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By Jitendra Gupta

CEO, Punchh

Once upon a time, in a land not far from your front counters, there dwelt thousands of smartphone junkies using their devices to connect to restaurants. Some ordered food, others made reservations and others still sought information about restaurants before ordering or reserving.

Restaurateurs raced to meet those demands by providing websites, email marketing and engaging customers on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp—you name it—before realizing the impossibility of being E-verything to E-verybody.

Being the service-minded souls they are, the operators worked diligently to understand these mobile-minded sorts. What they found was a startling and troubling range of wants, desires and personalities, people like ...

Online Oliver is a bit anti-social, so he avoids people by ordering restaurant food only with his smartphone. A few social-avoidant taps places his order and he drives to the restaurant. Without making eye contact with the CSR, he slashes his credit card through the reader, proudly writes a zero on the tip line and scuttles back to the car. Like him or not, he's a frequent customer who smartly has his "favorites" for every restaurant set up on his mobile device.

Chatty Cathy is Oliver's opposite. She's a big talker in person and in social media. Her smartphone's touchscreen is worn blurry from posting about where she's eaten, what she's eaten and with whom. Her soliloquies invariably include an over-flashed photo or two, but nevertheless, her meal is on the record for her many social media friends to see.

Loyalty Lisa knows what she likes and likes what she knows. She also likes that her favorite restaurants know what she likes and reward her for liking what they know she's eating. Loyalty Lisa digs loyalty rewards delivered to her smartphone because it's convenient and they update in real time. Staunchly disloyal to handbags of any type, Loyalty Lisa loves businesses that do business through smartphones.

Ron the Reviewer is a Food Network fanatic whose incomplete degree from Correspondence College lists an English minor. That leads Ron to mistakenly think he knows about food and food writing. With his smartphone, Ron the Reviewer posts in real time, Tweeting and Facebooking about each bite in unnecessary detail. Respect them or not, Ron's opinions are read by thousands. OK, maybe a few dozen, but the fact is many thousands of restaurant customers are mobile reviewers just like Ron, and thousands more read what they write.

So stay with me here, this is still the same fairy blog—a long, long time ago, customers got their restaurant information through word of mouth, advertisements, actual menus and printed reviews.

Today, static sources no longer suffice. Much like Veruca Salt, the impatient brat in the movie "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory," customers want restaurant information now! They don't go back to the office or home and fire up their computers, these people make decisions on the fly with smartphones.

They're eager to engage restaurants through websites, email or in real time through social media channels—all with their mobile devices. But since every Ron, Cathy, Oliver and Lisa wants to engage restaurants differently, what operator can meet all their demands? It's a monumental challenge with no fairy tale solution.

Throwing money at it works no better for a restaurant operator than it did for Veruca's beleaguered father. It takes a strategy, not endless wealth, to communicate with modern customers through their mobile devices.

That solution must be coordinated and automated, something an operator can monitor without directly managing it. And it should benefit the restaurant as much as the customer by tracking every data point possible—purchases, frequency, special orders, etc.—to initiate meaningful customer engagement.

For most operators, finding a solution to these diverse challenges is an impossible task and one that involves mostly compromises.

In our next blog, I'll discuss how there's a new solution that makes your life a lot simpler. Hint, it's not just another mobile app.

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Jitendra Gupta
Jitendra Gupta is CEO of Punchh, a mobile CRM suite that includes branded mobile apps for campaigns, games, loyalty, online ordering, payments, referrals, reviews, gift cards, surveys, and integrates with social networks and operators’ POS systems to gather 360° customer insights. Punchh helps restaurants increase same store sales and profitability by driving repeat visits, word of mouth, new customer referrals, and higher returns from marketing campaigns.
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