing Guide

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Tips For Building a Healthy Guest Base

To build a healthy guest base with high GLV, start with these 6 winning restaurant guest retention strategies. The article is filled with frameworks you can use to increase guest engagement, encourage reorders, solicit feedback, and keep your restaurant top of mind across channels.

Note no two cohorts or segments are exactly the same, so impersonal, mass communication isn’t going to cut it. Leading restaurant brands leverage data to retain guests by personalizing the experience at every touchpoint—from social ads and email marketing to interactions at the host stand or counter—based on individual behavior and preferences.

Ultimately, every restaurant brand is challenged with testing different retention strategies to find out what works for their guests. The best win-back campaign for your churn risks may be a free appetizer or a perfectly timed email with menu recommendations based on their order history.

By studying your data, you can identify cross-selling, bundling, or promotional opportunities you may not have previously considered, and use that intel to create irresistible campaigns to meet your goals.

Series Wrap-Up and Next Steps

As we close out this series, remember the best guest acquisition strategies are rooted in data generated by an integrated restaurant tech stack, utilize highly detailed segmentation, and take an omnichannel approach to find and attract the right people at the right time on their preferred platform. But guest acquisition doesn’t end with the first visit. 

To build a healthy guest base, restaurants need to regularly leverage their data to identify trends, monitor progression through the guest lifecycle, and develop retention strategies that meet individual needs and preferences as they evolve over time. Furthermore, by unlocking GLV and studying the behavior of high-value guests, brands can positively influence behavior and strengthen engagement across their entire base.

Learn more about Engage, our suite of restaurant marketing tools, and contact us today to find out how Olo can support your retention efforts.

Photo Credit: Taha Samet Arslan, Pexels

Insights
May 17, 2023
4
 min read

SMS marketing is no longer a nice-to-have for restaurants. Learn how to successfully leverage this marketing channel to engage guests with timely, personalized messages and, ultimately, drive revenue.

SMS Marketing, Restaurant Marketing

Effective restaurant marketing requires an omnichannel approach to engage guests. And SMS marketing automation—also known as text message marketing—has quickly proven itself to be a valuable tool in a marketer’s tool belt. 

Why? On average, SMS open rates are as high as 98% and replies are received within 90 seconds. 

Restaurant brands can use this marketing channel to target their most engaged guests on their mobile devices with timely, personalized messages that drive results. To help get you started, we’ve created a quick guide that covers the basics of SMS restaurant marketing, including why it works, rules to know, and ways to grow your audience.

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What is SMS Marketing?

SMS marketing stands for “Short Message Service” marketing, often referred to as text-message marketing. Prized by marketers for the immediate, direct connection with guests, the ability to customize and personalize messages, and the timeliness of outreach via SMS automation—it’s no surprise that SMS marketing is driving ROI in all industries.

Why SMS Marketing Matters for Restaurants

The restaurant industry, in particular, has an immediate need for timely, personalized guest communication as demand for off-premise dining and contactless service continues to grow. Restaurants are turning to technologies, like SMS marketing, to help them create a consistent, branded experience for both dine-in guests and online orderers.

The case for SMS marketing is clear, but a successful start depends on two crucial steps: Knowing the rules and driving opt-ins. 

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Step 1: Know the Rules

SMS Marketing Regulations 

Collecting guests’ phone numbers through marketing efforts doesn’t necessarily mean you have clearance to add those numbers to your SMS campaigns. The rules and regulations of SMS marketing are set by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and the CTIA. It’s important to read, understand, and comply with published regulations.

Get Clear Consent To Opt-In From Guests

Texting guests without their permission is an invasion of privacy and is against the law. To receive SMS marketing messages, guests must explicitly opt-in via mobile or web.

Transactional Messages Are Off-Limits To Solicit Opt-Ins

It’s not permitted to solicit opt-ins to SMS marketing via transaction-based text messages, such as online order updates or reservation confirmations.

So where CAN you solicit opt-ins? Read on to Step #2.

Additionally, new opt-ins must receive a confirmation text after sign-up, including purpose, a reminder that message/data rates may apply, opt-out instructions, and how to access help instructions. (For restaurants running SMS automation through Olo, this message flow is already set up to ensure compliance with regulations.)

Keep Guests Up-to-Date

Access to information about your SMS campaigns should be accessible via your website, in the restaurant, and on any pages where you collect opt-in guest data. 

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Step 2: Grow Your SMS Marketing Opt-in Audience 

Whether SMS automation is the first outreach tool you’re testing or simply the latest in your comprehensive restaurant marketing strategy, these three quick plays will drive opt-ins for any restaurant brand.

Drive SMS Marketing Opt-ins Via Web Forms

Include SMS opt-in fields on all of your guest-facing forms (e.g. waitlist, reservation, website sign-ups, guest WiFi, etc.) to quickly grow your marketable database.

Encourage Guests to Opt-in Using Short Code

‍Offer your guests an incentive to sign-up to receive SMS messages from your brand simply by texting a keyword to a short code.

Promote on Social Media, Email, and Offline

‍Remind guests and social followers of the benefits of being kept up-to-date with your restaurant brand via SMS marketing across all channels.

Start Communicating Directly With Guests

SMS marketing has emerged as one of the best and most reliable ways for any brand to connect with its guests. Its use is on the rise, and with good reason: when done correctly, it works. The response rate of SMS marketing is 45%, whereas the email response rate hovers around 6% (Gartner).

To continue learning about the power of restaurant marketing automation and different ways to execute omnichannel outreach, read Why Restaurant Email Marketing Drives Revenue [+ Winning Strategies].

Download the 2024 Restaurant Marketing Guide

Contact us to learn more about SMS marketing and how it can help deepen your brand’s relationship with guests.

Product
May 8, 2023
4
 min read

Our latest release, previewed at Beyond4, includes new ways to digitize in-store ordering and payment, enhanced order throttling, and the launch of Olo Connect.

Spring Release

Last quarter, we grew our product suite and enhanced our partner ecosystem to enable our customers to do more with less and make every guest feel like a regular. Scroll to learn about our all-new partner program and latest product enhancements—plus, how restaurant brands directly benefit.

Introducing our Spring Release:

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Olo Connect

Value-based partner program to accelerate innovation

Restaurant Benefit: Easily find the best solutions to scale your brand


Olo Connect is now live! Our new, tiered partner program was designed to help brands identify the best solutions to execute their goals and make it easier for developers to build on our platform. With support from over 300 technology partners, our ecosystem is an agile and flexible way for brands to adopt new and existing technology, without the hassle of building in-house or settling for a siloed technology stack.

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Open Check

Guests can order multiple times—with a single check

Restaurant Benefit: Higher check average and more guest data


With Open Check, guests can order at the table using their mobile device, order multiple times throughout their dining experience while keeping the check open, and pay from their device. The guest and the server can add menu items to the same check. All items ordered will show up on the guest's mobile device, allowing them to tip, make one final payment, and close the check—without waiting on a server.

Pay at Table

Guests pay and tip from their mobile device

Restaurant Benefit: Fewer table touches and more guest data


Guests can now order through a server, then pay and tip digitally by scanning a QR code with their mobile device. Pay at Table offers guests the traditional hospitality experience of interacting with a restaurant team member but eliminates the time spent waiting on the check after the meal. The server can then confirm the check is paid in the POS system. 

GDP for All

“Try Before You Buy” demo for our Guest Data Platform

Restaurant Benefit: Discover the possibilities with GDP—using your actual guest data


Olo Ordering customers can now experience the power of our Guest Data Platform firsthand. With our new “Try Before You Buy” demo you can view your brand’s unified guest profiles and timelines, segment creation and reporting, targeting and marketing use cases, and more to better understand how GDP enables you to collect, analyze, and act on your data.

Fraud Prevention

Additional risk signals and fraud reporting

Restaurant Benefit: More fraud reduction and visibility into blocked transactions


Olo Pay customers can now score and filter orders when deciding whether to approve a transaction, which improves targeting and identifying fraud patterns. In addition, fraud reporting insights provide more visibility into why specific orders are getting blocked.

Orders-in-Progress Throttling

Better kitchen capacity management

Restaurant Benefit: Manage kitchen throughput more precisely

Our new capacity management feature allows restaurants to cap the number of Olo orders that can be in progress at any given time. This enables brands to manage kitchen capacity beyond traditional methods such as orders-per-window and make-minutes-per-period.

Rails Self-Delivery

A new way to control the off-premise guest experience

Restaurant Benefit: Eliminate commission and delivery fees on large orders


Brands can now assign their own courier staff to self-deliver large, high-touch Rails orders, including catering. This flexibility enables you to maintain profitability and control the guest experience—communication, on-time delivery, placement, and set-up—when it matters most.

Fixed-Price Coupons

Simplified coupon creation

Restaurant Benefit: Increase orders and save time

Fixed-Price Coupons make implementing targeted discounts simpler than ever. Empower guests to order direct with compelling discounts that match on-premise offerings—without having to change menu pricing for all guests. Just set the special price for an item, group of items, or multiple categories of items; no manual calculations or complex workarounds are required.

Disable and Re-enable Ordering

Digital order management made easier

Restaurant Benefit: In a pinch, easily disable and re-enable online ordering


If there is an unanticipated surge in demand or an unfortunate kitchen malfunction, sometimes store operators need to temporarily disable incoming digital orders to provide a great guest experience. When those unexpected moments arise, authorized users can now easily disable and re-enable online ordering with just a few taps in Expo.

Onboarding

Real-time tracking and automated email notifications

Restaurant Benefit: Streamlined onboarding management


Managing onboarding is now more streamlined thanks to enhanced tracking via our new onboarding table and automated email notifications. The table displays real-time information for each store, allowing onboarding liaisons and franchisees to quickly view settings and see if critical information, like store hours, is missing. Onboarding email notifications let brands know when an update has occurred and eliminate the need for liaisons to constantly check tracker tables.

Looking Ahead

Ideas for new features come directly from listening to the needs of our customers. We’re proud to lead the industry’s efforts to optimize operations, drive revenue across channels, combat fraud, and harness the power of guest data, and will continue to innovate on behalf of restaurants in Q2 and beyond.

If you’re already an Olo customer, reach out to your Customer Success Manager to learn more about these features. If you’re not using Olo yet, contact our team to continue the conversation.

Insights
Apr 26, 2023
10
 min read

In the second installment of our Guide to Restaurant Guest Acquisition, we cover how to attract new, high-value guests through data-driven digital marketing campaigns—with real-world examples.

Restaurant Marketing, Restaurant Guest Acquisition

Quick recap: In the first installment of our Guide to Restaurant Guest Acquisition, we explained why knowing your current guests is critical for finding and attracting new, high-value guests. Additionally, we covered the three key elements to unlocking those insights: first-party data, a restaurant-specific CRM, and an integrated tech stack.

Now comes the fun part: Acting on that intel.

Using guest data and segments, restaurant brands can execute a strategic marketing plan that targets new guests who behave similarly to and share interests with their regulars and VIPs.

Start acquiring new guests today with these proven strategies:

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1. Advertise on Social Media

Social media advertising is a powerful tool for finding and attracting new restaurant guests on platforms that they use daily. Because organic reach is largely on the decline, social ads ensure your content is seen by the right people at the right time.

Consider which is more likely and effective: Stumbling upon a billboard for a new restaurant in your area or seeing a sponsored post about the grand opening in your Facebook Feed.

In addition to marketing to existing guests on social media—this is critical for retention and should be part of your overall marketing strategy—some brands target by persona (e.g. demographics, location, interests, age, etc.). This strategy may work for certain brands, but Lookalike Audiences can get you closer to your target market on Facebook and Instagram for less money.

In general, the more refined the audience, the lower the customer acquisition cost (CAC) a.k.a. the amount you have to spend to gain a new guest. To calculate CAC, divide your total marketing expenses by the number of new guests acquired. You can determine if you have a good CAC by looking at your check average. If guests are spending more than it costs to get them in the door, your acquisition strategy is on point.

The key to success, as you may have guessed, is leveraging first-party restaurant data.

How to Find New Restaurant Guests With Lookalike Audiences

Facebook defines Lookalike Audience as “a way to reach new people who are likely to be interested in your business because they're similar to your best existing customers.”

In other words, you choose a source audience—it could be your social followers or a list you upload, such as your email database, website visitors, online orderers, etc.—and Facebook then uses the common qualities of the people in it to target similar people.

Note: You’ll get the most bang for your buck by segmenting your guests first—by lifetime value (GLV) and other attributes that are known indicators of a high-value guest—and creating Lookalike Audiences based on those segments.

By targeting Lookalike Audiences, you can reach potential guests who are likely to patronize your restaurant, and may or may not have heard of it before, with relevant messaging that motivates them to take immediate action (e.g. order online or follow to learn more).

Campaign Ideas for Targeting Restaurant Lookalike Audiences

Segment: Guests who visit more than 3x per month

Promote a new location by targeting people within a set geographic location who have behaviors and interests like your loyal fans in other markets.

Segment: Guests who have booked events or placed large catering orders

Showcase your catering offerings leading up to a big game to people who would likely do the same if they knew about your restaurant.

Segment: Most valuable guests (10+ visits, high check average)

Promote a menu item that high-GLV guests order and target people who behave similarly to and share interests with your MVPs.

Tips for Creating Social Media Ads for Restaurants

Today the average American is exposed to 6K-10K ads per day. To stand out, your ad needs to be relevant to your audience and feature eye-catching visuals, compelling copy in your brand voice, and a strong call to action (CTA). Otherwise, your ad will become white noise or turn guests away.

Examples of Effective Restaurant Social Media Ads

This El Pollo Loco ad is part of the brand’s #NoNakedChips campaign, a fun (and funny) way to present its new Double Loaded Nachos. It features an eye-catching photo, an appetizing description, a catchy hashtag, a memorable punchline, and, most importantly an Order Now button, so users can order directly from the ad.

This First Watch ad targets guests located near its new restaurant location to boost brand awareness and generate excitement for the grand opening. The ad also drives email sign-ups by encouraging people to become a "pre-opening VIP." 

This Great American Cookies ad promotes new Pumpkin Spice Cookies. It creates a sense of urgency with a Shop Now button and succinctly explains that users can order online and have cookies delivered with free shipping. 

With a data-driven social advertising campaign that leverages Lookalike Audiences, restaurants can lower their CAC and increase ROI.

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2. Launch a Google Ads Campaign

According to Google, there are over one billion restaurant searches every month, and “food near me” is one of the fastest-growing search terms. Needless to say, Google advertising represents a huge (largely untapped) opportunity for restaurants to get in front of new guests searching for places to eat.

These Google Ad types can maximize your restaurant’s exposure: Search (text ads at the top of Google search results), Display (image ads on websites), and Video (YouTube ads). 

All Google Ads can feature general messaging or promote seasonal offerings, events, catering, and more. They can even run during certain times of the day, like 10 a.m.-1 p.m. for the lunchtime rush or 3 p.m.-7 p.m. on date night, based on your current guests’ behavior.

How Restaurants Can Use Google Search Ads

  • Rank above your competitors (e.g. Someone searches for your competitor and sees your ad above the link to their website)
  • Target people searching for restaurants in your area (e.g. 10-mile radius of the restaurant)
  • Bid on relevant keywords (e.g. “Italian restaurant Syracuse” or “Smoothie near me”) that potential guests are using in their search

Example of an Effective Google Search Ad

This Sprinkles Google Search Ad features a keyword-rich description that includes brand differentiators. Most importantly, users can easily order for pickup or nationwide delivery by clicking on the Google Ad extensions (webpage links) like “Order Today.”

How Restaurants Can Use Google Display Ads

  • Catch the attention of potential guests with a compelling, on-brand visual
  • Showcase your menu items and differentiators to users as they surf the web
  • Promote your offerings on websites that focus on specific, related topics or keywords (e.g. A chicken wings ad on a fantasy football website before game day).

Example of an Effective Google Display Ad

This P.F. Chang's display ad is eye-catching and direct. It invites guests to order lunch by clicking the ad and features an irresistible tagline and image.

How Restaurants Can Use Video Ads

  • Show off your menu and seasonal offerings to users who are searching for relevant keywords on YouTube or who are subscribed to certain channels (e.g. Eater, Food Insider, Bon Appétit, etc.)
  • Take guests behind the scenes of your restaurant (e.g. cooking tutorials, meet the team, tour the kitchen, see the farm where the food originates, etc.)
  • Viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video vs. 10% when they read it, so YouTube ads can ensure that your restaurant messaging is internalized

Examples of Effective Video Ads

This retro-style Lazy Dog Video Ad shines the spotlight on the restaurant’s new TV Dinners while evoking feelings of nostalgia. It’s short, sweet, informative, and leaves a lasting impression.

This Sonny’s BBQ Video Ad is fun and relatable and speaks to the desire to reconnect with friends and family during the pandemic. The ad shows off some menu offerings, while also appealing to our emotions.

With Google Ads, restaurants can:

  • Increase online orders, phone orders, waitlist signups, and reservations
  • Boost website traffic, phone calls, and foot traffic
  • Extend your restaurant’s reach far beyond what your brick-and-mortar location and online listings can
  • Generate brand awareness among locals and visitors
  • Re-engage guests who haven’t visited in a while

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3. Retarget Website and Social Media Visitors

If you’ve ever left a website without buying anything and then seen an ad for that company appear on your social feed or within your search results shortly thereafter, you’ve experienced retargeting. 

With retargeting, brands can invite consumers back after they’ve visited their website or social page through hyper-relevant ads that follow the user as they browse the Internet. Given that these people have already expressed an interest in your brand, it’s easier and more cost-effective to advertise to them than to a non-retargeting audience.

How To Set Up Website Retargeting For Your Restaurant

To advertise to your website visitors with Google Ads, you’ll need to add a code snippet to your website: the global site tag and the optional event snippet. This will capture information about your visitors—pages viewed and actions taken—to create remarketing lists. For instructions, go here. Alternatively, you can enable remarketing with Google Analytics.

Once your website is tracking properly, it’s time to set up an audience source for your remarketing list in Google Ads. Your goals will determine who belongs on your remarketing lists. For example:

  • Visitors of a page (e.g. Viewed catering options)
  • Visitors of a page who did not visit another page (e.g. Viewed menu, but didn’t order)
  • Visitors of a page during specific dates (e.g. Father’s Day weekend)
  • Website visitors in the last 60 days

When you’re ready to launch your Google Ad, you’ll narrow your audience targeting to remarketing and select the appropriate list. For a breakdown of the setup process, check out this blog post.

Just imagine how powerful this kind of retargeting campaign would be if it were paired with a stellar automated email and SMS marketing strategy—now you’re thinking like a world-class restaurant marketer.

Facebook Retargeting For Restaurants

Facebook retargeting is another way to find people who have expressed interest in your restaurant—by visiting your website or engaging with your brand on social media—and make it easier for them to place an order.

To get started with Facebook retargeting, you’ll need to install a Facebook pixel—a small snippet of code—onto your website. This code lets Facebook track your guests and their actions on your site and social media. After you install the pixel, you can set up events to measure essential actions, like placing an online order.

Next, it’s time to create a Custom Audience on Facebook based on those actions, such as people who started an online order but didn’t checkout. Once your Custom Audience is built, you can create a campaign for your specific objective.

The Key To An Irresistible Restaurant Retargeting Campaign

Whether you use Google and/or Facebook, the key to driving conversions with retargeting is to create ads that are hyper-relevant to your audience and have a clear objective. If, for example, you’re retargeting people who visited your seasonal milkshake landing page last month, consider appealing to their sweet tooth.

There should be no guesswork involved when it comes to the CTA. Want someone to reorder or make a reservation? Make it abundantly clear and easy for them to follow through.

Examples of Effective Retargeting Ads

  • Showcase popular menu items to people who engaged with your Instagram posts or ads in the last 30 days.
  • Highlight a 5-star review in an ad that retargets your segment of guests who have passed their average frequency (a.k.a. Churn Risks).
  • Gently remind people who abandoned an online order with messaging like: “Ready to order? Complete your purchase.”

This Facebook retargeting ad from Panda Express promotes a family meal deal and gives guests the ability to Order Now from the ad. The copy and imagery are warm, inviting, and informative.

Athena Grill retargeting ads

This is a Google Ad retargeting campaign for Athena Grill (a fictional restaurant created by Olo), which would retarget the restaurant’s website and social media visitors. It’s consistent in messaging, and branding, and has a clear CTA: Order Now.

Final Thoughts

No matter what strategy—or combination of strategies—you choose, remember that guest acquisition, just like restaurant marketing in general, is an iterative process. What works for your competitor may not work for your brand.

Expect to test different tactics and guest segments until you figure out what drives the most results. Keep an eye on impressions, clicks, cost, conversions, etc., and adjust accordingly.

Once you’ve found the sweet spot—the right platform, content that resonates, and high engagement—you’ll see your CAC drop. But don’t stop there. Keep your ads fresh so that they remain effective.

And, use your restaurant data as a guide. Top brands leverage guest data to reach consumers at just the right time, on their preferred channel, with relevant, personalized messaging based on their behavior.

Next up: The final installment of our Guide to Restaurant Guest Acquisition, in which we cover the importance of retention and outline ways to enhance the guest experience to drive long-term loyalty.

Download Olo's 2024 Restaurant Marketing Guide

Learn more about our marketing suite and contact us today to find out how Olo can help you attract new, high-value guests via targeted digital marketing campaigns.

Main photo credit: Vince Fleming

People
Apr 19, 2023
4
 min read

In honor of Earth Month, the Olo Green ERG leads share how restaurant brands can be more sustainable, plus 20 easy things we can all do to help the planet.

Restaurant Sustainability Tips, Olo Green, Earth Month

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At Olo, we believe the future of digital hospitality is sustainable. We’re committed to shaping its evolution by aligning our products, resources, and employees to drive positive change and create a more sustainable future.

On a macro level, our ESG work includes reducing our company’s carbon footprint and identifying opportunities to lessen the environmental impact in our value chain by way of our platform. Additionally, Olo For Good supports nonprofits aligned with our mission and values, including protecting natural resources and reducing waste and emissions.

On a micro level, Olo Green, one of our employee resource groups (ERGs), promotes environmental awareness and empowers Oloites to have an eco-conscious mindset in their daily lives. And Olo’s Volunteer Time Off (VTO) Policy encourages Oloites to contribute up to eight, paid hours per calendar year with eligible organizations of their choosing in their local communities. 

In honor of Earth Month, we asked the Olo Green leads—Alex Ray, Customer Support Training Team Lead, and Camille Stone, Customer Support Onboarding Specialist—to share a few ways that restaurant brands and we, as individuals, can be better stewards of the environment.

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How Restaurants Can Be More Sustainable

There are countless ways that restaurant brands can reduce their environmental impact, including managing food waste and consumer packaging waste. And as a technology partner for the industry, we recognize that the touch points of our platform can lend themselves to enabling these types of waste reductions.

For example, we responded to California regulatory developments on single-use plasticware in 2021 by rolling out a menu feature that allows brands to require guests to opt-in for single-use utensils and condiments.

Here are some additional ways that restaurant brands can be more sustainable this Earth Month and year-round:

  1. Replace standard light bulbs with LEDs or smart bulbs where possible.
  2. Offer rewards programs or discounts for using refillable cups or containers. For instance, at Starbucks, you can get $0.10 off your coffee and 25 stars if you’re a Rewards member by bringing a clean, reusable mug/cup.
  3. If you manage your own delivery fleet, consider order batching so one delivery person can fulfill multiple orders in a single trip.
  4. Use digital menus and/or QR code ordering to cut down on paper.
  5. Donate leftover ingredients and uneaten food to soup kitchens, food banks, homeless shelters, and religious organizations. Panera, for example, donates unsold baked goods to local nonprofits each night.
  6. Use local, seasonal products and/or grow your own produce.
  7. Set the temperature on your A/C one degree higher. According to the World Economic Forum, the direct and indirect emissions from room A/Cs alone could contribute to as much as a 0.5 degree Celsius increase in global warming by the year 2100.
  8. Add meatless options to the menu to protect the environment from damage caused by livestock farming and fishing practices.
  9. Choose compostable to-go containers, napkins, coffee cups, and disposable cutlery.
  10. Upgrade to eco-friendly equipment and appliances to save water and energy.

Olo employees, Ben Vaccaro and Jeremy Elson, at a trail cleanup.

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20 Easy Ways We Can All Show Earth Some Love

Ultimately, it’s up to all of us to protect the environment. While the issues facing our planet can feel overwhelming at times, if we each do our part and make more eco-friendly choices each day, we can make a real difference. Here are just a few examples:

  1. Recycle to keep useful materials out of landfills, conserve energy, and protect natural resources.
  2. Bring a bag and a grabber to pick up trash on neighborhood walks.
  3. Upcycle. In other words, take something old and create something new, increasing the original object’s value. For instance, propagate plants using empty yogurt containers. Here are some more ideas.
  4. Volunteer with a local environmental organization, organize a DIY cleanup at a local park or trail or plant a tree in your community.
  5. Buy second-hand goods at thrift stores instead of new garments, toys, and other items to reduce energy consumption, landfill waste, and air pollution.
  6. Reduce single-use plastic. Skip the plastic straw, drink out of a reusable water bottle, bring reusable grocery bags, etc.
  7. Open a window instead of using the A/C or raise the temperature on your A/C by one degree to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  8. Turn off your computer when not in use.
  9. Donate to an environmental organization, such as:
    - Appalachian Trail Conservancy
    - Natural Resources Defense Council
    - Clean Air Task Force
  10. Eat more plant-based meals. According to the Stanford Report, ​​if everyone in the U.S. ate no meat or cheese just one day a week, it would have the same environmental impact as taking 7.6 million cars off the road.
  11. Remove local invasive species from your garden and propagate native plants.
  12. Eat local, seasonal fruits and vegetables. The further food has to travel, the more energy is required to transport, refrigerate, store, and package it to keep it fresh.
  13.  Purchase minimal-waste products. For example, shop bulk bins for things like beans and spices at the grocery store instead of buying small glass or plastic containers.
  14. Check the library for things you will only use once. Most libraries rent accessories, small appliances, activity kits, and more.
  15. Compost at home. Get started in 5 steps.
  16. Drive less to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save money. Remote work can help. (Did you know 75% of Oloites work remotely across the U.S.?)
  17. Cancel inactive subscriptions and accounts to reduce your carbon footprint.
  18. Purchase reusable products, such as rechargeable batteries, paper towels, face wipes, etc.
  19. Reduce food waste by only shopping for what you’ll actually eat, getting creative with leftovers, and freezing excess food.
  20.  Hang-dry clothes instead of using the dryer.

Learn more about Olo’s ESG efforts, get to know our employee resource groups (ERGs), and help us create a more sustainable future.

Photo Credits: (Main Image) Ambitious Studio - Rick Barrett; (Second Image) Ben Vaccaro and Jeremy Elson

Product
Apr 12, 2023
4
 min read

The right tech stack will enable a restaurant brand to operate more efficiently, drive guest lifetime value, maximize revenue, and scale—but integrations are key to success. Find out why.

Restaurant Tech Stack, Restaurant System Integration, Restaurant Data

The right tech stack will enable a restaurant brand to operate more efficiently, drive guest lifetime value (LTV), maximize revenue, and scale. The key to success—and the biggest hurdle—is twofold:

  • Identifying which solutions will meet your brand’s unique needs today and set you up for success as you grow
  • Ensuring that your systems are fully integrated

When faced with the dizzying array of restaurant technologies available today, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. For every restaurant pain point, there is a product (or 10) to address it—from back-of-house to front-of-house, off-premise, and everything in between. 

And therein lies the problem: fragmented point solutions. In other words, restaurant systems that don’t talk to one another.

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The Impact of Data Silos on Restaurants’ Digital Transformation

Data silos are single databases, repositories, or systems that are not interconnected, making data hard to access and analyze. And they are one of the most significant obstacles in the restaurant industry’s digital transformation.

In some cases, restaurant data is stuck in legacy systems that do not provide a way to export it. In others, the vendor blocks access to your guest data altogether. Even if brands can access their data, few teams have the time or technology to stitch it together.

When data isn’t shared between restaurant systems, brands aren’t getting a comprehensive view of the guest journey (e.g. purchase behavior, visit frequency, dietary restrictions, communication preferences, etc.). And they can’t leverage that intel across departments to make smarter business decisions.

Think of it this way: How valuable is a loyalty program if it’s not directly integrated into your online ordering platform? And how can you effectively retain dine-in guests if your POS doesn’t communicate with your restaurant CRM?

Banner image promoting new buyer's guide to future-proofing your restaurant tech stack and a button to get the guide

How Restaurant Tech Integrations Work

Restaurant systems can communicate with one another via direct or indirect integrations.

 

With direct integrations, your restaurant systems connect via common protocols like REST APIs or Webhooks. For example, Olo’s APIs not only ingest restaurant data but also facilitate the flow of data to the brand’s desired destination (e.g. marketing platform, business insights tools, data warehouses, etc.) to power business decisions.

You can think of webhooks as outbound, event notifications that contain payloads of helpful data. For instance, when an online order is placed, Olo can send a notification with information about that order to the restaurant brand’s desired destination.

Alternatively, indirect integrations use third-party software as middleware to enable two systems to connect. Our Omnivore API, for instance, provides indirect connectivity to POS systems.

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The Benefits of an Integrated Restaurant Tech Stack

With a fully integrated restaurant technology stack, brands can optimize operations and enhance the guest experience to drive more revenue. Here are just a few examples:

  • Track inventory so that your online ordering menu accurately reflects what items are available at all times
  • Streamline communication between front-of-house staff and the kitchen to improve meal timing, reduce waste, and manage guest expectations
  • Create behavior-based guest segments and send them personalized marketing communications to increase visit frequency and check size
  • Ensure your restaurant is properly staffed at peak times
  • Identify which guests have high lifetime value (recency, frequency, and spending) and ensure they get VIP treatment every time they dine-in
  • Reward loyalty members whether they engage with your brand in-restaurant or off-premise 
  • Leverage your 360-degree view of guest behavior and preferences to acquire new guests who share those attributes and identify strategic real estate sites for your new locations
  • View all present and future parties from a single screen at the host stand, with real-time table status updates tied to the POS
  • See and respond to guest feedback from multiple sources (surveys, Google reviews, social media, etc.) in one place—alongside guest profile context from the restaurant CRM—and analyze trends

Without having to manually reenter data into each system, restaurant brands can reduce training, stress, and human error. And when staff can shift their focus to making every guest feel like a regular, everyone wins.

Watch our NRN Webinar

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Ways to Ensure Interoperability

Implementing any new restaurant software or hardware is a big undertaking, so before you do, be sure to thoroughly vet the solution. There’s nothing worse than rolling out a new system only to find out that it doesn’t play nicely with others.

At Olo, we help our customers build integrated tech stacks by remaining a neutral, open platform and offering one of the largest restaurant tech ecosystems on the market. Our partner ecosystem is an agile and flexible way for Olo brands to adopt new and existing technologies, without the hassle of building in-house or settling for data silos.

In addition to consulting brands on best practices for building an integrated tech stack, we just launched Olo Connect, a value-based partner program designed to help restaurant brands navigate the increasingly crowded restaurant tech space. 

Each of our Olo Connect Partners offers industry-leading integration and has demonstrated excellence on our platform. Qualifications include tenure on the Olo platform, the number of brands and locations currently supported, and proven customer satisfaction.

Final Thoughts

Remember: A future-proof restaurant technology stack is made up of systems that seamlessly share data. With proper integrations, brands can operate more efficiently, deliver an enhanced guest experience that maximizes LTV, make smarter business decisions, and drive revenue. 

If you’re unsure whether or not two systems work together, ask the tough questions. And don’t be afraid to lean on your trusted technology partners for guidance.

Visit our Partner Directory to learn about our 300+ technology partners and Olo Connect, our new opt-in Partner Program. Contact us today for a restaurant tech stack consultation or to join Olo Connect.

Insights
Apr 5, 2023
5
 min read

In the first installment of our three-part Guide to Restaurant Guest Acquisition, we explain why first-party data, a restaurant CRM, and an integrated tech stack are key to finding and attracting high-value guests.

Restaurant Guest Acquisition, Restaurant Data, Restaurant Marketing, Restaurant CRM, Guest Segmentation

One of the biggest priorities for restaurant marketers is driving a consistent stream of people in the door, to the counter, curbside, etc. In other words, guest acquisition: the process of bringing new guests to your business.

Traditionally, guest acquisition in the restaurant industry centered around mass communication (i.e. limited-time offers, newspaper and radio ads, and out-of-home advertising). But just as a restaurant manager would never shout to everyone in the dining room to find out if they’re enjoying their meal, mass communication tactics are impersonal and difficult to measure in terms of effectiveness.

There’s a better way to acquire new restaurant guests. 

The first step: Knowing exactly who your current guests are—beyond demographics.

In this three-part blog series, we’ll walk you through the fundamentals of restaurant guest acquisition, so you can level up your marketing plan and, ultimately, drive revenue.

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Getting To Know Your Guests—Beyond Demographics

Chances are your restaurant brand already has some sort of guest acquisition strategy in place, but unless you fully understand your current base, you’re likely wasting marketing dollars on attracting low lifetime value (LTV) or even one-time-only guests (e.g. people only motivated by discounts) and the ability to optimize your approach is limited.

So, what does it mean to truly know your guests? We’re not just talking about surface-level demographics like age and location, or even contact information. Restaurants should have all of the following intel and more about each guest at their disposal:

Dates

  • Recency: Time of Last Visit, Last Check, Last Online Order
  • Visit Trends: Last Waitlist Time, Reservation Time, Wi-Fi Sign-Up
  • Engagement: Last Email or SMS Clicked or Opened

Details

  • Personal Info: Name, Email, Zip Code, Anniversary, Birthday
  • Frequency: Number of Visits, Time of First Visit, Lifetime Frequency
  • Average Spend: Check Averages, Tips, Online Order Totals
  • Order Data: Ordered Items, Online Order Source

Location

  • Restaurant Details: Preferred Location, Last Location Visited

But how do you get all of that information? The secret to unlocking these valuable insights is first-party data, a restaurant-specific CRM, and an integrated tech stack.

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What Is First-Party Data and Why Do Restaurants Need It?

First-party data is information that a company collects directly from its guests and owns. This includes all the ways a guest engages with a restaurant brand online, including orders, reservations/waitlist, comment forms, email sign-up, e-commerce, app usage, social media, surveys, and more.

Restaurant software like Olo takes that first-party data a step further by enriching it with sources such as your POS, pay-at-the-table solution, and payment platform, through tech integration.

More than ever, restaurants need first-party data to gain a clear understanding of their guests across the entire guest journey and more effectively tailor the experience to each individual. Remember: If you don’t know how your guests behave, you can’t influence their future behavior.

And yet, some tech vendors either don’t give restaurants ownership of their data or limit their ability to access and use it. The best way to find out who truly owns your data (and, ultimately, your guest relationship) is to dig in and ask the tough questions. 

For example, when you pull a covers or online orders report, can you tell exactly how many originated from a source like Google or found your website directly? What about the number of guests who have visited/ordered once, twice, or don’t dine as often as they used to? And, if you can get access to all of your data, can you act on it?

If the answer to any of these types of questions is no, it’s time to reevaluate your restaurant tech stack.

Unlock Guest Insights with a Restaurant CRM

A restaurant CRM (Customer Relationship Management solution) like Olo’s stitches together data from your POS, reservation system, online ordering solution, and other restaurant-specific integrations into a single, unified guest profile—and makes it actionable.

This 360-degree view of each guest enables you to better understand their behavior and preferences, which, in turn, leads to more effective omnichannel communications, real-time personalization across guest touchpoints, hyper-relevant promotions, and revenue optimization.

Note that a standard, run-of-the-mill CRM may be limited in terms of its integration capabilities with your existing restaurant tech stack and what actions you can take to engage guests.

The Importance of an Integrated Restaurant Tech Stack

When it comes to getting to know your guests, the ability to collect and then access data is equally as important as having a restaurant tech stack built with systems that talk to one another. For example, do your POS, payment solution, Wi-Fi, CRM, reservation system (if you’re full-service), and online ordering solution share data? If not, you’re only getting part of the story of the guest journey. 

To gain this comprehensive understanding of each guest, including their purchasing behavior, preferences, and long-term value to the business, you need to eliminate data silos.

So, before implementing any new systems, ensure that they integrate with your existing tech stack or take the necessary steps to do so.

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Restaurant Data Analysis and Guest Segmentation

With integrated first-party data and a restaurant CRM, brands can analyze the guest journey across platforms and find out where and when guests spend money, what they spend it on, which channels they use to connect with the brand, their opinion of the dining experience, and their lifetime frequency.

In addition, restaurants can use the process of guest segmentation to identify which guests are most valuable long-term. Guest segmentation is the act of categorizing guests based on shared characteristics or behaviors, so businesses can effectively market and cater to the needs of each group.

Restaurant brands might choose to segment guests based on things like:

  • Lifetime Value (LTV): Visited more than 10 times, ordered within the last month, and check average is over $50
  • High Probability for Reorder: Clicked an email on a Tuesday, and ordered tacos online after 3 p.m. two weeks ago
  • Opportunities to Treat VIPs: Number of visits is greater than 20, regularly orders dessert, and anniversary month is August
  • High Churn Risk: Last visit was over 90 days ago and number of visits is greater than 10
  • Big Spenders: Check average is over $100

Related: Jumpstart Your Restaurant Marketing Plan With These 5 Guest Segments

Now, how can we use all of this data and these segments to power a guest acquisition strategy?

Next Steps

In the second installment of our Guide to Restaurant Guest Acquisition, we cover a variety of ways to turn guest insights and segments into a data-driven, omnichannel marketing plan that resonates with your target market. Dive in for proven strategies to help you find and attract new, high-value guests that mirror the interests and behaviors of your regulars and VIPs.

And finally, read the third and final installment of our Guide to learn about the role retention should play in your acquisition strategy, plus get tips for leveraging data to build a healthy guest base.

Download the 2024 Restaurant Marketing Guide

Learn more about our restaurant CRM and contact us today to find out how Olo can help you better understand your current base and attract new, high-value guests.

Photo by Mart Production from Pexels

Insights
Mar 29, 2023
5
 min read

Leading restaurant brands are personalizing the guest experience to maximize lifetime value. Learn what GLV is, why it matters, and how restaurants can drive it.

Lifetime Value, GLV

Historically, restaurant leaders won by driving transactions—keeping tabs on cover counts and obsessing over same-store sales. Winning didn’t require that you knew who was dining with you, why, or how often. Some team members knew the guests, but that information didn’t get disseminated to all parts of the business. From a practical perspective, guest data often lives with specific team members, but isn’t brought into finance, marketing, culinary, labor, or real estate decisions.

There has been a fundamental shift in the restaurant industry brought on by changing consumer preferences for personalization (think individualized recommendations from Netflix, Amazon, DoorDash, and Instagram) and the pandemic driving tech adoption everywhere. Winning restaurant brands in every category are personalizing the guest experience to maximize lifetime value.

Before we dive into why and how, it’s important to have a basic understanding of guest lifetime value, also known as GLV.

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What is Guest Lifetime Value (GLV)?

Guest lifetime value is the estimated profit generated from each individual guest from the first visit through the last. In other words, it’s how valuable a guest is to your business, not just on a transaction basis, but with regard to their recency, frequency, and monetary spend across the entire relationship.

Note: “Lifetime” does not refer to the person’s actual lifespan. No “til death do us part” metrics here.

Download the Guest Lifetime Value ebook

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Why GLV is Essential for Restaurants

Restaurant brands must now harness and act on guest data to remain competitive. In fact, restaurant industry analysts and investors are increasingly considering guest-level economics over same-store sales data.

Given the accelerated adoption of data-driven technology across the restaurant industry, it’s safe to say that any brand that doesn't prioritize GLV is now at risk.

Whether you recognized it or not, this shift did not happen overnight. E-commerce and entertainment giants like Amazon, Netflix, and Disney have been maximizing GLV for years with highly personalized user experiences—a process mirrored perhaps more obviously on social media and through digital advertising. As a result, we as consumers have come to expect things like email campaigns tailored to our unique interests, promotions triggered by our recent purchases, and recommendations based on our viewing history.

The restaurant industry is lagging behind on this front, largely because of legacy POS systems, consumer networks that “own” the guest data, and other fragmented point solutions. These blockers make it impossible to know the value of each individual guest because the data exists only in disconnected silos.

The future of the restaurant industry lies with those brands that are taking a page out of the retail playbook. Restaurants can learn from the likes of e-commerce by harnessing actionable guest data with a single integrated system and applying the GLV metric to operations, marketing, and business.

With GLV, restaurant brands can:

  • Fine-tune day-to-day operations through revealing insights, such as driving factors for guest loyalty and maximizing them
  • Analyze different guest segments based on individual behaviors
  • Quantify results of marketing dollars spent, staff training, menu optimization, real estate selection, and more
  • Discover exactly where and why guests spend money

Given that acquiring a new guest costs far more than retaining an existing one, increasing the value of your existing guests—with the support of comprehensive guest data—is a critical way to drive growth.

Hear leaders from bartaco, California Fish Grill, and First Watch share how guest lifetime value is changing the way they run their restaurants and driving better results.

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How Restaurants Can Maximize Guest Lifetime Value

Leading brands have proven that restaurants can maximize guest lifetime value, increase frequency and retention, and, ultimately, boost revenue by focusing on individual guest behavior. In the end, the brands that know their guests best and do something with that intel will come out on top.

By harnessing data and analytics—from 100% of guests, not just loyalty or rewards club members—restaurants can tailor every action, communication, and business decision to the behaviors of their most valuable guests.

Imagine ...

  • Knowing exactly who’s behind every curbside order and if they’re also dine-in regulars
  • Sending targeted SMS messages at just the right moment that feel like they’re coming from a friend
  • Targeting lookalike audiences for the top 20% of your guests on paid search and social media (proven to drive down guest acquisition costs to under $1)
  • Alerting managers which table touches to prioritize during a busy shift
  • Having a regular’s favorite drink prepared upon arrival

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Moving from Transactional Thinking to Guest Thinking

At the end of the day, transactions still matter. After all, C-level executives continue to get grilled over things like same-store sales and box economics. But, those are output metrics. Input metrics that can be controlled and influenced by focusing on individual guest behavior—things like guest frequency, recency, and spending—drive transactions and therefore profitability.

Transitioning from transactional thinking to guest thinking changes the game for everyone on the team. C-level restaurant executives have to shift their focus from same-store sales to Customer Cohort Charts. Finance now concentrates on guest economics instead of box economics. Marketing starts looking at lifetime return on ad spend versus return on ad spend. The list goes on.

It may sound like a big undertaking, and it is. But budgets are tight, and the last thing you want to do is waste time and money attracting low-value guests. When you make every business decision with your most valuable guests in mind, you can ensure that every dollar spent will have a high ROI and drive profitability for your business long-term.

Ready to Make the Shift?

To effectively drive and leverage GLV, restaurant brands need to be able to access 100% of guest data from a single view and inject it into every part of the business—from operations to marketing. Only then, can they individualize each interaction and make data-driven business decisions that boost revenue, guest loyalty, and operational efficiency, all while bringing acquisition costs down.

The path forward for restaurants is building a profitable future with data and those who focus on guests (and their lifetime value) will win. So the question becomes: Does everything in your brand actually revolve around the guest?

Contact us to find out how Olo can help your brand unlock and maximize guest lifetime value.

Download the Restaurant Marketing Guide
Insights
Mar 22, 2023
5
 min read

Learn why restaurant marketing teams should continue to put their time, energy, and budget into email. Plus, get tips for building an email list, proven strategies, and industry benchmarks.

Restaurant Email Marketing Strategies, Restaurant Marketing

In the age of social media, why should restaurant marketing teams put their energy, time, and budget into email? Because every marketer’s north star is investing in the channels most likely to drive results. 

Studies have shown that email marketing generates an impressive $36 return for every $1 spent, whereas social media marketing generates $2.80 for every $1 spent.

Here are a few reasons that restaurant email marketing is so effective, followed by tips for successfully building and leveraging your email database to drive revenue, guest frequency, and retention.

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4 Reasons Why Restaurant Email Marketing Drives Revenue

1. Email is Where Guests Are

There are 4 billion global email users and the average worker checks their email 74 times per day.

2. Guests Prefer Email Marketing

Nearly half of smartphone users worldwide chose email as their preferred communication method from consumer brands.

3. Email Marketing Converts First-Time Guests to Regulars 

Research shows that email is 40x more effective at bringing new guests back than Facebook or Twitter.

4. Email Motivates Guests to Spend More

The rate at which emails prompt purchases is estimated to be at least three times that of social media and the average order value is 17 percent higher.

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How to Build a Restaurant Email List

The importance of a restaurant email list cannot be overstated. For one, your brand owns it. You also have a direct line of communication with guests who have expressed interest in your restaurant and want you to market to them.

While there are a variety of ways to build a restaurant email list, here are a couple of valuable sources to start with:

To continue growing your email list, add the following:

  • In-restaurant Wi-Fi prompt
  • Scan-to-join QR code at the register or table
  • Website subscription form
  • Sign-up button on social media pages

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Email Marketing Strategies for Restaurants

Before launching a restaurant email marketing campaign, it’s important to set up guest segments, including high lifetime value (GLV), churn risks, etc. Olo’s data shows that personalized marketing can result in a 20% lift in spend by email recipients over 30 days, with a surge in sales the day after it’s sent.

Within your email campaign strategy, consider every stage of the guest lifecycle and every interaction as an opportunity to deepen your relationship with guests. Leverage these six retention strategies to ensure every guest becomes more valuable to your brand over time.

Marketing automation tools can help you do more with less by instantly sending relevant and personalized communications to guests when they meet predetermined criteria, such as placing their first delivery order or not visiting for 30 days.

Here's some campaign inspiration:

Examples of Strategic Email Campaigns

Convert First-Timers into Regulars

Send an automated welcome/thank you email within 24 hours of an online order being placed, featuring an incentive for a return visit or another online order within a given timeframe.

Encourage Return Visits

When an online order does not contain a particular menu item (seasonal special, high-margin item, new offering, etc.), promote that offering in an automated email that triggers a week after the initial order is completed.

Get Important Feedback

Show guests you care about their opinion by soliciting feedback on specific menu items or their overall ordering experience via an automated email sent within 24 hours of an order being completed.

Drive Engagement

When a guest signs up for in-restaurant WiFi or your e-club, send a welcome email within 24 hours. Then, seven days later, send a follow-up with links to your social media accounts and an invitation to share photos using your branded hashtag for a chance to be featured.

Download Olo's Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Marketing

Email Benchmarks for the Restaurant Industry

When evaluating the effectiveness of your email campaigns, there are a few crucial metrics to keep an eye on. According to Campaign Monitor’s 2022 Email Marketing Benchmarks Report, here’s what good email engagement rates look like for the restaurant, food, and beverage industry:

Open Rate: 18.5%

Click-Through-Rate: 2%

Click-To-Open Rate: 10.5%

Unsubscribe Rate: 0.1%

If your emails are underperforming, test and learn. Ask yourself: 

  • Are people mistaking your email for spam?
  • Is your design mobile-friendly? 
  • Are you emailing guests too often?
  • Is the messaging personalized and relevant? 

Just because one email performs well with a particular guest segment, doesn’t mean it’s going to be just as successful with another. Regularly monitor your analytics and pivot accordingly.

Key Takeaways 

When building a lasting relationship with guests, email is a key tool in the restaurant marketing tool belt. Why?

  • It converts: Targeted email outreach puts restaurant brand messaging directly in front of the guest—prime positioning for them to take action. Opted-in guests trust brands with their data, a key indicator of future sales—57% of consumers say trust in a brand drives their purchase decisions.‍

  • It’s personalized: With a restaurant CRM that segments guests by behavior, email marketing can be tailored to individual preferences, driving up engagement and boosting conversion.

  • It’s always on time: With restaurant marketing automation, email campaigns can be triggered right after the first visit or online order to drive repeat sales. Plus, if guests haven’t visited or ordered in a while, an email can automatically remind them of their favorite menu items.

  • It’s the foundation of effective omnichannel restaurant marketing: Restaurant brands can boost guest acquisition and retention by providing parallel experiences across email and social media. You can use your restaurant email list to retarget regulars and acquire new, high-value guests by targeting lookalikes on social media platforms. 

Guests engage with brands everywhere they have a digital presence, and the next new social platform always generates marketing buzz. In comparison, email marketing might seem old school.

To get ahead, though—especially when marketers are tasked with doing more with less—brands need to focus on the kinds of communication guests are asking for and responding to.

In every step of the journey, guests continue to show that restaurant email marketing is an important part of their experience.

Product
Mar 15, 2023
4
 min read

Local listings are critical for restaurant discovery and revenue, yet they’re often taken for granted. Learn what’s at stake when they aren’t actively updated and how listings management software can help.

Local listings management, Restaurant listings management

One of the best ways to ensure guests find your restaurant when looking for places to eat nearby is to keep your local business listings up-to-date and optimized for search engines.

 

Before we get into how to effectively manage local listings and what’s at stake if you don’t, let’s break down the term.

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What Are Local Business Listings?

A local listing is an online profile featuring the name, address, phone number, hours of operation, website, and other essential details about a business located nearby. It can be found on search engines, marketplaces, social media, and other online directories.

Consumers rely heavily on local listings to find businesses that offer the goods and services they’re looking for. As a result, most local listings are free for brands to claim and update.

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Why Restaurants Can’t Afford to Overlook Local Listings

Restaurant teams are busier than ever, so it’s not hard to see why some brands don’t consider local listings management a priority. And yet, it’s never been more critical. Here are seven reasons why.

Search Engine Optimization

Now that guests can evaluate everything from cuisine to service model to handoff mode when deciding where to eat, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is everything. Optimized local business listings increase discoverability and help your brand rank high in search engine results when people are looking for similar restaurants nearby.

Guest Satisfaction

Incomplete and inaccurate local listings frustrate guests before they’ve even stepped foot in your restaurant. By ensuring that your listings are completely filled out and feature up-to-date information, you can make sure your guest relationship starts off on the right foot and drive long-term loyalty.

Convenience

Within a local listing, you can enable guests to easily place an order, make a reservation, join the waitlist, and more—without having to leave the platform where they found your restaurant. The less friction, the higher chance of conversion.

Revenue

When people can’t easily find, communicate with, or order from your restaurant, you’re alienating potential guests and missing out on valuable revenue. This can be as simple as forgetting to update your holiday hours.

Reputation

Guest feedback can make or break your business. Inaccurate listings and unanswered questions can lead to negative reviews—a major turn-off for prospective guests.

Credibility

Accurate local listings help build trust with guests and give them confidence in your brand. This makes them more likely to order and more likely to return.

Control of Brand Image 

Restaurants that don’t claim their local listings and let user-generated content alone populate their profile risk damaging their brand image. By curating your online presence with accurate information and professional imagery, you can better control how your restaurant is perceived.

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How Local Listing Management Software Supports Restaurants

Regularly updating local business listings is hard work—especially when you have multiple restaurant locations. And human error is inevitable.

Restaurant brands can alleviate that burden by leveraging local listing management software. Here are just a few of the benefits:

Swift Updates

When restaurant brands edit their hours, menu and other important details, every listing gets automatically updated through syndicated publishing. In other words, you no longer have to log in to each platform and manually enter the new information for every location.

Streamlined Management

With listing management software, restaurant brands no longer have to grant access to individual managers, keep track of multiple passwords, worry about human error, etc.

Robust Reporting

Brands can view conversion data by publisher to better understand website traffic and ROI from each listing. For example, you can see how many guests clicked on your online listing and ordered directly from your restaurant website, then leverage those insights to inform your marketing strategy.

More Direct Orders

By placing direct ordering links in your online listings, you can give guests more ways to discover and order directly from your brand website. With listing management software, it’s easy to meet guests where they are—and drive them to your business.

Better Discoverability

Listing management software can help your brand rank high across search engines, review sites, and social media by enabling you to claim listings easily, remove duplicates, and implement SEO best practices.

To further understand how restaurants can benefit from a listings management solution, read our Slim Chickens case study, which showcases how the brand has increased direct orders, reduced onboarding time, and gained a deeper understanding of listing ROI with Olo’s Sync.

Remember: when building a restaurant business, it’s better to let your food, ordering options, and guest experience set your brand apart—not a missing or inaccurate local listing. 

Learn more about Sync, Olo’s restaurant listing management software, and contact us today to find out how we can help your brand update local listings at scale.

Plus, check out our webinar with SOCi, wherein we discuss how to drive more guests with local SEO and online ordering.

Photo credit: Jeff Vinluan, Pexels

People
Mar 8, 2023
4
 min read

For International Women's Day, we asked a few of our women leaders to share some of the wisdom they’ve acquired in their career so far. Read their stories and sage advice.

International Women's Day

At Olo, everything we do revolves around the belief that personal interactions make people feel valued. We aim to lift up, grow, challenge, and learn from the talented team members whose hard work, savviness, and intelligence keep us inspired and pushing to build an even greater company.

One of the ways we do that is through our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). Olo Women’s Network (OWN), for example, seeks to bring together individuals who identify as women, and allies, for the purpose of empowering women in the areas of leadership, community, professional development, and equality within Olo and beyond.

In honor of International Women's Day, we asked a few of our women leaders to share some of the wisdom they’ve acquired on their career path so far—from helpful tips to hard lessons learned to what motivates them.

Read their stories and sage advice.

“A mentor once shared with me that sharing and learning from experiences at work is incredibly important for personal and professional growth. When we share our experiences with others, we create opportunities for learning and collaboration. We can gain new perspectives and insights that we may not have otherwise considered. That is why I took the initiative to establish the Olo Women's Network, which is now the largest Employee Resource Group at Olo. My goal is to foster a safe environment where we can share our experiences, collaborate, learn from one another, and form meaningful connections. Creating these opportunities for connection and growth is essential for supporting women in the workplace and promoting a culture of inclusivity and support.”

Priyanka Mehra, Director of Product Management, Payments

“Take the time to build and invest in a community of people you admire and are inspired by. Not only is it way more fun to celebrate successes with others, but your peers are the ones that will push and challenge you along the way (and also keep you sane!).”

Janna Sheng, Director of Product Management

“As I've grown in my career, I've learned to really evaluate my priorities and how I can get as much energy and satisfaction out of my work as possible. I am thankful for all of the mentorship, advice, and tough love I received from colleagues, managers, and leaders that helped me uncover how to maximize my joy at work and supported me through difficult transitions. My biggest piece of advice is that each person brings something special to the table, and it's up to each person to figure out what that is and how to incorporate it into their professional lives, even when it's difficult. Stay true to yourself, stay open to feedback, and enjoy the journey!”

Rachel Nasatka, Head of Business Partners

“The best advice I received was to try to improve something every day. It can be yourself, another person, a problem, or a process. Even if it's a slight improvement, each day is an opportunity to make something better than how you found it.”

Dominique Streeter, Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

“Never forget how capable you are. Just because you haven't done the exact task you may be asked to do, doesn't mean you don't have all the tools in your tool belt to rise to the occasion. You've probably heard this stat from a Hewlett-Packard Report years ago: Men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them. In other words, as Forbes put it, ‘Men are confident about their ability at 60%, but women don’t feel confident until they’ve checked off each item on the list.’ The advice we can take away as women: Be more confident in yourself and your abilities. You've got this!”

Alayna Sullivan, Director of Corporate Communications

“I consider myself very lucky to have had incredible women leaders who have generously gifted me with their time and mentorship throughout my career. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received is that you are your own best advocate. Law school taught me how to negotiate on behalf of my clients, but not necessarily for myself—which research has shown to be a struggle shared by many women in traditionally male-dominated industries such as law and finance. With the support and advocacy of my mentors, I’ve learned how to confidently speak up for myself whether it be for new opportunities and projects, better resources, higher compensation, or just sharing my impact and contributions. As I advance in my career, it’s not only my goal but also my responsibility, to pass on this wisdom and to support and amplify other women as my mentors did for me.”

Jen Wong, Deputy General Counsel

“Stop. Take a deep breath. Realize that you can't do it all and ask for help! It doesn't make you any less of a person. Utilize your circle and gain different perspectives in the process.”

Ashveen Singh, Director, Compensation

“Make time to focus on your own professional development, no matter what your title or role. It's so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of the day-to-day if you don't intentionally carve out time to learn a new skill, take stock of your accomplishments, and gain a fresh perspective. Don't hesitate to advocate for yourself. Celebrate your wins! This ability does not come naturally to many of us; it takes time and practice to develop this skill. Cultivate a network of mentors and mentees—both in your line of work as well as in other industries. They don't have to be super formal; you never know where the next inspiration or support you need will come from.”

Carrie Drstvensek, Director of Product Management

To learn more about the Olo Women’s Network and our DEI efforts, visit our DEI page. And check out our careers page to view all of our open positions.

Insights
Mar 1, 2023
1
 min read

Video: Watch as Olo Founder and CEO Noah Glass unveils our vision for the restaurant of the future—and how we plan to bring it to life.

Restaurant of the Future

This week, during the fifth anniversary of Beyond4, Olo’s annual customer conference, our Founder and CEO Noah Glass gave attendees a glimpse at the restaurant of the future—and how we plan to bring that vision to life.

In the video, embedded below, you’re invited to imagine an elevated dining experience wherein every guest touchpoint is enhanced by technology.

Come along as we explore the limitless possibilities for data-driven personalization, optimization, convenience, and overall hospitality across different service models, from drive-thru to delivery, full-service, and beyond.

Click the play button below to start watching.

Image promoting new buyer's guide to future-proofing your restaurant tech stack and a button to get the guide
Product
Feb 22, 2023
4
 min read

Cart abandonment can be a major headache for restaurants. Here are some steps brands can take to optimize the online ordering process for conversion.

Boost Restaurant Orders, Reduce Cart Abandonment

The average online shopping cart abandonment rate sits at nearly 70%. That means, approximately 7 out of every 10 users that initiate a transaction, don’t follow through. It’s a big problem across industries, but not an unsolvable one.

By taking a guest-centric approach to designing the online ordering and checkout experience, restaurant brands can reduce friction, eliminate barriers to conversion, and create an enjoyable experience for guests that keeps them coming back.

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Top Reasons for Cart Abandonment

According to research conducted by Baymard Institute, many factors contribute to cart abandonment. While some reasons for cart abandonment are unavoidable—window shopping, price comparison, saving items for later, etc.—restaurant brands can drive sales and repeat orders by addressing the following issues:

  • Extra costs are too high (tax, delivery fees)
  • Mandatory account creation
  • Estimated delivery time is too slow
  • Website appears untrustworthy for entering payment information
  • Long/complicated checkout process
  • Total order cost not visible up-front
  • Website had errors/crashed
  • Not enough payment methods accepted
  • Credit card was declined
  • Restaurant location selection is a hassle
  • Expected handoff mode is unavailable
  • Advanced ordering is not an option

Want to learn how you can increase your brand's profits with direct ordering? Start Here

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8 Ways to Reduce Cart Abandonment and Boost Repeat Orders

To ensure guests successfully checkout, restaurant brands need to know exactly where in the online ordering journey guests are dropping off and why. One of the best ways to find out is through usability testing. In other words, testing the online ordering process with real users. This enables brands to spot pain points, collect data, and determine guests’ satisfaction with the process.

Once you’ve determined why guests are ditching their carts, you can start optimizing for conversion. For example:

Intuitive Ordering Interface

If guests aren’t checking out due to a confusing or complicated ordering interface, it’s time to rethink how the menu is organized and the structure of the ordering flow. Guests should be able to quickly find their favorite items, customize their order, and make edits to their cart as they go—regardless of the device they’re using. A clear CTA at each step of the process will help guide guests from start to finish.

Other important considerations:

  • Give defaults on menu items to eliminate an extra click on items that require customization
  • Validate a smooth mobile web ordering experience
  • Limit the number of redirect links that distract from the core flow

Login Options

While there are many benefits to requiring people to create an account when placing an online order (e.g. data collection, 1:1 marketing, personalizing the guest experience, etc.), it can also be a deterrent for those who are in a rush or don’t want to stress about password management. Registration shortcuts like Borderless checkout, logging in with Google, or the ability to “Checkout as a Guest” could make all the difference. If guest checkout is available, ensure it is the primary CTA, so that guests know they have a choice.

Simple Checkout

When it comes to optimizing the checkout experience for conversion, less is more. Few steps, limited form fields, and minimal distractions are key to getting guests across the finish line. If there is more than one page, consider adding a progress tracker to show guests where they are in the checkout process.

Multiple Handoff Modes

Limited handoff modes—dine-in, curbside, pick-up, drive-thru, delivery, etc.—can be a real turnoff for guests who have a preferred method of ordering, especially when that information isn’t communicated until the end of the checkout process. Restaurant brands can ensure guests aren’t abandoning their carts for this reason by enabling four or more handoff modes, a strategy proven to increase the conversion rate by 12% or more, according to Olo data.

Transparent Pricing and Delivery

If guests are ditching their carts at the last second, it may be because they’re turned off by the extra costs or longer-than-expected delivery time estimates. Brands can display a cart summary throughout the ordering flow for increased visibility and/or experiment with different placements, wording, or colors to communicate this information on the checkout page. Additionally, live tracking lets guests see their order status in real-time.

Multiple, Secure Payment Options

To establish trust with guests and offer convenience, restaurant brands should consider offering multiple payment options, including digital wallet support (e.g. Google Pay and Apple Pay) and the ability to save cards on file via Borderless checkout. Trust badges are another good way to let guests know that your checkout process is safe and that their data is secure. Examples include safe checkout (e.g. NortonLifeLock, VeriSign) and accepted payment method badges (e.g. PayPal, Visa).

High Authorization Rates for Valid Transactions

If your processor is rejecting credit card payments from legitimate guests, it will negatively impact your cart abandonment rate. The best way to ensure that you’re only rejecting fraudulent transactions is to select a restaurant payment stack that has been optimized with authorization rates in mind.

Q/A Testing

Regular Q/A testing is critical to ensure that your online ordering platform and checkout process are functioning properly. Slow load time, errors, and crashes can drive away guests long before they checkout. And don’t forget to triple-check discount codes and links to ensure they’re working. With the ubiquity of online reviews, frustrated guests can wreak havoc on your brand’s reputation. Lastly, be sure to Q/A test across devices and browsers, as the majority of online orders are placed on mobile.

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Ongoing Optimization

While each of these strategies can positively impact the cart abandonment rate, sustainable sales growth is dependent on continuous optimization efforts. When implementing changes, A/B testing can help you determine which adjustments are making a difference for guests.

A/B testing is the proven method to test and validate changes to the ordering funnel. It can be as simple as changing copy to something much more complex, like building new components. A/B tests bring in statistical rigor that enables positive changes to the funnel.

In the end, restaurant brands that prioritize a seamless guest experience at every step of the online ordering journey will reap the rewards.

Contact us for more ways to optimize your online ordering platform for conversion.

Photo Credit: Thirdman from Pexels

Insights
Feb 15, 2023
4
 min read

Whether you’re a one-person department or simply have limited resources, you can maximize your time and budget with these proven restaurant marketing strategies for driving guest retention and acquisition.

Restaurant Marketing, Restaurant Marketing Strategies, Restaurant Marketing Automation

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Lofty goals, a tight budget, and a small team. Restaurant marketers are all too familiar with this juggling act. But how do you drive retention and acquisition at a time when guest preferences, the supply chain, and the labor market are also in flux?

By staying hyper-focused on your brand-specific goals, embracing automation, and leveraging what you know about your existing restaurant guests, you can maximize both your time and budget.

Start with these proven strategies for restaurant marketing success:

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1. Focus On One Realistic Goal

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Don’t try to do it all. Be realistic about what you can achieve—especially if you’re a one-person marketing team. 

Instead of wasting time and precious advertising dollars guessing who your guests are, what they like, how they’ll behave, and what channels they prefer, let your data be your guide. That way, you can concentrate on building strategic marketing campaigns with the highest ROI potential.

2. Automate Your Restaurant Marketing Campaigns

Work smarter, not harder. With marketing automation powered by your restaurant CRM, you can set up relevant, enticing, and personalized guest communications, including email, SMS, and push notifications, that are automatically triggered by events or segment criteria. 

Here are just a few ways to leverage marketing automation to drive sales, maximize lifetime value (LTV), and make every guest feel like a regular—without putting an extra strain on your team:

Give a Warm Welcome: Promote your loyalty program when guests place their first online order or sign up for in-restaurant WiFi

Cross-promote Sales Channels: Let QR code ordering guests know that you also offer curbside pickup and delivery

Boost App Downloads: Direct online orderers to download your restaurant app for a better user experience

Drive Repeat Orders: Make guests crave your food with a tailored message based on their order history and preferences 

Win Back Cart Abandoners: Gently nudge guests when they’ve left something in their cart so that they’ll return to order

Show MVPs Extra Love: Incentivize guests with high lifetime value (LTV) with an irresistible offer based on what you know about them

Gather Valuable Feedback: Survey guests to make them feel heard, learn what’s working and what isn’t, and improve the guest experience

3. Optimize Your Social Media Efforts

Managing multiple social media accounts for a restaurant brand is a daunting task. To stay on top of the workload, consider using a posting tool such as Buffer or Hootsuite, that enables you to create and schedule content in advance for automatic publishing across platforms.

If you’re struggling to maintain a steady stream of posts, user-generated content can be a great resource. Reposting photos taken by restaurant guests is an easy way to show them love and add authenticity to your social feed.

Lastly, be sure to repurpose evergreen content so that you’re not constantly reinventing the wheel. Just remember quality over quantity.

4. Retarget Website Visitors and Social Followers

While guest acquisition is a critical part of any restaurant marketing plan, so is retention. It’s essential to not lose sight of those people who have already expressed interest in your brand: website visitors and social media followers.

By setting up a retargeting campaign, you can ensure that your brand stays top of mind long after website visitors leave your site—without doing any extra leg work. An eye-catching ad featuring messaging that resonates with your target audience can be the difference between someone returning to order or not.

Similarly, you can keep social followers engaged with your brand using targeted ads that remind them why they love your restaurant.

5. Leverage Your Existing Guests

When it comes to attracting new, high-value guests, your best resource is your existing base. By targeting lookalike audiences that mirror the interests and behaviors of your current guests, you can save time, lower acquisition costs, and boost ROI for digital marketing across social media and Google.

Sources for restaurant lookalike audiences can be CRM-based—email list, SMS subscribers, etc.—as well as online orderers, social followers, loyalty members, website visitors, and more. 

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What’s Next for Restaurant Marketing

Looking ahead, restaurant marketers will continue to seek out new solutions and strategies to optimize campaigns, work more efficiently, and maximize their budgets. Here are two examples:

  • Customer Data Platforms: A CDP like Olo’s restaurant-specific Guest Data Platform gives marketers a holistic view of their guests, which they can then use to power hyper-targeted digital ads and personalized communications.
  • AI: With the introduction of ChatGPT, the powerful new chatbot tool, the opportunity to do more with less, particularly from a marketing perspective, is sky-high. From writing social media copy to tailoring marketing messages and informing SEO strategy, the applications are endless.

While restaurant brands are faced with a variety of challenges right now, marketers can do more with less by concentrating on attainable, high-impact goals, using marketing automation tools to deliver personalized and timely guest communications, and leveraging existing guests to find and attract new ones.

Contact us today to learn how Olo can support your restaurant marketing efforts.

Download the Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Marketing

Main Photo Credit: Kampus Production, Pexels

Product
Feb 8, 2023
6
 min read

Guest satisfaction is a major indicator of how restaurant sales will trend. Learn how to put guest feedback to work with sentiment analysis.

Sentiment Analysis, Restaurant Review Management, Restaurant Sentiment

There was a time when the only way to keep a pulse on guest satisfaction at a restaurant was to hire secret shoppers or collect comment cards. Now, the Internet gives guests the power to share their thoughts—positive, negative, and everything in between—24/7 on review sites, social media, and directly with restaurant brands.

But what do you do with all that feedback? Enter sentiment analysis, a tool that is quickly becoming essential for restaurant brands to manage their reputation, enhance the guest experience, and curb negative trends before they impact sales.

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Why Guest Satisfaction Matters More Than Ever

Before we explain what sentiment analysis is and how to use it, let’s talk about why guest satisfaction matters in the first place.

Everyone knows that guest satisfaction can directly impact check size, tip amount, and the number of return visits, but with the ubiquity of online reviews, feedback can also make or break your brand’s reputation, acquisition efforts, and bottom line.

For context, according to the 2020 Local Consumer Review Survey, 93% of consumers look at restaurant/cafe reviews before deciding where to eat—the highest percentage of any industry. The majority of consumers (63%) use Google to find information about local businesses—including reviews, contact info, hours, etc.—and only 48% would consider using a business that has fewer than four stars.

In other words, happy guests equal more revenue.

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The Challenge of Managing Guest Feedback

Considering how influential restaurant reviews can be, it’s not enough to simply monitor what’s being said online about your dining experience. Brands must actively engage with all guest feedback—good and bad—whether it’s shared on a public platform like Google, or privately via an automated survey.

Take a second to think about how your brand currently manages feedback. How many platforms do you have to log into to monitor reviews? Do all the right people in your organization have access? How many reviews has your team responded to, and how quickly?

If you’re like most restaurant brands, there’s some room for improvement.

Identifying trends when feedback comes in from multiple disparate sources is nearly impossible. And without context from your restaurant's customer relationship management solution (CRM), there’s no way to connect the dots between reviews and everything that happened during the guest’s visit. On top of it all, few restaurant operators have the bandwidth to manually comb through dozens of reviews and respond thoughtfully.

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How Sentiment Analysis Can Benefit Restaurants

Sentiment analysis—the automated process of determining whether guest feedback is positive, negative, or neutral—helps you convert the noise of all those reviews into a crystal-clear signal that allows you to take one-to-one action with guests and team members.

With the right tool, you can:

  • See reviews from multiple sources—surveys, social media, and Google—aggregated in a single dashboard
  • View guest sentiment overall, by location, or by category (i.e. service, food, etc.)
  • Connect individual reviews to guest profiles within your restaurant CRM for added context about their recent visit, frequency, lifetime value (GLV), etc.
  • Filter reviews by source, location, date, rating, keywords, etc.
  • Respond to individual reviews without having to log in to multiple platforms
  • Quickly see which comments have not yet received a response
  • Monitor trends over time and, when necessary, escalate reviews to the appropriate department
  • Stay on top of new reviews with custom daily reports delivered right to your inbox

Sentiment analysis can tell you what your guests are thinking, but then what? How do you act on that feedback?

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How To Act on Guest Feedback

With sentiment analysis, you have a single source of truth that allows you to evaluate reviews—by content and context—not just the overall rating. Restaurant brands can use this information to identify trends and make targeted improvements that build long-term loyalty and grow profits.

Here are a few ways to make guest feedback actionable:

1. Seize Opportunities for Improvement

The best sentiment analysis solutions categorize feedback by content so you can easily identify opportunities for improvement in all areas of the business, like service, food and drink, value, facilities, overall experience, reservations, waitlist, pickup, and delivery.

You can then drill down into each category to diagnose negative trends before they impact sales—and, most importantly, make the appropriate changes.

For example, if you notice a lot of negative comments about wait times, you can see which shifts are having the most issues, and look for ways to improve. It might mean you need a new restaurant waitlist system that reduces manual work and guesswork for the host staff, uses automated text updates to keep guests informed, and offers the ability to join the waitlist remotely right from your Google listing.

Don’t be afraid to get creative. If multiple commenters say the drink list is too limited, you might consider launching a cocktail naming competition to engage guests and let them know you are working on expanding the menu.

2. Start a Dialogue With Guests

By directly responding to feedback in an authentic and caring manner, restaurant brands can express gratitude, demonstrate hospitality, and show respect and empathy, which builds trust with current and potential guests.

A modern sentiment analysis tool will enable you to reply directly to guests across platforms from a single dashboard with one login. When you spot opportunities to win back guests, invite them to contact you directly so you can make it right. As for positive feedback, be sure to thank the guest and encourage them to connect with you the next time they visit.

3. Personalize the Guest Experience  

When feedback is tied to guest profiles in your restaurant CRM, you can use context about their visit history to engage with each guest on a more personal level—online and during their next in-person visit.

Within the reply to an online review, you could reference the anniversary that the guest was celebrating or the seasonal milkshake they enjoyed. And, as a follow-up during their next in-person visit, you could show a positive reviewer your gratitude by having their favorite beverage prepared ahead of being seated, or slip some branded swag into their curbside pickup bag.

This additional layer of context also ensures that operators know which feedback deserves the most attention (i.e. high-GLV guests vs. a one-time guest from a year ago), and can escalate it if needed.

4. Foster Accountability Among the Team

The fact is that restaurant operators simply can’t witness every single guest interaction. As such, they need a way to keep a pulse on their team’s performance. By starting each day engaging with guest feedback and sharing key takeaways with the team, managers can foster a culture of shared accountability.

Consider each guest review and survey an opportunity to praise and constructively coach team members, so that everyone takes pride in the restaurant’s success. Transparency ensures that every team member feels recognized, valued, and aware when improvements need to be made.

For a real-world example, check out this case study to learn how BelAir Cantina, a Wisconsin-based restaurant brand, leverages sentiment analysis.

Signing Off on Sentiment

Feedback management has come a long way since the days of secret shoppers and comment cards. If you’re not leveraging a sentiment analysis tool to monitor guest satisfaction over time, respond directly to feedback, and enhance the dining experience, you risk losing valuable guests, and ultimately, revenue.

Contact us today to learn how our restaurant sentiment analysis solution can enable your brand to collect, analyze, and act on vital guest feedback.

Photo Credit: Helena Lopes from Pexels

People
Feb 1, 2023
3
 min read

Find out how we’re fostering sustainable contributions to the communities in which we live, work, and serve via Olo For Good.

Olo For Good

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In an effort to integrate social responsibility and impact into our business, Olo joined the Pledge 1% movement and created Olo For Good in March 2021. Since then we’ve committed one percent of Olo’s time, product, and equity to foster sustainable contributions to the communities in which we live, work, and serve.

Olo For Good supports organizations that are aligned with our mission and values, including those focused on:

  • Advancing all aspects of racial, ethnic, and gender diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Providing relief for the restaurant industry and its front-line workers
  • Ending childhood hunger and increasing access to food
  • Protecting natural resources and reducing waste and emissions

As part of that commitment, we intend to donate one percent of Olo shares over 10 years to an independent donor-advised fund sponsor, Tides Foundation, in conjunction with our Olo For Good initiative. So far, a total of $7 million in grants has been donated to the following organizations:

These nonprofits are focused on diversity, supporting restaurant workers, environmental initiatives, and the fight against hunger. We are committed to working closely with each organization to ensure continued success.

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Here are a few examples:

Emma’s Torch

Emma’s Torch is a nonprofit social enterprise that provides paid culinary training to refugees, asylees, and survivors of human trafficking and helps them find meaningful careers in the food industry.

When the pandemic forced Emma’s Torch to halt in-person dining, the organization needed a way to scale its business, including adding pick-up options for guests. And so, in addition to a grant, we donated our time and resources to get them set up with Online Ordering and Dispatch for restaurant delivery, and waived the usage fees.

Credit Emma's Torch

Since then, Olo has helped Emma’s Torch streamline operations by eliminating manual work, improve order accuracy, and increase its reach throughout New York.

We remain committed to increasing online ordering capabilities for Emma’s Torch, assisting the organization as it expands to new locations, and leveraging each team’s strengths within the culinary industry to build a stronger community.

Giving Kitchen

Giving Kitchen supplies emergency assistance to food service workers through financial aid and a network of low or no-cost community resources. 

When a food service worker experiences an injury, illness, housing disaster, or other trauma, they can apply for financial assistance to cover living expenses. Additionally, Giving Kitchen’s Stability Network connects people to resources related to mental health and substance misuse, employment, housing, social services, and more.

Giving Kitchen Cofounder Jen Hidinger-Kendrick. Credit Giving Kitchen

Formed out of an overwhelming community response to the terminal cancer diagnosis of Chef Ryan Hidinger, the nonprofit has provided over 6.7 million dollars to food service workers in crisis since 2013.

The pandemic underscored the value of Giving Kitchen, with 2,500 individuals served in 2020 alone, and set its intentions for the future. We’re proud to help the organization in its efforts to increase awareness within the restaurant industry and expand beyond Georgia and Tennessee to serve food service workers in need throughout the United States.

Partnership with Native Americans

Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) provides consistent material aid, educational support, and community-based services to Native Americans living on remote, isolated, and impoverished reservations.

After an Olo employee nominated the nonprofit, PWNA received a grant to support its first-ever ancestral foods distribution to Tribal communities in the Northern Plains and Southwest regions of the U.S. Alongside PWNA’s Native-led, peer-to-peer ancestral foods training that teaches individuals how to prepare traditional Indigenous meals, this distribution will complement the organization’s food sovereignty efforts.

Credit PWNA

PWNA will also use a small portion of the grant to purchase and distribute portable solar lights from Watts of Love to Tribal communities that lack sufficient electricity and lighting infrastructure to be safe and productive.

We’re grateful to partner with an organization that is working to eliminate food insecurity and increase safety among the Native American population.

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How to Get Involved

Individuals or nonprofit organizations that want to get involved with Olo For Good or explore potential partnership opportunities are encouraged to reach out to [email protected].

Stay tuned for the announcement of our next batch of Olo For Good grant recipients in April 2023.

For more information about how Olo supports nonprofits via Olo For Good, and our ESG work, visit www.olo.com/esg.

Main photo credit: Emma's Torch

Insights
Jan 25, 2023
8
 min read

Everyone's talking about Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Customer Data Platforms (CDP). Learn the differences and how they benefit restaurants.

Restaurant CDP, Restaurant CRM, Guest Data Platform, Customer Data Platform

To help you make sense of the ever-evolving restaurant tech ecosystem and how it all works together to benefit restaurants, we’re breaking down two of the most talked-about newcomers to the restaurant tech stack: Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Customer Data Platform (CDP).

At a high level, both of these tools are used to personalize the guest experience with cross-channel communications that are timely, relevant, and tailored to the behaviors of each individual. Though both can add tremendous value to businesses, they function very differently.

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What is a CRM?

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. A standard CRM system collects data on a company’s direct guest interactions—like contact details and previous conversations—from a variety of communication channels, including their website, email, social media, and more. In other industries, sales teams utilize CRM systems to track and manage customer and prospect contact information, accounts, leads, and sales opportunities in one location.

Given that restaurants see thousands of guests per day, it would be unreasonable to expect operators to collect and store every nuanced guest data point by hand. A restaurant CRM like Olo’s eliminates that issue by connecting data from systems like your POS and online ordering solution as well as other custom-built (restaurant-specific) integrations—and making it actionable. 

The action aspect of a CRM is not only critical but also differentiates solution providers. Every CRM has a unique set of actions you can take within the platform leveraging collected guest data—at minimum offering a way to create segments, engage guests via email, and so on. A restaurant CRM is built to take actions unique to engaging a restaurant guest like automating feedback surveys following an online order, incorporating offers into triggered email and SMS campaigns, and more.

In a nutshell, a CRM enables businesses to collect their guest contacts from select sources and organize them. And CRMs often also enable brands to communicate with their guests through integrated channels (e.g. via email)—and track those interactions over time.

What is a CDP?

CDP stands for Customer Data Platform. The Customer Data Platform Institute defines a CDP as: “packaged software that creates a persistent, unified customer database that is accessible to other systems.”

In general, a CDP connects all types and sources of customer data, including transactional, behavioral, profile, product, CRM, and offline, to create a single guest profile. Then, it can send that data to a myriad of destinations to make it usable.

A restaurant CDP like Olo’s Guest Data Platform creates individual guest profiles by connecting data from restaurant-centric systems including POS, loyalty programs, payment processors, reservations, guest feedback, mobile apps, online ordering, WiFi, waitlist, events, and e-commerce. It can then push that data to, again, restaurant-specific destinations like the host stand, menu engineering tools, real estate site selection vendors, a marketing automation solution, media channels, and the list goes on.

This gives every department—from marketing and finance to operations and culinary—a holistic view of guests, so they can sort, analyze, and act on those insights instantly.

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The Main Differences Between CRM and CDP

Both Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Customer Data Platform (CDP) solutions collect guest data for businesses. However, there are a few important differences. 

  • CDPs are designed to ingest massive amounts of data from a large number of sources. CRM data integrations tend to be more limited or require significant customization.
  • CDPs dedupe guest records automatically, which is vital when the data is being piped in real-time to several external tools. CRMs are built to make use of guest records from directly within the system itself and often include reporting or audience-building filters manually controlled by the CRM admin.
  • CRMs track known guests, whereas CDPs combine data from known contacts and reduce the number of anonymous profiles by connecting the dots between guest behaviors (e.g. a frequent diner could remain anonymous until their first online transaction—but their profile is zippered together with a unique credit card token)—to create a single source of truth.
  • CDPs are not designed to take action to the end guest. Outside of data consolidation and identity resolution, CDPs only send data to external tools. CRMs, on the other hand, regularly have action baked in.

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Which is Best For Restaurants: CRM or CDP?

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to optimizing a restaurant tech stack. There are numerous factors to consider including, but not limited to, overall business goals, budget, guest experience, operations, marketing, and beyond. 

Restaurants can use the Guest Data Maturity Pyramid (Fig. 1) as a guide to determine which technology will best suit their business needs. Most brands start at the base of the pyramid to build the foundation of guest data architecture. At this stage, a brand may simply need data that is accessible and usable, in other words, a CRM. 

As brands mature, they start to move up the pyramid. A CDP can help these brands with things like unifying and enriching guest profiles, gathering additional insights, piping data to other business intelligence tools, marrying data to financials, and leveraging lifetime value (LTV) throughout the organization.

It’s important to note that a CRM and CDP are not incompatible—more often than not, they’re interconnected. In fact, the best CRM for restaurants is one that can act as both a source and a destination for actionable data coming in through a CDP. For example, having your CRM and CDP connected would give you the ability to enrich guest data back into the CRM.

Fig. 1

How Restaurants Can Benefit From a CRM

Good restaurant GMs and team members store personal details about regulars—favorite dishes, hobbies, family, etc.—in their heads. The problem is: It’s not scalable. They cannot easily share that information with other teams, especially corporate functions like marketing, culinary, or real estate. And to make matters worse, with staff turnover, those crucial guest details can be lost altogether.

A restaurant CRM eliminates those issues by collecting vital guest intel, along with contact information, communication history, and engagement channels, in one location so it’s never lost and can be accessed by others. 

[Related: How tech can ease the FOH labor shortage]

Keep in mind that not all restaurant CRMs are created equal. Some are integrated with other tools—like waitlist, reservations, POS, and more—while others are more limited in functionality. Additionally, only some CRMs offer analytical capabilities that enable operators to segment guests or export data. And when it comes to actually acting on that data, some CRMs feature SMS or email marketing automation, while others do not.

Given that no two CRMs are built exactly the same, it’s important to thoroughly vet any solution before adding it to your restaurant tech stack in order to get the best bang for your buck.

How Restaurants Can Benefit From a Customer Data Platform

When restaurant brands are ready to do more with their guest data than a CRM can offer, they graduate to a CDP. A restaurant CDP can fuel the next phase of growth by making data more accessible to everyone, integrated with a wider-reaching set of sources, and actionable across an essentially unlimited number of destinations.

Restaurants often struggle to access their guest data due to archaic systems or limitations set by tech vendors. With a CDP, restaurants gain access to usable data from countless sources—online and offline—merged into a single guest record. Here are just a few of those sources:

Even brands that have access to their guest data typically do not have the team or the technology to stitch it all together. And systems that strictly unify data add another layer of costs. Some of the primary benefits of a restaurant CDP are that it eliminates data deserts, manual workflows, tech-stack dependency, and vendor lock-in.

With a CDP, restaurants can push a singular, enriched guest record to the destination vendor best suited to meet the brand’s business goals, including marketing, business insights tools, or data warehouses. For example, brands can use lifetime guest data to tailor email and SMS marketing efforts, as well as search and social advertising, with conditional messaging that drives guests through the funnel based on their engagement.

Through unifying and enriching guest profiles, a CDP can tell a brand exactly where and why guests spend money. By piping data to business intelligence tools and using the lifetime value (LTV) metric, brands can quantify the results of marketing dollars spent, staff training, menu optimization, real estate selection, etc.—and make strategic business decisions based on the behaviors and preferences of high-value guests.

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Still on the Fence?

If you’re still unsure of which solution is right for your restaurant brand, you’re not alone. For some, the data accessibility that a CRM provides is enough to satisfy their business needs. For others, the extra layer of data integration and flexibility that a CDP offers will be key to growth.

The truth is, that a CRM and CDP are not mutually exclusive. Each works with the other to provide a holistic view of the guest. 

With a restaurant CDP, specifically designed to integrate with (often antiquated) POS systems, brands finally have the option to move up the Guest Data Maturity Pyramid and maximize lifetime value with enriched, actionable guest data.

In the end, restaurant brands that invest in technology that harnesses data—and act on it—will provide the best guest experience, edge out the competition, and build a profitable future.

Contact us to discover how a CRM and/or a CDP like Olo’s Guest Data Platform—purpose-built for restaurants—can help set your brand up for success.

Watch our NRN Webinar

Main Photo Credit: Los Muertos Crew from Pexels

Product
Jan 18, 2023
3
 min read

Managing a courier fleet can be a hassle, especially when you’re short-staffed. Here’s how to offer and expand delivery regardless of limited resources.

Restaurant Delivery, Restaurant Delivery Management Software

Many restaurant brands have found themselves in a predicament when it comes to delivery.

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Fifty-four percent of adults now consider purchasing takeout or delivery food essential to the way they live, with delivery accounting for approximately 9% of total U.S. restaurant sales. Furthermore, IMARC Group expects the global online food delivery market to reach $223.7 billion by 2027, exhibiting at a growth rate of 11.44% over the next five years.

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And yet, the industry is still down 750,000 jobs—roughly 6% of its workforce—from pre-pandemic levels as of May.

How do you satisfy growing consumer demand for delivery when you’re short-staffed?

Stiff competition for workers and a tight budget may seem insurmountable, but you’d be surprised what even the most resource-strapped brand can achieve with the right tech stack and some strategic planning.

Restaurants of all service models can take steps to streamline operations and reduce stress for staff, all while providing guests with the convenient delivery experience they crave.

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Start with these seven tactics:

1. Pare down your delivery menu 


Offer a limited or less complex delivery menu using guest feedback and order history as your guide. Identify opportunities to simplify recipes using fewer ingredients and carefully consider how well the food will travel. Regularly test different delivery menu items to ensure guests are getting the best off-premise dining experience possible.

2. Create separate areas for delivery prep and handoff


When a restaurant is short-staffed, the potential for confusion and mistakes goes way up. You can help create a smooth process for staff, delivery couriers, and guests by assigning separate areas for delivery prep and handoff with prominent, straightforward signage.

3. Designate a team member to oversee delivery orders

If your restaurant is receiving 30+ delivery orders per day, name a Delivery Specialist to oversee each part of the order lifecycle: receiving orders, preparing food for handoff, checking for accuracy, passing food from kitchen to courier, and providing communication and support for delivery issues. Alternatively, if the order volume isn’t high enough to demand a full-time role, make it the responsibility of one of your team members to ensure delivery orders are not overlooked at the beginning of their shift.

4. Integrate all online orders with the POS


Consolidate all online orders—direct, third-party, delivery, and pickup—into one dashboard through a single digital commerce engine so that your staff doesn’t have to juggle multiple tablets or manually input transactions into the POS. You’ll spend less time training, improve order accuracy, boost guest satisfaction, and reduce employee stress.

5. Prep what you can beforehand


Think about what can be done during the pre-shift prep period to speed up the delivery process. Have restaurant staff members fill sauce containers, pre-package sides, fold to-go boxes, and other related tasks to boost efficiency and decrease anxiety during peak-volume times.

6. Control delivery order volume with throttling


To control the volume of delivery orders that restaurant locations receive within a particular time frame, brands can take advantage of order throttling strategies. By setting a maximum number of make-time minutes or orders-per-window that can be accepted during a certain time slot, you can ensure that delivery orders get fulfilled in a timely manner and staff aren’t overwhelmed.

7. Leverage an integrated delivery network


Managing a courier fleet in-house can be stressful and expensive. By tapping into an integrated delivery network, restaurants can offer direct delivery without the hassle or commissions. Here’s how it works: Delivery orders placed on your restaurant website or app are automatically paired with third-party couriers so guests get a seamless experience, while you control the order data, guest relationship, and revenue.

To find out how Olo can help launch or strengthen your delivery program, contact us today.

Photo Credit: Rodnae Productions from Pexels

People
Jan 11, 2023
5
 min read

Olo is diverse, equitable, and inclusive by design. Find out what DEI means to our company, what steps we’ve taken to be a more inclusive workplace, and our goals for the future.

Team Olo, DEI

While workplace diversity training first emerged in the mid-1960s, many businesses have recently made diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) a priority by rethinking hiring practices and company culture and even enlisting the help of specialists to lead the effort. At Olo, we recognize that meaningful change takes time and dedication.

That’s why our team regularly analyzes company data, surveys employees, and creates policies and resource groups that celebrate our differences, support underrepresented individuals, and foster a community of belonging.

Before we provide specific examples of how we put DEI into action at Olo, let's break down the acronym:

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Diversity

Diversity refers to acknowledging, understanding, and appreciating individual and social differences (age, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, physical abilities, socioeconomics, etc.). In the workplace, it means giving everyone a seat at the table and celebrating differences.

Equity

While equality ensures each person or group receives the same resources or opportunities, equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances and provides the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome. In the workplace, this means ensuring every employee can succeed.

Inclusion

In the words of Vernā Myers, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” In other words, inclusion is the extent to which each person in an organization feels welcomed, respected, supported, and valued as a team member. This type of environment requires people from diverse backgrounds to communicate and work together, and to understand one another's needs and perspectives.

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Olo’s Journey To Becoming a DEI-Focused Organization

Olo has made DEI a core component of our business. To foster a culture of inclusivity, we believe it’s important to look inward, listen, and take concrete action. We started with these three steps:

1. Commit

To become a DEI-focused organization, Olo’s leadership first made the commitment. Our team recognized that only if leadership set the tone and clearly communicated expectations and goals, could the rest of the company engage and help see it through.

2. Understand

Next, we needed to evaluate the current state of DEI at Olo, from a qualitative and quantitative perspective. To establish a baseline for measuring progress and to identify areas of improvement, we had to do a bit of self-reflection.

For one, we had to find out how employees viewed the company. Do they feel like they belong? Do they feel like there’s a safe place for conversation between teammates and leaders? Understanding the core data (e.g. the breakdown of men and women, race, and ethnicities at the company) was key.

3. Act

Finally, we had to be willing and able to take action. Reporting data and taking the pulse of employees is great, but unless we were prepared to take concrete steps to address areas of improvement, the rest wouldn’t really matter. 

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How Olo Puts DEI Into Action

The work began with the creation of our Diversity Statement and the enhancement of our recruiting efforts. We created a dedicated DEI function within the People + Culture team, expanded our Talent Acquisition team to actively source diverse candidates, implemented ongoing DEI training for all employees, helped launch Employee Resource Groups, and more.

By the end of 2024, Olo aims to have a team composed of at least 42% women and 18% underrepresented ethnicities (employees who voluntarily self-identify as Black/African American, Hispanic/Latinx, Two or More Races, Native American, Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander). And thereafter, we hope to set additional targets to continue our efforts.

Here are some of the ways we’re moving toward our goal:

Annual DEI Survey

We have an annual DEI survey that asks employees questions like, “Do you feel like you belong?” and “Do you feel like your voice matters?”, in addition to capturing demographic information like age, ethnicity, department, and gender identity. By analyzing the responses, we can compare the experience of different groups and develop a plan to address areas in need of improvement. 

DEI Committee

Composed of a group of diverse employees from across the company, the DEI Committee’s role is to raise a voice for all Oloites, advise the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Director, and create and facilitate events and initiatives to increase DEI at Olo.

Hiring Practices

To increase representation across the company, we’ve taken a number of steps, including: 

  • Pre-screening all job descriptions to ensure we’re using inclusive language
  • Posting on diversity job boards
  • Proactively sourcing diverse candidates
  • Including our diversity statement in our job descriptions
  • Anonymizing profiles when reviewing assessments
  • Removing college degree requirements where possible
  • Training hiring managers on interview strategies to reduce bias
  • Forming a diversity hiring committee to evaluate every step of the process and identify areas for improvement

We’ve also expanded our recruitment efforts at diversity-focused events, such as the National Society of Black Engineers and the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, to hire more junior engineers and interns.

Training

We have a robust training curriculum that includes guest speakers, panel discussions, and leading inclusively training specifically targeting managers and leaders.

Mentoring Program

We launched Olo Ties, a mentoring pilot program that gives women and underrepresented minorities at Olo an opportunity to work with mentors at the company and get help in their career paths.

Employee Resource Groups

We encourage employees to create Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and provide support when they want to bring in guest speakers and hold events. We currently have six: Olo Women’s Network, Oloites of Color, Olo Pride, Olo Green, Vets @ Olo, and Olo Parents.

Job Leveling and Compensation Calibration

We regularly review our job leveling—the systematic method of objectively and actively assigning value to positions—and compensation across the company to ensure that we’re being equitable and consistent across all departments and positions.

Data Tracking

Every month we look at our statistics across gender, ethnicity, and racial demographics across the company and track our progress with consideration to hiring, acquisitions, and attrition.

Publishing DEI Data

Many businesses are hesitant to publish DEI data because the numbers aren’t ideal. To help hold ourselves accountable for improving our stats, we publish our DEI data on our website.

Encouraging Allyship

Allies play an important role in building an inclusive workplace by recognizing their own privilege and using their skills, knowledge, and position to drive real change.

At Olo, we encourage individuals who want to show support for underrepresented groups to demonstrate their allyship by listening, being receptive to feedback, having a willingness to change behavior to be respectful and inclusive, challenging inequities and attempts to marginalize individuals, as well as letting them know that they care and stand by them.

Final Thoughts

Companies don’t become DEI-focused organizations overnight. But, everyone wins when leadership makes a public commitment to positive change and actively works to build a culture that promotes growth and equity for underrepresented groups. The key is empowering employees to take action and help move the company forward. 

Learn more about how Olo puts DEI into action and apply to one of our open positions today.

Insights
Jan 4, 2023
3
 min read

Personalize your restaurant marketing communications and maximize lifetime value with these five guest segments.

Restaurant Marketing, Restaurant Guest Segments, Email Marketing, Social Media Marketing

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People increasingly want to hear from their favorite brands, but blasting the same email to every guest—with no regard for their unique preferences, behavior patterns, or level of engagement—can be a costly mistake.

Olo’s data shows that restaurant brands using personalized marketing (vs. mass communications) could see a 20% lift in spend by email recipients over 30 days, with a notable surge in sales one day after receiving.

‍With restaurant guest segmentation, you can tackle a myriad of strategic objectives: win new guests, see them more often, boost online ordering, keep regulars engaged, and more.

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5 Restaurant Guest Segments to Set Up Today

The best way to jumpstart a restaurant marketing plan is to build these five guest segments, which will enable you to personalize omnichannel communications and maximize lifetime value (LTV).

1. High-Value Guests

‍Segmenting by high check average is a foundational step toward targeted restaurant marketing. A good baseline is the top 10% of spenders. Why? Guests who spent a lot at your restaurant once are likely to have a high check average again, and therefore should make up a larger portion of where you invest your marketing dollars.

2. Loyal Fans

If a high-value segment is foundational, a segment of guests that is highly engaged is the second layer in that foundation. A loyal guest with a slightly lower check average may prove to have a higher lifetime value in the end (e.g. they spend less but they visit frequently). Plus, they’re more likely to be brand loyal if marketing communications speak to their personal preferences. This segment is made up of guests who come in regularly, order online often, and open most of your emails.

3. Churn Risks

‍It is proven to be more expensive to acquire new guests than it is to retain existing ones, so it’s worth putting time and resources into retaining lapsed visitors. When creating this segment, consider setting up filters to capture restaurant guests who used to visit or order regularly, but haven't in the past 6+ months (depending on your guest frequency averages).

4. Online Orderers

Restaurant delivery and curbside pickup are essential and will continue to grow in the future. A segment of online orderers allows brands to suggest high-value takeout items to interested diners, but also market in-restaurant experiences to increase on-premise sales.

5. Daypart Devotees

‍There are many ways to slice, dice, and cook up strategies to leverage daypart segments. One approach worth testing is using a segment of current daypart devotees to target lookalikes—meaning guests who mirror those already visiting regularly during your slower shifts. Want to drive business on Monday or Tuesday night? Targeting lookalikes of guests who have proven to be weeknight warriors in the past is a great place to start a paid search or social effort.

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Download Olo's Restaurant Marketing Guide

Restaurant Marketing Ideas

Restaurant guest segmentation is only the beginning. The real fun (for marketers at least) starts when those segments are put to work through personalized communications geared toward each segment’s preferences and purchase behavior. Here are a few examples of restaurant marketing campaigns that leverage segments:

Online Orders Campaign | Restaurant Email Marketing

Goal: Boost Online Order Frequency with a Triggered “Inside Scoop” Email Campaign

Segment: Guests who have ordered online, but haven’t ordered within the last month

Trigger: It has been 30 days since their last online order

‍Campaign: Personalized email campaign promoting special takeout-only menu offerings. “Hey, Naomi! We want to let you in on a sweet secret. *Whispers* Did you know we have a s’mores kit that is only available to-go?” 

Win New Guests | Social Media Marketing for Restaurants

Goal: Attract Guests to a New Location by Targeting Lookalikes with a Lead Magnet

‍Segments: Top 1% most frequent visitors and/or top 10% most valuable guests

‍Lead Magnet: $20 toward your first meal (with a qualifying minimum spend)

Campaign: A social media campaign promoting your grand opening and the first week of specials targeted to lookalikes of your current regulars who live nearby your new location. For added effectiveness, require people to first share their email to access the $20 gift card (aka “email gate”) and grow your marketable guest database.

Boost Brunch Business | Multi-Channel Restaurant Marketing Plan

Goal: Drive Brunch Sales with a Multi-Channel Campaign Promoting New Menu Offerings

Segment: Saturday and Sunday Regulars who visit between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

‍Campaign: Send a personalized email campaign promoting your brunch cocktail menu on Tuesday, then launch a re-targeted social media campaign to the same segment featuring your signature cinnamon roll on Friday to keep brunch top-of-mind as guests head into the weekend.

Segments are just the beginning of a personalized restaurant marketing strategy—once built, you can start to track their growth, frequency, and check average. For more inspiration, check out 6 Guest Retention Strategies that Actually Work.

To learn how our restaurant marketing solutions can help your brand personalize guest communications and maximize lifetime value, contact us.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Petit from Unsplash

Product
Dec 21, 2022
4
 min read

Tech is key to efficient restaurant management and a positive guest experience. These solutions can optimize front-of-house and help you do more with less.

Front-of-House Restaurant Technology, Restaurant Management

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Technology is key to efficient restaurant management and a positive dining experience for guests in this digital age. The right tech stack will reduce manual work and stress for employees, decrease human errors and miscommunication, boost guest satisfaction, and ultimately, enable the brand to serve more people.

As the industry juggles a labor shortage and a resurgence in dine-in, many brands are looking for ways to do more with less. But with a rapidly growing restaurant tech ecosystem, it can be difficult to tell the difference between nice-to-have and must-have solutions.

Knowing that every brand has unique needs, we’ve narrowed down the list to the most impactful tech solutions for boosting front-of-house efficiency.

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6 Restaurant Technologies That Streamline FOH Operations

1. Online Order Management System

With online orders streaming in from multiple sources, brands need a way to effortlessly manage orders and handoff without leaving the counter. A tablet-based online order management solution can enhance the front-of-house workflow by enabling team members to manage all orders (direct and marketplace), view by handoff mode (inside, drive-thru, curbside), early fire if needed, set custom labels and alerts for large orders, request new drivers, receive curbside arrival notifications, and set menu item availability—all from a single screen.

Expo is Olo’s staff-facing tablet application for enhancing front-of-house operations and order flow.

2. Table Management System

A modern restaurant table management system provides real-time, streamlined party management so that full-service operators can efficiently manage dine-in parties, off-premise orders, reservations, and waitlist parties from a single list. That means more guest-facing interaction, far less training, and no more bouncing between apps that don’t share data.

With the right system in place, restaurant brands can optimize operations as service unfolds via automated table status updates through a POS integration and customizable configurations like push notifications, smart tags, and more.

3. QR Code Ordering

Restaurants can leverage QR code ordering to optimize operations and create a seamless dining experience by enabling guests to view the menu, order, and pay at the table, all from their phones. Guests simply scan a QR code on a sign or sticker at the table and order, without needing to wait for a server or stand in line

Increased staff efficiency resulting from fewer nonessential touch points between employees and guests, and faster table turnover are just a few of the benefits of QR code ordering.

Read our Nando’s case study to find out how QR code ordering has transformed on-premise operations and the dine-in experience at the fast-casual restaurant brand.

Credit Albert Hu from Unsplash

4. Reservation System

Reservation systems help full-service restaurant brands strategically map out their dining rooms in order to serve more guests as well as provide more accurate wait quotes. Reservations give operators the ability to prepare the kitchen and waitstaff ahead of a busy shift, and less wait time means happier guests.

With the right restaurant reservation system, guests can book a table directly with the restaurant via Google, social media, website, app, etc. for a seamless user journey.

5. Waitlist Management System

Forget pen and paper. A waitlist management system can enable full-service restaurant guests to join remotely and offer automated, real-time updates so they know exactly where they are in line. 

With fewer people crowding the entryway and less time spent manually texting guests, hosts can focus their attention on thoughtfully greeting and seating. And, when everyone is in the know, brands can expect fewer unnecessary phone calls, texts, and host interruptions, which can lead to happier employees and guests.

A modern restaurant waitlist system can also accurately predict wait times using sophisticated algorithms, so the host staff doesn’t have to guess and risk upsetting guests.

Hot Tip: Even at times when there is no wait, operators can turn on a 0-5 minute waitlist to capture guest data that would otherwise be lost with an unidentified walk-in.

With Olo Host, restaurants can manage their waitlist, reservations, and online orders from a single dashboard.

6. Scheduling Software

Staffing challenges are a major headache for brands and can negatively impact operational efficiency, quality of service, guest satisfaction, and team member retention. To combat these issues, some restaurant operators leverage restaurant scheduling software to quickly organize shift schedules, anticipate scheduling challenges, and communicate with team members about last-minute shift changes.

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A Virtual Helping Hand

Restaurant brands should consider technology a virtual helping hand that makes it possible to do more with less. By automating tedious tasks and empowering team members to focus on making meaningful connections with guests, everyone wins.

For more inspiration, read How tech can ease the FOH labor shortage. And stay tuned for the next installment of our “Do More With Less” series, wherein we’ll cover restaurant delivery strategies and solutions.

To find out how Olo can help your restaurant brand do more with less, contact us.

Insights
Dec 14, 2022
7
 min read

In other industries, brands optimize everything around lifetime value. Olo’s Mike Vichich explores how restaurant CFOs can follow suit.

Guest Lifetime Value, GLV, Restaurant Finance

Every day, restaurant CFOs field numerous requests to spend more money. If they approve the wrong expenses, the brand ends up in a ditch. Spending too much on labor or spending too little. Spending too much on food costs or too little. The same is true in every department. 

To make matters worse, what you should spend varies from brand to brand—and location to location. Some guests will pay up for better food ingredients, others won't. Some guests will pay for a location that offers a unique dining experience, others won't. These decisions are all shades of gray, and they're endless.

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Certain Costs and Uncertain Benefits

The reality is that every restaurant CFO is forced to predict what their guests are willing to pay for, and to what extent. Over the years, tools have emerged to help CFOs understand what's working and what's not, including:

  • Online Reviews
  • Secret Shops
  • Traffic Counts

Each is insufficient. 

Online Reviews: Do the opinions of these people represent our guests in general?

Secret Shops: Even if we deliver our brand standard to one party, does it resonate with all guests?

Traffic Counts: Are we churning through guests, or are we doing a good job retaining them?

To this day, CFOs are faced with certain costs and uncertain benefits—the balancing of guest experience and cost. When faced with enough of these decisions, most people will start indexing toward reducing cost—it's the logical thing to do.

In his book “Restaurant Man,” Joe Bastianich shared that his secret to success in restaurants was "watching costs while focusing relentlessly on exceeding customer expectations." Restaurant margins are often tight; there's no room for error.  

Like other complex ecosystems, it's difficult to quantify the effect of forces interacting with each other. (Aside: For an interesting read on ecosystems, I'd recommend “Serengeti Rules,” written by evolutionary biologist Sean B. Carroll.)  

The net of all this: CFOs and the brands they lead sink or swim based on the strength of their judgment (and their luck). 

It doesn't have to be that way.

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Why Lifetime Value is a Critical Guest Health Metric

In other industries, especially retail e-commerce, brands optimize everything around lifetime value. It is the predicted cash flow from a guest, based on their recency, frequency, and monetary spend. You can think of it as a guest-level Discounted Cashflow Analysis. 

Professor Peter Fader of The Wharton School at The University of Pennsylvania pioneered the lifetime value field 20 years ago, and it has since gained traction across industries. In 2016, Fader founded a company called Zodiac, which calculated customer lifetime value and was later acquired by Nike. Recently, Fader founded another company called Theta, which calculates company valuations based on guest data. Fader's and Theta Equity's work is used in tech, e-commerce, and hedge funds to help leaders fine-tune day-to-day operations. 

The lifetime value science applies as much to restaurants as any other business. Legacy POS systems, tech vendors that "own" the guest data, and fragmented SaaS systems are the root problem. It's impossible to know the value of each individual guest when the data resides in disconnected silos.

In three years, harnessing the power of guest data will be table stakes. Today it differentiates—the Roark portfolio, Panera, and just a few others do it well.

Retail e-commerce nailed it. Restaurants can take lessons on six fronts: Strategy, Marketing, Operations, Menu, Labor, and Real-Estate.

Download the Guest Lifetime Value ebook

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How Restaurants Can Use Lifetime Value

Strategy

According to Olo data from more than 18 million guest records, the top 5% of restaurant guests (by lifetime value) drive about 30% of revenue, and the top 20% of guests drive 60% of revenue. This is a law for every restaurant business. The entire executive team should understand:

  • Who those top guests are (psychographics and behavior most importantly)
  • Why they visit (purchase patterns, daypart patterns)
  • Why they stop visiting (NPS, feedback)
  • How we find them (acquisition channel)

Marketing

Based on a strong foundation of understanding of the guest, now marketing can drive guest counts. In the future, marketing will be increasingly precise and measurable. Top guests spend 6x the average and 25x the bottom. On the side of acquisition, marketing can seek out those guests and justify paying a higher price to acquire each of them. 

I don't know of a single CFO who would complain about spending $20 to acquire a guest who spends $750/yr as opposed to $5 to acquire a guest who spends $50/yr. Knowing the guest teaches you where to fish. Historically, the challenge has been tracking a single guest across visits. 

From a frequency perspective, marketing teams can now nudge guests in exactly the right way at exactly the right time. If frequency dips, or it's been a while since they've visited, or they give you poor feedback, send an automated message (or series of messages) to the guest on the channels where you can reach them. The work here is testing and improving those messages—not sending or measuring campaigns. 

Operations

Growing up working in restaurants, the CRM was in my brain. I had an anecdotal inventory in mind of who the valuable guests were. I knew their names, what they liked to drink, and their hobbies. I really cared. 

But guest relationships can’t be entirely dependent on individual employees. Otherwise, every time you hire someone new, they have to rebuild that CRM from the ground up. It puts employees in an unfair position and alienates regulars. No regular loves the "have you dined here before?" question. 

To ensure that guests keep coming back, even when staff turnover occurs, brands need an institutional memory rooted in data. Today's restaurant systems ensure that all employees know the regulars—whether they're in the building or ordering online. But we shouldn't stop at regulars. What about people who had a bad experience last time, haven't been back in a while or might like a new item on the menu?

It may seem like magic, but all this information can be displayed in the host stand system and pushed into the POS in real time. 

Labor

If a server (full-service) or cashier (limited-service) gets guests to return more than the average employee, they should get rewarded. In full-service, that means better sections, and in all service types, that means better schedules. That part is obvious, yet mostly subjective. 

The simple metric to provide managers is an employee’s Repeat Customer Rate: the number of guests who come back for another visit divided by the total number of guests they see. Managers should know an employee's Repeat Customer Rate within the first 90 days of hiring a new front-line employee. 

What if you indexed your hourly pay to Repeat Customer Rate? Employees who drive high repeats should get paid more per hour. Repeat Customer Rate is a simple, transparent, fact-based metric to align employee incentives with those of guests and shareholders. 

As a thought experiment, how much would you pay a server if they got every guest to visit again?

Menu

If you're not making menu decisions based on reorder rates, you're doing your guests a disservice. Let's explore a few theoretical menu items:

  • High volume, high repeat = All-stars, put these everywhere in your acquisition campaigns.
  • High volume, low repeat = Guests want to love this item, but they don't. These are the worst items of all because they turn off droves of new guests. Test new recipes here, fast!
  • Low volume, high repeat = It may seem like a bummer of an item, but your regulars are the ones who buy it. These kill you when you take them off the menu.
  • Low volume, low repeat = Not worth the space on the menu, and not the complexity to carry the food costs. Kill these items.

Mapping Menu Engineering to Customer Retention and Frequency
Mapping Menu Engineering to Guest Retention and Frequency

Real Estate

Every restaurant brand wants to pick locations near where their guests live, work, and play. In order to do that, you need to know exactly who your guests are and their respective lifetime values. 

Brands can identify sites with high ROI potential by leveraging restaurant technology and analytics firms that provide actionable insights rooted in data, including mobility, demographic, lifetime value, purchase history, preferred sales channel, etc.

Give your real-estate team a spreadsheet with this intel so they can ensure your newest locations are set up for success.

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How to Get the Restaurant CFO On Board With Guest Lifetime Value

Today, you'll be uniquely good if you embed lifetime value into your company. In three years, you'll be uniquely bad if you haven't. Lifetime value is the most critical guest health metric. 

For non-finance types, if you're wondering how to convince your CFO to spend more money—prove to them that your project will drive guest lifetime value through:

  1. Acquiring enough new target guests
  2. Maximizing the "lifetime" of each guest
  3. Maximizing the transactions guests make over their lifetime
  4. Maximizing the margin per transaction

To find out how to unlock guest lifetime value and leverage those insights across your entire business, contact us.

Insights
Dec 7, 2022
6
 min read

Virtual concepts are all the rage, but are they right for every brand? Find out how virtual restaurants work, the benefits and disadvantages, and more.

Virtual Restaurants, Virtual Concepts

Silicon Valley began funding delivery-only startups in 2016, but it wasn’t until 2019 that virtual restaurants started making waves. With the advent of COVID, the trend has taken off with some of the largest concepts, like MrBeast Burger, generating $100M in revenue across 1,600 virtual kitchens in roughly 15 months.

With that level of success, it’s no wonder restaurant brands of all types are seriously thinking about launching one of their own. But there’s a lot to consider—from unique offerings and packaging to competition, location, and marketing.

To help you determine if a virtual restaurant is right for your business, we’ve compiled a guide of opportunities, challenges, and best practices based on our experience launching over 75 virtual restaurant brands.

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What is a Virtual Restaurant? 

A virtual restaurant is a delivery-only concept with a full menu that exists solely online and is often listed on third-party marketplaces, with no traditional, brick-and-mortar restaurant space. 

Virtual restaurant brands can operate out of an established restaurant or a ghost kitchen. While the terms are often used interchangeably, a ghost kitchen (aka a dark/cloud kitchen) is a shared commissary space without a dining room that one or more virtual restaurants can rent to prepare off-premise meals.

Guests can place an order for delivery via a virtual brand’s website or a third-party marketplace.

Some virtual concepts are spinoffs of traditional brands, such as Cosmic Wings (Applebee’s), The Burger Den and The Meltdown (Denny’s), and Thighstop (Wingstop). However, there are also a variety of non-restaurant-affiliated virtual brands like Mariah’s Cookies and Nascar Refuel.

Virtual Restaurant 101
Credit Caleb Oquendo from Pexels

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Pros and Cons of Virtual Restaurants

While virtual restaurants have proven to be a worthy venture for some brands, there’s plenty to consider before diving in. Here are just a few of the potential opportunities and challenges of launching a virtual brand.

Opportunities

  • Minimal Overhead: Without a dining room and front-of-house staff, there are fewer ongoing expenses, such as utilities, equipment, salaries, etc.
  • Additional Revenue: Virtual brands can be a valuable source of incremental revenue for established brands with underutilized kitchen space.
  • Flexibility to Test: Brands can iterate on menu favorites or repurpose ingredients to create new dishes.
  • Less Food Waste: By leveraging delivery data to make food preparation decisions, as well as splitting and reusing ingredients within a shared kitchen space, virtual brands can minimize food waste and help the environment.
  • Reach New Guests: Established businesses can breathe new life into their brand—or reinvent themselves altogether—to reach new demographics.
  • Quick to Set Up: Without a brick-and-mortar location or a large staff, standing up a virtual brand can be far less intensive than a traditional restaurant.
  • Room to Expand: If successful, a virtual concept could seamlessly transition into a traditional restaurant or even be absorbed by a parent brand, just as Wingstop incorporated Thighstop into its permanent menu.

Challenges

  • High Partner Commissions: To drive sales, many virtual brands are reliant on third-party marketplaces, which can charge commission fees as high as 30%.
  • Harder to Form Relationships with Guests: Building trust and long-term loyalty can be difficult for virtual brands that have fewer ways to interface with guests.
  • Brand Building: Virtual concepts that don’t have an established parent brand have to build everything—from an audience to branding and marketing—from scratch.
  • Quality Control: Quality can suffer if kitchen staff have to juggle orders from multiple concepts. And if third-party providers are entirely responsible for delivery, brands have less control over order accuracy and customer service.
  • Reputation Management: Reviews can make or break any restaurant’s reputation, but virtual brands are especially vulnerable since they operate entirely online.
  • Inaccessible Data: Unless virtual brands take orders directly through their website, guest data can be difficult to access and leverage when owned by third-party marketplaces.
  • Staff Burnout: Brands run the risk of overwhelming staff if they’re unable to effectively manage the flow of orders from a virtual concept and their typical restaurant operations.

Virtual restaurant pros and cons
Credit Mikhail Nilov from Pexels

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Virtual Brand Best Practices

In the process of helping dozens of virtual restaurant brands get off the ground, we learned a thing or two about how to set a concept up for success. Keep these tips in mind for a strong debut and sustainable growth over time.

  • Well-Researched Business Plan: You wouldn’t open a brick-and-mortar restaurant without a solid business plan—a virtual concept should be no different. Thorough market research, competitive analysis, budgeting, a comprehensive marketing plan, business structure, and financial projections are critical.
  • Small, Focused Menu: Winning virtual brands have unique but simple menus. They’re straightforward, optimized for quick conversion, and accompanied by mouthwatering imagery.
  • Professional Branding: Every guest touchpoint—from your website to packaging, and marketing—should be uniquely branded to help generate awareness, provide a consistent guest experience, and establish trust.
  • Direct Ordering: Marketplaces can be a powerful tool for driving first-time orders, but to build an actionable database and deepen guest relationships, a direct ordering restaurant website and/or app is critical. That’s why Virtual Dining Concepts leveraged marketplaces to garner interest in MrBeast Burger alongside social media and giveaways encouraging people to download its branded ordering app.
  • Know Your Audience to Grow Your Audience: While some brands, like Wingstop, have successfully tapped into an existing fanbase to find an audience for their virtual concept, others have teamed up with celebrities to generate buzz. Mariah’s Cookies, for example, targeted Mariah Carey’s 10 million-plus followers on Instagram to build awareness across 30 major U.S. markets. Ultimately, brands should play to their strengths and pursue strategies that appeal to their target market.
  • Multiple Delivery Service Providers: Since virtual restaurants need fast and reliable delivery to be successful, brands should consider enabling multiple delivery service providers.
  • Retention Campaigns: To keep guests coming back and ensure they become more valuable over time, virtual brands need to prioritize retention campaigns (e.g. direct online orderers to download your restaurant app for quicker service; encourage email subscribers to sign up for SMS messaging for insider perks; give weekend regulars a reason to order during the week, etc.)
  • Engage With Reviews: Restaurant reputation management is paramount for virtual restaurants. Brands can make guests feel heard and appreciated by responding to online reviews—good and bad—promptly.
  • Test and Adapt: Successful virtual brands continuously refine their strategy based on what’s working and what isn’t according to guest data and feedback.

What’s Next for Virtual Restaurants? 

It’s estimated that virtual restaurant brands will become a $1 trillion industry by 2030, but it’s important to remember that the trend is still in its infancy. Many virtual brands are actively trying to figure out their niche and the key to earning repeat business.

According to research from Datassential, the future of virtual brands is mainly dependent on consumer education and transparency. While the research firm estimates that more than 13,000 virtual brands are operating in the U.S., it found that half of restaurant-goers had virtual brand awareness and just 34 percent have ordered from one.

To establish trust with consumers and gain a loyal following, virtual brands must prioritize quality, consistency, transparency, and exceptional service. By following the best practices above and teaming up with a knowledgeable tech partner, virtual restaurants can be a lucrative venture for traditional brands and startups alike.

To learn more about best practices for virtual brands and how Olo can provide support, contact us today.

Main Photo Credit: Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

Product
Nov 30, 2022
4
 min read

To satisfy off-premise demand, restaurant brands have embraced delivery. But how do you effectively scale this channel? A multipronged approach is key.

Restaurant Delivery

To satisfy demand for off-premise dining, restaurant brands of all sizes have embraced delivery. But in order to effectively grow a delivery channel, you need a multipronged approach centered around optimization, education, and promotion that will appeal to existing and potential guests, as well as encourage repeat orders.

Here are eight ways to increase restaurant delivery sales through your brand website and app, as well as marketplaces and listings:

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1. Website and App Optimization

The first step to increasing delivery sales is to optimize your restaurant website and mobile app for conversion. In addition to being mobile-friendly, and quick to load, there should be a prominent “Order Delivery” button that’s easy for guests to find.

The fewer hoops guests have to jump through, the more likely they are to place a delivery order. So, be mindful of potential barriers to conversion, such as lengthy forms, limited payment options, account creation prompts, fees added at checkout, etc.

The Wingstop mobile app features a prominent Order Delivery button.

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2. Leverage Delivery Service Providers and Marketplaces

Brands can bypass the complications of managing drivers or contracts with multiple delivery service providers (DSPs) by leveraging an integrated delivery network. Using third-party delivery couriers to fulfill native orders from your website or app can increase guest loyalty while offering a direct digital experience wherein you own the data.

Additionally, through a single integration to multiple third-party marketplaces, brands can consolidate all online orders into one location (e.g. POS system, tablet, etc.), regardless of where they originated. This benefits everyone involved in the delivery process: guests receive accurate information, delivery couriers can execute more deliveries per hour, and restaurants stay in control.

3. Order With Google

Brands can turn Google Search and Google Maps inquiries into delivery orders with Order With Google. By accepting delivery orders directly through Google, restaurants can boost their ranking in search results, stand out from the competition, and reduce the number of steps to conversion.

Since new and existing guests likely already use Google every day, restaurant brands can (and should) meet guests where they are and drive delivery orders at the same time.

The Order With Google experience for Uncle Julio’s.

4. Menu Engineering

Restaurant brands should use menu item profitability, popularity, and lifetime value (LTV) data when designing their delivery menu. Through strategic placement of menu items and upselling, brands can positively influence guest behavior and, ultimately, increase sales.

A restaurant CDP is key to effective menu engineering because it enables brands to connect guest data from their POS, payment processor, online ordering platform, loyalty program, and more to a menu engineering tool. And, by unlocking LTV, brands can quantify the results of menu optimization.

Keep in mind that menu engineering is an iterative process. Regular testing and analyzing trends are key to continuously driving results.

5. SEO

According to Google Trends data from the last five years, the search term “restaurants near me” reached peak popularity in July 2021. To ensure that your brand ranks high in search results when people are looking for food nearby, prioritize SEO across all platforms.

For example, a Mexican restaurant brand that wants to increase delivery awareness and sales should incorporate relevant keywords such as “Mexican food delivery [name of city]” and “Mexican restaurant delivery near me” into its website, social media pages, digital ads, and third-party listings.

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6. Omnichannel Marketing

In-store and online restaurant marketing is critical for educating guests about delivery options and encouraging adoption. Each location should display prominent signage and a clearly marked pickup area for delivery couriers. Additionally, staff T-shirts, door decals, receipts (“Next time, order delivery at [URL]!”), bag stuffers and stickers can help spread the word.

With countless meal decisions being made online every second, restaurant brands should leverage email, SMS, social media, and geo-targeted digital advertising to reach a wider audience and boost delivery sales. Focus on the benefits of delivery (convenience, speed, ease of ordering, etc.), enable anyone to start an order with one click, and consider incentivizing guests with an introductory offer, such as free delivery or $5 off $20 on their first order.

7. Solicit and Engage with Feedback

In order to scale delivery, brands have to know what’s working and what isn’t. The best way to find out is to solicit guest feedback about the delivery experience proactively.

With automated surveys, brands are able to show guests that their opinion matters, quickly address issues, spot trends that could impact future sales, and optimize the experience for both first-time delivery orderers and repeat guests.

Monitoring and engaging with restaurant reviews is also important. If guests are complaining about the delivery experience on Google and the brand has not responded in a timely and professional manner, those reviews will negatively affect the brand’s reputation and likely dissuade first-time guests from placing an order.

Automated post-visit survey from Velvet Taco

8. Retention Campaigns

After a guest has ordered delivery once, it’s up to the brand to convince them to do it again. And considering that traditionally, the cost of acquiring a new guest is 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one, retention campaigns should play a big role in any delivery growth strategy.

Restaurant brands can motivate guests to order delivery again with personalized offers based on their order history, by promoting new menu items that complement their favorites, or by letting them know about the latest specials just before they make plans to eat. For more inspiration, check out these restaurant retention strategies.

It’s All About the Guest Experience

The most profitable restaurant delivery programs meet guests where they are and offer a frictionless, personalized experience—while also seamlessly integrating with the brand’s existing tech stack. 

Omnichannel marketing that educates guests about the benefits of delivery is essential for a successful launch, but the work doesn’t end there. To successfully scale delivery, brands need to continuously market the program to new and existing guests, analyze data, gather feedback, optimize, and test.

Learn about our restaurant delivery solutions, Dispatch and Rails, and ask us how we can help boost sales for your brand.

Photo Credit: Norma Mortenson from Pexels

Insights
Nov 23, 2022
3
 min read

In an effort to drive sales, some restaurant brands will try any (and every) marketing tactic. Consider doing this instead.

Restaurant Marketing, Restaurant Marketing Strategy

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Faced with a labor shortage and budget constraints, many restaurant brands are looking for a quick marketing solution that’s going to drive ROI. But in reality, what works for one brand may not work for another. Why?

  1. Your guests and their relationship with your brand are unique
  2. The most effective marketing campaigns are rooted in data

As tempting as it might be to test out every marketing channel and tactic at once to see what works, don’t try to boil the ocean. It’s the quickest way to overwhelm any team and, frankly, waste your time and resources.

Instead, consider narrowing your focus to one marketing objective.

Yep, you read that right—one.

Here are a few examples:

  • Move guests from one visit to five visits
  • Ensure every guest tries your most popular menu item within 90 days of their first transaction
  • Drive restaurant app downloads
  • Build up your SMS subscriber audience
  • Motivate online orderers to try delivery
  • Incentivize guests that typically use marketplaces to order direct

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Now you’re probably thinking, how do I pick just one objective when we have countless initiatives?

Start by getting your data in order.

Determine what restaurant data sources you currently have access to, including email opt-ins, online orders, POS transactions, loyalty members, CRM, etc. 

Next, it’s time to analyze. As you look at the data, ask yourself questions like, who are your guests? How do they behave? What is your average guest frequency? What is your most lucrative sales channel? Can you segment guests by lifetime value (GLV)?

By focusing on even one of these insights, you can figure out which marketing channel (search engine, social media, email, SMS, etc.) and strategy have the highest ROI potential for your brand. For instance, is your restaurant app more effective than social media for guest engagement?

If you can’t answer these types of questions because of a limited data set, a good marketing objective would be to connect more of your restaurant systems so that you have a holistic view of each guest. Cross-department collaboration will be key, so make sure your Marketing, IT, and Finance teams are looped in.

Remember, it’s impossible to create a marketable database and treat every guest like a regular if you have disparate systems and no shared understanding of who your guests are or how they behave.

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Once you’ve picked a channel and settled on a plan of action, start executing marketing campaigns. Here’s some inspiration depending on your objective:

  • Drive foot traffic to a slow daypart: Launch geotargeted Google Ads during those hours of the day, bidding on relevant keywords (e.g. Smoothies near me) and featuring an attractive offer.
  • Target cart abandoners with remarketing: Invite cart abandoners back to your website to complete their online order with personalized remarketing ads that follow them as they surf the web.
  • Gather guest feedback at scale: Collect valuable feedback to power your business decisions via automated post-visit surveys. Add a tasty incentive—like free chips and queso on their next visit—for good measure.
  • Grow your social media following: Launch an email campaign featuring your most popular dishes on social media with an invitation to follow along. Drive engagement by encouraging guests to use a branded hashtag on their posts for a chance to be featured on your feed.

After you’ve gained some experience and insight into what works (and what doesn’t) for your brand, you can graduate within each channel. Think of it as building blocks and treat each marketing bucket as a progressive opportunity. 

For instance, if your goal is to increase the number of direct online orders by driving traffic to your website, you could start by launching Google Search Ads targeting people looking for similar cuisine within 10 miles of your restaurant. Once you’ve honed in on the messaging most likely to convert window shoppers into paying guests, set up website retargeting to ensure your brand stays top of mind and invite visitors back.

Whatever your chosen marketing objective, make sure to share your plan—including what you’re testing and why—with your franchisees so that they’re aware and can provide support.

Ultimately, restaurant brands that take a data-driven, hyper-focused approach to marketing will see the highest ROI, not just in terms of sales, but also in terms of guest acquisition and retention. So the next time you’re tempted to do it all, think quality over quantity.

Contact us today to find out how Olo can take your restaurant marketing to the next level.

Maximize your ROI with the 2024 Restaurant Marketing Guide

Main Photo Credit: Jason Goodman from Unsplash

Insights
Nov 16, 2022
6
 min read

Restaurant marketers are always looking for new guests, but we can't underestimate the value of current guests. Learn retention strategies for all stages.

Guest Retention, Restaurant Retention Strategies

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Restaurants typically have a handful of loyal regulars who GMs and bartenders know by name, but behind the scenes, restaurant marketers are on a never-ending treasure hunt to find and attract new guests. While there are numerous restaurant guest acquisition strategies that marketers can leverage, it’s important not to underestimate the value of current guests. After all, research tells us that increasing guest retention rates by 5% increases profits by at least 25%.

Since retention is critical at all stages of the restaurant guest lifecycle, we’re breaking down some proven strategies, with frameworks you can actually use.

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6 Winning Restaurant Guest Retention Strategies

1. Use Data for Good (Especially When It Comes to Your Regulars)

Personalization is no longer just a nice-to-have. Guests are beginning to understand the power of their data, and increasingly want brands to use it to serve their interests via personalized offers, experiences, and suggested products. Tailoring what you sell to a guest’s purchase history, preferences, and what they have engaged with is a crucial strategy to build restaurant brand loyalty.

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Framework You Can Use

If you’re not already looking to retail for inspiration, start now, paying close attention to personalized marketing. When a guest on the waitlist leaves before being seated, treat it like an abandoned cart and send a strategic email to prompt them to return (stats suggest a 48% open rate for emails like these). Make like retail giants and bundle items—when a guest orders tacos, trigger a campaign suggesting the tacos are frequently enjoyed with an agua fresca and salsa trio. Best use case: A/B test different bundles to see what drives higher check averages and visit frequency.

2. Like Rome, Guest Relationships Aren’t Built in a Day

When it comes to those guests you’re just getting to know, winning second and third visits is a leading indicator of a “guest for life.” The means to that end is a structured cadence of personalized outreach—said differently, giving new guests more chances to engage increases your opportunity to build brand loyalty. And, consumer research shows that personalization increases visitor engagement by 55%.

Framework You Can Use

Build a scalable, repeatable framework for your new guests with a variety of ways to engage as they move through the lifecycle. Pay attention to what works, and tweak accordingly. Try this cadence:

First Visit/ WiFi Signup/ Online Order >> Welcome email promoting your insiders' club (the more tailored you can make this to their experience the better, e.g. drilling down by location visited or the channel via which they first made contact)

After Second Visit >> Let them know you’re listening with a triggered survey: “Hey Caleb, how’d we do? Would you recommend us to a friend?”

After 30 days >> Email campaign featuring occasion-based messaging such as “Did someone say Happy Hour? Right this way…”

After 3 months >> Email campaign featuring your most popular dishes on social media with an invitation to follow along and share: “Tag your posts for a chance to be featured on our feed.”

After 6 months >> Seasonal menu reset with an invitation to get involved: “Be one of the first to taste the new dishes on our menu at a special event for loyal fans …”

 

After 1 year >> Anniversary perk “Have this cake … on us. And yes, please eat it too!”

3. Go with the Flow (of Guest Frequency)

The Gartner Group found that the Pareto principle holds true with consumer behavior: 80% of your future profits will come from just 20% of your current guests. It’s worth putting time, effort, and resources into guest retention, but not equally for all guests. The key here is segmenting by value and analyzing each segment’s frequency. With that, you can allocate time and resources according to value, and build outreach aimed to increase their known frequency.

Framework You Can Use

Guests with a high check average may be occasion-based guests with a twice-per-year frequency for birthdays and anniversaries. Send them a personal invite to join for a New Year’s Eve toast or Mother’s Day brunch to increase their frequency to quarterly.

Meanwhile, a segment of high-value guests may have a lower check average and bi-monthly frequency. Aim to get them coming in once a month by sending them an easy-to-use offer that appeals to convenience.

4. Go Outside the Inbox  

To reach guests who have stopped engaging with your brand, try a structured cadence across multiple platforms. Research shows that companies using multiple channels to connect with guests increase satisfaction by 15-20% and boost growth by 20%.

Framework You Can Use

Build a cadence around lapsed guests that includes personalized email, targeted social, and paid search outreach. Keep your automated lapsed guest content up-to-date with regular maintenance. Every six months, pull the entire list and test new platforms. Make sure to track engagement so you know what works.

5. Optimize for Conversion

If you want guests to keep coming back, you need to make sure that all sales channels are optimized for conversion. Otherwise, they’ll choose a different restaurant that meets their needs.

Framework You Can Use

Online Ordering: How easy is it to place an online order and checkout? If your menu is difficult to navigate or the checkout process is cumbersome, for example, your cart abandonment rate is going to be high. Ensure that your online ordering system enables guests to place an order quickly and securely. Bonus points if they can easily reorder their favorite items.

Convenience is Key: Can guests pick up their order curbside or in-restaurant? Is delivery an option? The more handoff options, the more likely guests will follow through with their order and keep coming back. In fact, according to Olo data, brands that enable four or more handoff modes typically see a 12%+ increase in conversion rate.

Google: Can people join the waitlist, book a reservation, or place an online order directly from your Google listing? If not, that’s one unnecessary hoop for returning guests to jump through. Eliminate friction by ensuring your Google listing is fully optimized for conversion.

6. Tighten the Feedback Loop

While 72% of guests will share a positive experience, for every 26 unhappy guests only one is likely to say anything to you. Good, fast, empathic guest feedback management is crucial. In addition, being proactive about collecting feedback is a great loyalty builder—77% of consumers view brands more favorably if they seek out and apply guest feedback.

Framework You Can Use

Build trust with a multi-level feedback strategy. 

When a guest reaches out with valuable feedback in any way (third-party reviews, social media comments, survey responses), it’s essential to engage quickly. Acknowledge their experience and let them know from the beginning that you value their feedback, positive or negative. Take action to fix the problem. Say thank you. 

Continue to build relationships by proactively asking for feedback (automated post-meal surveys work great). When guests reply, thank them and reward them.

For the super loyalist, consider consumer panel special events. “You are an important part of growing our brand and your voice matters.” 

Take a moment for meta-feedback and ask how your engaged guests like to be contacted. Do they prefer a quick text survey, an email, a social form, or an in-person menu workshop? Are they okay being contacted after every visit, or do they prefer a couple of months between surveys? Make sure to contact them accordingly.

This is most effective if you have access to reviews from every source on one restaurant sentiment analysis platform.

In summary, unless you test and implement retention strategies to keep current guests, you’re missing out on the opportunity to maximize their lifetime value and revenue for your brand.

Contact us to supercharge your guest retention strategy and get started with restaurant marketing automation.

Download the 2024 Restaurant Marketing Guide

Photo Credit: Shirota Yuri

People
Nov 9, 2022
3
 min read

In honor of Veterans Day, we sat down with Zach West, leader of Vets@Olo, to discuss why veterans are an asset to businesses and the importance of celebrating service members.

Team Olo, Vets@Olo

As a remote-first company, we work hard to keep our distributed team connected and provide an environment where employees can grow, learn, and celebrate their authentic selves. Our employee resource groups (ERGs) play an essential role in that effort by expanding our culture to be more inclusive.

Vets@Olo was one of the first ERGs to be formed, with the goal of connecting employees who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, their families, and nonveteran colleagues to foster a culture of camaraderie, offer support, and advocate for veteran recruitment, retention, and promotion.

In honor of Veterans Day, we sat down with the ERG’s leader, Zach West, Director of Customer Success Management and former Green Beret in the U.S. Army Special Forces, to get the inside scoop on Vets@Olo, why veterans are an asset to companies, and the importance of celebrating service members.

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Tell us a bit about Vets@Olo.

We have about 20 members, including 11 or so veterans. In addition to being a community and support forum, we’ve done a few events over the years, including interviewing a veteran business owner about his journey from the Armed Forces to running Southern Pines Brewing Company, and hosting a donation drive to benefit Razom, a nonprofit sending emergency supplies to Ukraine.

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Why are veterans an asset to companies?

People who are involved in civic organizations are doing something that's greater than themselves. They tend to walk away with a better understanding of how to operate as a team and stay focused on their work. That type of selflessness benefits businesses as a whole because people are committed to the cause and will look out for one another. Veterans come from a mission-first background, so we will do whatever it takes to accomplish the end goal, leading to more efficient and productive companies.

What are some challenges facing veterans in the workplace?

Companies often overlook veterans as an underrepresented community. In reality, veterans are a diverse and vibrant group whose members intersect lines of gender, sexuality, and ability. What ties us together is a shared commitment to service, patriotism, and volunteerism. Companies should lean in and learn from their veteran community through inclusive practices, celebration, and recognition.

How is Vets@Olo working to change that?

I want to make sure that our group is not just a support forum, but also focused on celebration. We highlight veterans in our company by honoring their service, engaging in conversations around current events, assisting non-profits who benefit places like Ukraine, and ultimately doing the best we can to create a welcoming environment.

Looking ahead, I’d love to see our company benefit the broader community, including hiring more veterans, partnering with other ERGs at Olo, and donating to a veterans-focused organization.

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How can nonveterans show their support on Veterans Day and year-round?

Simply by being involved in different veterans organizations or nonprofits. There are a lot of awareness and support runs/charity races that exist out there. If there are local events going on, just showing up to support the cause is great.

Head to our People & Culture page to learn more about our ERGs, what it’s like to work at Olo, and our current job openings.

Photo Credit: Benjamin Faust from Unsplash

Insights
Nov 2, 2022
7
 min read

The holiday season is one of the busiest times of year for restaurants. Follow these 13 tips to prepare for high-volume days and drive holiday sales.

Restaurant Holiday Sales

With the holidays right around the corner, restaurant brands of all types and sizes are gearing up for one of the busiest times of the year. To help you maximize revenue, guest loyalty, and employee satisfaction this season, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of winning strategies—from menu optimization to ticketed events.

When creating your plan of attack, consider the time investment, resources, value-add, and potential ROI—short-term and long-term—for your specific brand.

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1. Holiday Promotions

Get in the holiday spirit with an irresistible limited-time offer that motivates guests to take action. Fear of missing out (aka FOMO) can be a powerful tool.

Food For Thought: Give guests $20 off orders of $100+, free delivery with a purchase of $50+, or a free appetizer with their first online order.

Level Up: Generate excitement around the promotion on your brand’s social media channels via a holiday-themed countdown or photo contest that incentivizes participation and helps to grow your following.

2. Marketing

Launch an omnichannel marketing campaign across email, SMS, social media, and digital ads to inform new and existing guests about your holiday offerings. This multi-platform approach will increase your brand’s reach and help you meet guests where they are.

Food For Thought: On Dec. 23, ask guests if they forgot someone on their list and need a last-minute gift. Use this opportunity to promote your best-selling cookie cake, gift card, merchandise, etc.

Level Up: Leverage your restaurant CRM to segment guests—high-LTV, big spenders, churn risks, online orderers, etc.—and then personalize communications based on their order history and preferences. A tailored message, served at the optimal time, on a guest’s preferred channel is a recipe for marketing success.

3. Restaurant Gift Cards

Gift cards have been a staple in the restaurant marketing playbook for years, but demand has never been higher. According to research conducted by the National Restaurant Association in 2021, “62% of consumers hope to receive a restaurant gift card for the holidays.”

Food For Thought: Give guests the choice of purchasing a physical gift card that can be sent by mail or a digital gift card that can be sent electronically.

Level Up: Offer a “Give a gift, get a gift” deal to incentivize gift card purchases (e.g. Earn a $10 bonus coupon for every $50 spent on gift cards).

4. Retail Items

Retail can serve as an additional revenue stream, advertising vehicle, and method of strengthening guest loyalty during the holidays and year-round.

Food For Thought: Restaurant regulars go wild for branded merchandise like BBQ sauce, T-shirts, and tote bags. Not to mention, they pair well with restaurant gift cards. Put them front and center in your restaurant, on the website, and on social media.

Level Up: A wine or beer club with membership perks like exclusive events, discounts on food, and priority seating can provide a predictable revenue stream for restaurants. Plus, subscriptions make great gifts at any time of year.

5. Menu

Restaurant brands can put a festive spin on their menu with holiday meal kits, family bundles, and/or seasonal items such as hot drinks and other cold-weather favorites.

Food For Thought: Alleviate the stress of cooking for a crowd with “Thanksgiving-to-go” or appeal to your guests’ nostalgia (and tastebuds) with LTOs like hot toddies or pecan pie.

Level Up: Full-service restaurants can offer an exclusive, holiday prix fixe menu for guests that want an elevated dining experience.

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6. Online Ordering

Given how busy we all are during the holidays, online ordering is a no-brainer for maximizing revenue. Just be sure your digital order management solution can keep up. The right system will enhance front-of-house operations, streamline the order flow, and provide capacity management tools (e.g. throttling, item availability customization, lead time extension, etc.), so your team feels supported and can focus on guests.

Food For Thought: Encourage guests to order holiday favorites like honey-baked ham in advance. Then, recommend menu items that pair well or irresistible add-ons to upsell during checkout and increase average check.

Level Up: Provide a suggested tip during checkout to ensure team members get an extra boost during the holidays.

7. Multiple Handoff Modes

Consumer demand for convenience is at an all-time high during the holidays. Restaurant brands can ensure that every guest has access to their preferred method of ordering by enabling multiple handoff modes, including curbside pickup, delivery, and dine-in.

Food For Thought: According to Olo data, brands that enable four or more handoff modes typically see their conversion rate increase by at least 12%.

Level Up: By integrating third-party delivery couriers to your native online orders, you can grow guest loyalty while opening new revenue channels through a direct digital experience.

8. Catering

Holiday parties present a valuable opportunity to boost restaurant revenue via catering. With many businesses and families gathering to celebrate, brands should consider offering holiday packages for pre-order that meet the needs of guests and also increase brand awareness.

Food For Thought: Promote your Christmas feast or taco party pack—complete with utensils, napkins, plates, reheating instructions, etc.—on your website, social media channels, and digital ads.

Level Up: Create a catering-focused marketing campaign, including email, SMS, and/or digital ads, specifically targeting guests that have placed large orders in the past.

9. Reservations

Reservations play an important role during the holiday season when demand for dine-in soars due to cold weather and the desire to celebrate with loved ones. They can be a source of stress relief for guests who want to plan for an occasion and make guests feel special by eliminating the wait. On the flip side, reservations enable restaurant staff to better prepare for busy shifts and large parties.

Food For Thought: Boost reservations by enabling guests to book from any platform—your website, app, Google Business Profile, social media channels, and beyond.

Level Up: Paid reservations or prepaid bookings are proven to drive down no-shows. Consider introducing a nominal, nonrefundable reservation fee to improve guest show rates and generate revenue.

10. Ticketed Events

Build a community around your brand and maximize revenue at the same time by hosting holiday-themed ticketed events at your restaurant. These events can appear right alongside your regular reservations, piquing interest among repeat and new guests.

Food For Thought: Host an Ugly Sweater Party, Friendsgiving, or a cooking class geared toward achieving guests’ New Year’s Resolutions, and promote the event(s) across your marketing channels.

Level Up: Use your table management solution to create customized floor plans and table assignments before the event, and be sure to accept payments ahead of time to take the guesswork out of your guest list and drive down no-shows.

11. QR Code Ordering

QR code ordering can boost revenue by enabling guests to access the restaurant menu, order, and pay, all from their own mobile devices while sitting at a table. When guests order from a digital interface—without having to stand in line, wait for a server, or stress about indulging in add-ons—check averages and tip income increase.

Food For Thought: To encourage adoption, display eye-catching signage in the restaurant with straightforward instructions for how to order and pay at the table, and designate a team member to assist guests if they need help.

Level Up: Incentivize guests to use QR code ordering during the winter months with targeted marketing campaigns that feature a special holiday deal (e.g. Free dessert with your first QR code order).

12. Outdoor Dining

To extend the outdoor dining season and maintain a steady flow of revenue in winter, restaurants should think creatively about their physical space and offerings. Outdoor heaters, branded blankets, a thoughtful menu featuring warm drinks and hearty fare, and a little bit of ambiance (bistro lights, anyone?) can transform any restaurant patio into a culinary destination.

Food For Thought: Promote an outdoor Winter Ale tasting or turn the parking lot into a drive-in theater with a family-friendly menu.

Level Up: Add a fire pit or an Instagram-worthy backdrop—think flower wall, large mural, patterned wallpaper, or a neon sign—to attract guests and generate buzz on social media.

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13. Make Every Guest Feel Like a Regular

A lesser-known but highly effective way to boost restaurant profit year-round, but especially during the holidays, is by personalizing the guest experience. Brands can thoughtfully tailor every guest interaction, whether dine-in or takeout—no matter which team members are on duty—with an integrated tech stack that ties order history and other guest details in the CRM to the waitlist, reservations, order, and table management solution. In other words, make every guest feel like a regular.

Food For Thought: Alert managers about which table touches to prioritize during a busy shift or have a regular’s favorite drink prepared upon arrival.

Level Up: Send a targeted and timely SMS message to guests featuring an image of your new candy cane milkshake (or another seasonal menu item) that feels like it’s coming from a friend.

Contact us to discover more ways to maximize restaurant revenue during the holidays and year-round.

Photo Credit: Emilie Farris from Unsplash

People
Oct 24, 2022
4
 min read

Get to know Priya Thinagar, Olo’s EVP of Technology, and what fuels her desire to help restaurants grow.

Team Olo

Inspired by Olo’s growth journey and steadfast commitment to helping restaurants do more with less, Priya Thinagar took on the role of Executive Vice President of Technology in late 2021.

Since joining, she has led our Product, Engineering, and Design teams to create best-in-class digital ordering experiences for off-premise and dine-in guests.

We recently sat down with Priya to find out why she chose to work at Olo, highlights from her first year on the job, the key to effective leadership, and more.

Why did you join Olo?

Restaurants are the stronghold of local communities. They act as impactful gathering places where people build relationships and make memories. But it's tough running a restaurant business—dealing with labor shortages, talent acquisition, and low margins. I thought of how cool it would be to help these local businesses thrive and do more with technology. Working in the intersection of two things I like the most, technology and food, is one of the reasons I chose Olo.

Additionally, as an aspiring entrepreneur, working in a founder-led organization meant learning from the best to focus on long-term guidance. A founder sees the company as their life’s work, so they are highly motivated to think about the long-term. I know from reading about successful founders that they have an owner’s mindset—speeding up decisions and a bias for action. Add a notch of purpose and you have this amazing formula that can drive individuals to impactful careers.

Lastly, when I started a year ago, Olo was going through a phase of intense scale. Having read “Blitzscaling” by Reid Hoffman and seeing the energy in fast-paced scaling to build sustainable organizations, I wanted to be at the center of the action-packed journey on this rocket ship.

Tell us a little bit about what you do.

I lead Product, Engineering, and Design for Olo’s core products and platform. Our mission is to remove any friction in the ordering experience, irrespective of the medium chosen to order. Our teams focus on reliability and scale, deeply embracing a data-driven culture to push our limits on being an elite organization.

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Looking back on your first year at Olo, what are you most proud of?

First of all, I’m proud of the Omnivore acquisition, where we saw the potential of the data and sync with POS which unlocks new product opportunities and a strong technical team. In the last few months, bringing the Omnivore data together with Olo’s rich order data, and being able to drive insights for capacity, has been fun to watch. The best is yet to come.

The second is Borderless Olo Pay—from ideation to minimum viable product (MVP) in less than two quarters of bringing together a team. We set a clear vision and focus for them and let them autonomously deliver. To see guests saving credit card information so they can checkout without friction across Olo’s network of restaurants has been rewarding.

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Looking ahead, what are you most excited about?

I see the potential of bringing the best guest experiences and operational excellence for our brands through our data science initiatives. We have seen accuracy in order promise times with just the order and make-time data. The possibilities are limitless. 

The next generation of guests is technologically savvy, prefers personalization, and expects brands to meet them where they are. With restaurants investing in digital enhancements to appeal to this hyper-connected guest population, I see a lot of opportunities for Olo to help our brands revolutionize their business through technology.

Name three things you love about working at Olo.

1. The problems we solve with a ground ball mentality—there is never a dull moment. 2. The pace at which we operate helps our brands solve complex problems in a timely manner. 3. And, most importantly, my team and the leadership on my teams.

What makes a great leader?

Great leaders make hard choices in order to enhance the lives of others around them. They also have a blend of humility and unparalleled will to lead others in service of a cause that is bigger than themselves.

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Any advice for aspiring women in tech?

My favorite woman leader, Eleanor Roosevelt, said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Remain positively curious and remember that the future is what you make it to be, so dream big.

To learn more about Olo and apply for one of our job openings, visit our careers page.

Product
Oct 24, 2022
4
 min read

There’s a lot to consider before implementing a new restaurant payment stack. Learn the best time to upgrade and what to look for when vetting solutions.

Restaurant Payment Stack, Restaurant Payment Solutions, Olo Pay

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In an increasingly contactless world, payment processing for digital transactions has become a priority across industries. But for restaurant brands that have spent years bemoaning antiquated payment systems for their endless fees, security issues, and lack of tech integration, it can be a sore subject.

The truth is: A traditional payment processor simply doesn’t cut it anymore. Restaurant brands must have a comprehensive payment platform to streamline their tech stack, drive direct sales, and unify siloed data. 

But implementing any new system is no small undertaking. Budgets are tight, labor is strained, and yet, innovation is key to remaining competitive.

So when is the optimal time to upgrade?

Start by asking yourself the following questions.

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10 Things To Consider Before Implementing a New Payment Stack

  1. What are your current authorization rates? Have they been increasing or decreasing?
  2. What are your cart abandonment rates? Are they trending up or down?
  3. Which fees on your payment service provider’s statement can you not confidently explain?
  4. How do your payment acceptance costs vary from quarter to quarter?
  5. What are your current rates of fraud and chargebacks? Have they changed over time?
  6. What are your costs of chargebacks, won and lost?
  7. What are your administrative costs for handling chargebacks?
  8. What kind of payment tokens do you use and what is the cost?
  9. What are the costs of maintaining your payments platform as it relates to keeping up with new network rules and requirements? (PCI compliance, reporting, interchange changes, etc.)
  10. How is card life cycle management handled?

If your restaurant brand is consistently embattled by fees, struggling to manage chargebacks and PCI compliance, and/or experiencing high cart abandonment rates, it’s time to update your payment system.

Olo Payments Playbook
Download our Payments Playbook

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What To Look For in a Restaurant Payment Platform

A modern restaurant payment platform will not only simplify operations but also enhance the guest experience. It shouldn’t just solve existing problems, either; it should be future-proof to ensure that as you build out the rest of your restaurant tech stack, it will continue to meet your needs. 

To set up your brand for success, make sure your payment system checks all of these boxes.

Transparent Fee Structure

The cost of accepting payments goes beyond the processing fee and often includes other charges. Traditional payment processors will sometimes hide fees, overcharge for services, or charge for unnecessary items.

Hidden fees are often considered markup costs and can be charged on a transaction basis or monthly. They can include PCI fees, software fees, gateway fees, CPU fees, AVS fees, equipment costs, and more.

All of these fees are negotiable and should be reviewed prior to implementing a payment system.

Multiple Payment Options

To effectively drive sales, restaurant brands need to optimize for conversion. That includes offering a seamless checkout process with multiple payment options for guest convenience. 

Look for a payment platform that enables guests to pay with their digital wallet (Apple Pay, Google Pay) and save a card on file for faster checkout on subsequent visits. The fewer barriers—manual credit card entry, password management, etc.—the better.

Advanced Fraud Protection

As the number of digital transactions continues to skyrocket, restaurant brands need to be vigilant when it comes to fraud. Each restaurant transaction could be made by a real guest or a scammer.

While many restaurant brands are forced to purchase fraud protection from a company outside of their payment processor, a comprehensive payment platform will include it within their offerings and the upfront cost. 

A modern payment stack can tell the difference between scammers and actual guests by leveraging machine learning to catch fraud and accept legitimate transactions. While some chargebacks are unavoidable, the right technology will limit fraud to a bare minimum.

Full Integration

In order to truly know your guests, you need a restaurant tech stack built with systems that talk to each other. That way, you can collect, analyze, and act on unified data. If your payment processor, online ordering solution, CRM, POS, etc. do not share data, you’re not getting the full picture of the guest's journey.

By eliminating data silos, you can gain a comprehensive understanding of each guest, including their purchasing behavior, preferences, and long-term value to the business. So, before selecting a payment platform, ensure that it fully integrates with your existing tech stack.

Seamless Onboarding

One of the biggest challenges of implementing a payment platform is the amount of time and resources it takes for a successful roll-out brand-wide. Between staffing challenges and razor-thin margins, quick and painless onboarding is key to successfully standing up any new restaurant system.

When vetting payment solutions, find out what the onboarding process entails and approximately how long it will take—depending on the vendor, it could take days or weeks to set up a new merchant account—so you can anticipate the impact on operations and prepare.

Watch our NRN webinar

Final Thoughts

While no single payment platform works for all restaurants, the right system will lay the groundwork for sustainable business growth while improving day-to-day operations for staff and the overall guest experience.

For example, since switching from a legacy processor to Olo Pay, our restaurant-specific payment platform, WaBa Grill has seen a significant reduction in fraud and fees, as well as an improved authorization rate that has resulted in additional revenue. Read the case study for details.

Before implementing a new system, it’s good to know what’s working and what isn’t with your current setup—and the direction you want to move in. Once you have a baseline established, you can better evaluate each vendor’s differentiators and how they can meet your brand’s needs today and in the future.

Learn about our comprehensive restaurant payment platform, and contact us to find out how Olo Pay can transform your business.

Photo Credit: Pickawood from Unsplash

Product
Oct 24, 2022
3
 min read

Find out how restaurants can leverage QR code ordering to optimize operations and create a seamless dining experience that benefits both guests and staff.

QR Code Ordering, Dine-In Ordering, On-Premise Ordering

The pandemic made QR codes ubiquitous, particularly in the hospitality industry. Contactless menus and payment quickly went from being a safety precaution to a staple at many restaurants.

While diners had to initially adapt out of necessity, many have come to accept and even embrace QR codes for their convenience. Now that dine-in is back in full force, restaurants can further leverage QR codes to optimize operations and create a seamless guest experience.

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What is QR Code Ordering?

QR code ordering enables guests to scan a QR code to access a restaurant’s menu, place an order, and pay for a meal, all from their own mobile devices. The QR code is typically found on a tabletop sign or sticker affixed to a table inside the restaurant.

With QR code ordering, guests have the flexibility to choose how, when, and what to order—without having to stand in line or wait for a server. Additionally, guests benefit from faster service, more control over order accuracy, the ability to easily add items to their meals, and quickly pay when they’re finished.

QSR and fast-casual brands like Nando’s offer QR code ordering inside some of their restaurants and the reception from guests has been overwhelmingly positive.

Olo QR Code Ordering for Restaurants
With Olo's QR Code Ordering, guests can view the menu, order, and pay with their phones.

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5 Ways Restaurants Can Benefit from QR Code Ordering

Though QR code ordering is a guest-driven dining experience, the technology can support restaurants in a myriad of ways—from financial, to staffing, to data collection, and more. Here are five examples that come directly from Olo data and feedback from restaurant brands that we support.

1. Revenue Boost

According to Olo data and industry data at large, check averages increase by $2-4, or roughly 12%, when guests order from a digital interface. Why? Because guests can spend more time perusing the menu, easily add and pay for items, and indulge in add-ons without fear of judgment.

As a bonus, generally, there are limited costs for restaurant brands to get started with QR code ordering (keep scrolling for setup details).

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2. Increased Staff Efficiency and Satisfaction

By eliminating unnecessary touch points between restaurant employees and guests, QR code ordering optimizes staffing needs. Fewer trips to and from tables mean brands have the freedom to reallocate employees to greet guests, prepare food, etc.

When guests have the power to determine exactly what and when to order, their satisfaction tends to go up, which can lead to an increased tip income of $1.50 per hour on average.

Higher pay, less stress, and the freedom to put in more face time with guests can boost job satisfaction and retention of restaurant employees.

Related: How To Prepare For Table Service 2.0

3. Improved Order Accuracy

Since QR code ordering puts guests in control of placing and paying for orders directly from their phone, communication issues with staff often decrease, and order accuracy increases. Fewer mistakes mean less food waste and a smoother experience for all.

4. Faster Table Turnover

Restaurant guests often wait anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes for their check to arrive at the table. It’s a common pain point that can easily be resolved with QR code ordering.  

When guests aren’t waiting for a server to order or pay for their meal, orders get fulfilled faster and there’s less delay for incoming guests. In other words, with QR code ordering, more people can ultimately be served—a win-win for the restaurant brand and its guests.

5. Data Collection

Restaurant brands that leverage QR code ordering can see up to a 5x increase in first-party data collection compared to traditional dining experiences. 

While historically dine-in guests have been difficult to identify and learn from, QR code ordering enables brands to better understand dine-in guests’ preferences and behavior, as well as grow their marketable database, by digitizing every transaction.


When brands analyze and act on those insights, they can create Digital Hospitality at every touchpoint and maximize lifetime value (LTV) through personalized service, 1:1 marketing, and more.

Nando's QR code ordering with Olo
Nando’s Peri-Peri promotes its QR code ordering experience at the door, table, and on staff T-shirts.

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Getting Set Up with QR Code Ordering

Unlike some restaurant technologies, QR code ordering is generally quick to stand up for brands that already have online ordering and can be very cost-effective. In most cases, no hardware is needed since the ordering platform is a guest’s mobile device. The only out-of-pocket costs include training employees, setting up QR codes at each table, and developing promotional materials.

To boost awareness, educate guests, and encourage the adoption of QR code ordering, brands should display positive, straightforward messaging in and around each restaurant. Eye-catching door and window decals, signs in traditional ordering areas, table displays, and even staff T-shirts or buttons, are great ways to get the word out at each location. And don’t forget about online—a restaurant website, social media, and email marketing are important channels for educating guests.

To find out more about QR code ordering and how it can support your restaurant operations, visit our Ordering page and contact us.

Photo Credit: Alba Lantigua from Unsplash and Blue Bird from Pexels

Insights
Oct 24, 2022
5
 min read

Learn what a Customer Data Platform (CDP) is and how it enables restaurant brands to leverage data across their entire business.

CDP, Restaurant CDP, Restaurant Customer Data Platform, GDP, Olo Guest Data Platform

Despite the last decade of focus on the topic, restaurant brands of all sizes still struggle to collect, analyze, and most importantly, act on guest data to grow their business.

Restaurants face a mix of challenges with their guest data that fall into a handful of categories:

  • Lack of Access: Data is stuck in archaic systems and some tech vendors block access altogether
  • Lack of Integration: Data can be accessed, but, no team has the time or technology to stitch it together (or systems that strictly unify data add another layer of costs)
  • Lack of Actionability: Integrated data isn’t being passed to the tools that Ops, Culinary, Marketing, and/or Finance teams can actually use in their day-to-day
  • Lack of Ability to Test or Experiment: Any combination of the above makes it nearly impossible to test and pilot new strategies—from menu engineering to online and offline restaurant marketing efforts

With the rising importance of technology, many brands were just waking up to the fact that they didn’t have the data infrastructure they needed to succeed.

Enter COVID.

Practically overnight, brands were forced to confront these obstacles as they had to digitize their business and, in many cases, adopt tech solutions that threatened to disintermediate restaurant brands from their guests. This set the stage for the next frontier of restaurant growth, specifically, guest centricity and the ability to build an on-to-off-premise experience that is seamless, personalized, controlled by the brand, and driven by data.

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Definition of CDP

Customer Data Platforms (CDP) exclusively serve the purpose of ingesting data, creating a single view of the guest, and piping that data to end platforms where it can add value.

So how does this new tech category fit into the restaurant tech stack? And is a CDP right for your restaurant?

Start by evaluating where your brand is today and then identify the data architecture that will serve your brand for the next decade.

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Signs You Need a Restaurant CDP

  • Data deserts: “I wish I could do X, but can’t get the data from A to B”
  • Manual workflows: “We will need another person just to analyze X data”
  • Tech-stack dependency: “We can’t implement X until we have Y in place”
  • Vendor lock-in: “We can’t afford to leave X—they just have too much control over valuable data about our guests”

Say Goodbye to Data Silos

Here’s the real revelation of CDP: it’s a single solution to ingest data from any source, merge that data to a single guest record, then send it to the right destination.

With a restaurant CDP, you don’t have to think about whether the vendors you’re working with will give you useful data—your CDP is there to ingest and make that data usable.

To help visualize this point, see the graphic below. While everyone looks at charts like this and gets excited about “dream scenarios” in the top right—without a clean, usable, data foundation, they’re just that...dreams.

Olo Restaurant Data - CDP

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Benefits of a Restaurant CDP

To determine what a restaurant CDP like Olo’s Guest Data Platform could unlock for your brand, start by mapping out your current tech stack, with a specific lens on data sources and destinations.

Sources are any vendor or channel that captures guest data. Examples include POS, WiFi, waitlist & reservations, loyalty, email/SMS, brand website, guest app, online ordering, restaurant payment processor, social media, surveys, third-party reviews, etc.

Destinations are vendors who will help you act on the data. Examples include email and SMS marketing, search and social ad platforms, business insights tools, and even data warehouses.

It’s worth noting that sources can be destinations as well. An example of this is enriching guest data back into your restaurant CRM to fuel more impactful, targeted search, social, and even email/SMS campaigns.

This data source/destination exercise will get you to somewhere like this:

Olo Guest Data Platform for Restaurants
How Olo's Guest Data Platform—a CDP purpose-built for restaurants—works

How a Restaurant CDP Works: The Loyalty Program Use-Case

Imagine you’re a restaurant brand years into a loyalty program offering, yet, your loyalty vendor’s messaging solution doesn’t fully meet your expectations. Or, you want to facilitate personalization based on more data than just what’s within your loyalty/offers solution.

Are you stuck? Marketing leaders at many brands have said they feel that way. But, that doesn’t have to be the case.

By adding a restaurant CDP to your tech stack, you’d be able to—in this example—ingest points, spend, offer, and redemption data back to a centralized guest record that can also include data from web, social, or on-premise interactions not captured by a loyalty solution. Data could then be pushed to the destination vendor best suited to meet your goals. The bottom line is that the added flexibility of a CDP ensures you don’t have to switch one vendor to accommodate another or to adopt a new strategy.

Further, you can push this singular, enriched guest record to a marketing execution platform of your choice. This unlocks the ability to build conditional messaging flows that drive guests further down the funnel to habituation, all based on their unique interactions with your brand.

It's Time to Harness and Act on Restaurant Data

To remain competitive, leading restaurant brands will create data architecture that puts an accessible guest data layer at its core—combined with modular, best-in-class applications to act on the data. This idea is not new to digitally-native companies, like e-commerce, that are disciplined at tracking every step of their guests’ journeys because the needed data architecture is already built into their platform and experience. Now is the time for brick-and-mortar businesses like restaurants to reclaim their guest data and put it to work.

Learn about our Olo’s Guest Data Platform, a restaurant-specific CDP, and contact us to find out how it can take your business to the next level.

Download Olo's Restaurant Marketing Guide

Main photo credit: Lexie Barnhorn from Unsplash