Your business needs a customer database. If you’re a restaurant, your success or failure not only depends on attracting new customers, but repeat business and delighting your customers over and over again. Businesses don’t succeed on the whims of their customers and instead on deliberate action that can be predicted, measured and repeated.

I live in the town that I grew up in. There are restaurants that I visited in my childhood that I now return to as an adult and kids of my own. These restaurants, the ones that managed to stay in business have known me for over 30 years. The funny thing is, most people who know you for 30 years, know your name and how to get ahold of you whether by phone number, email and maybe even Facebook Messenger. That’s not true for most restaurants and it’s not true for most businesses. It needs to be or  you’re leaving a lot up to chance. 

Chances are you’re renting someone else’s customer database to power your marketing database versus using your own. You may wonder what I mean by renting. Like a house you don’t own, you pay for the fair use of a customer list to target promotions to, and when you’re done, you’re left with the benefit of the use of the list, but nothing else. Promoting offers on Groupon, Restaurant.com or even advertising on TV, radio or print such as newspapers and magazines all operate in this way. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach, although each time you want to reach potential customers, you have to pay for the use of the database again.

Challenges with Renting a Customer Database

Renters don’t build assets and pay for the same data over and over again. 

Renters lack control. The rented database is of potential customers because only you are able to connect with people that walk in the door.

Renters lack information. These marketing solutions don’t provide you with information. You aren’t able to collect information such as email, phone number or even your customer’s name!

Renters can’t segment. Do you have an offer that you only want to show to new customers? Want to upsell existing customers? You can’t do that with someone else’s database

Renters can’t close the information loop and measure ROI. How many potential customers saw your ad and then came in to dine once, twice, three times, etc.?

Renters can’t sell the asset. Whether you’re thinking about selling your restaurant or franchise now or in the future, if you don’t have information on your customers, you’re at a serious disadvantage. A new owner won’t know Tom and Susan who come in every Friday night or Isaac who comes in for Taco Tuesday or Julia, the real estate agent who recommends home buyers to try you out while they review their potential new home choices.  Buyers want hard information, not guesses. They will want a way to get repeat and lapsed customers in through promotions and even to tell them about the change in ownership.

Your Customer Relationship

Building a solid relationship with your customer is like any other relationship. You keep close friends and contacts in your address book and have a way to get ahold of them when you need to. Your customers are your greatest champions and as such, you should have the ability to connect with them as and when you need to.

Control your customer database through tools you can control such as email, texting and Facebook Messenger. Depending on your business and more importantly your customer profile, one or all of these will make sense for you. Start collecting information as soon as you can. As the saying goes, “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is today”.


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