Engaging your restaurant customers the way they want to be engaged

Restaurant owners everywhere are struggling to figure out how to communicate with their customers. How can they make a lasting impression on them, such that they want to come back over and over again? There are hundreds of new companies that claim to help you do this, through loyalty apps, messaging systems etc. But do you really know or understand how your customers want to communicate while inside your restaurant?

Many big brands talk about engaging their customers but it’s important to differentiate between interrupting and engaging in a way that is welcome. You can think of it like email marketing. Do you want to get spammed by companies who are sending you offers that are completely irrelevant to your interests or would you rather see emails that are offering you things you would have actively seeked out yourself? The latter I’m sure. You should treat your engagements, in venue, exactly the same. People look for a seamless dining experience and are not used to being marketed to in this type of environment. Using tools you already have at your disposal is a great way to start this type of non-intrusive marketing.

Mobile Phones are in almost every single one of your customers’ hands these days and most of their attention is going to the content there. That habit is ingrained in all of us whether we like it or not. With this change in behavior comes an opportunity for restaurants to get creative on how they use mobile to get in front of their customers.

There are a number of effective ways to use mobile without spending loads of money to design your own mobile app. We suggest taking advantage of mobile apps that are typical for your customers to be using while in a restaurant:

Social Media

Social media apps (instagram, twitter etc.) are extremely common for use in restaurants and bars. Consumers are constantly posting about themselves or checking other people’s posts sharing their experiences from day to day. Giving your customers a reason to share their experience at your bar or restaurant is a good way to get them to interact with you in a way that feels natural. You can do this by creating unique features at your bar through music, decor, food or drink.


Use a music app like Rockbot that’s already popular among restaurant customers. This app not only allows them to use their phones as a mobile jukebox, picking the music while they dine, but it also enables them to post on social media about the restaurant they are at. Apps like these have many perks for restaurants as they double as both a music solution (which you need to have) and a customer engagement tool! Learn more here.

Customer Loyalty

Team up with a loyalty app like Thanx or Belly. You can use this proprietary software to help you communicate with your customers and give them rewards based on actions they take and the food they order. Many of these loyalty companies come with other features that allow you to run email marketing, manage your online reputation and much more.

The same goes for your television screens. Especially for bars, or restaurants with a bar area, television screens are a prominent part of your environment. Aside from conversations with their party, television screens and mobile phones are two things that get most of your customer’s attention. Optimizing these channels separately will be helpful but optimizing them together could provide even better results. In a test we did with our own customers, Rockbot found that when they advertised their mobile app, allowing customers to pick their own music, on the tv screens, we saw a 75% increase in mobile engagement, across the board. That is compelling. Using digital screen technology can help you partition off part of your screens for advertising use and help you get more out of this technology.

To take it one step further, we decided to go straight to the source and ask your customers how they wanted to be entertained while in your restaurant. The following infographic outlines their answers. Warning, they might surprise you:

How do my restaurant customers want to be engaged?


If you would like to learn more about more ways to engage your customers from their smartphones try Split, an innovative solution that helps restaurants enrich and enhance the customer experience by connecting them to their guests phone.

Writer bio: Chrissy Ockerbloom is the marketing manager at music for business company, Rockbot. She most frequently writes about technology for the restaurant industry and of course, the role that music can play in a restaurant environment. Find her work on the Rockbot Blog! In her spare time you can find her sampling the local San Francisco fare or listening to live music.