The dining experience begins before a potential diner gets that grumble in their stomach, and it ends long after they've cleaned their plate.

Welcome to the new age of customer relationships.

If you've been in the restaurant game for a while, you know that customer expectations aren't what they used to be. The dining experience used to be confined to the restaurant. What mattered most was what you served on the plate.

But these days, good food isn't enough. The restaurants that offer a multitouch customer experience are the ones that are winning.

What's a multitouch experience?

The concept of the multitouch experience is relatively straightforward. It means that your restaurant is in constant contact with your customers, nurturing strong, lasting relationships through many interactions.

Diners might head to your website to check out your restaurant's menu or to look at photos of your offerings. That's one touchpoint.

They might look up your restaurant on Yelp or on Google to get the inside scoop on your food and your dining experience. That's another touchpoint. They might receive a special offer from your restaurant in their email (another touchpoint) and book a reservation or order takeout online (yet another touchpoint).

After they enjoy your food, they might receive an automated email (still another touchpoint) asking them to rate their experience. A week later, your restaurant's profile pops up on their social media feed, highlighting a new special — yep, that's a touchpoint, too.

As you've probably guessed, having a full digital presence and consumer-friendly tech is key to making a multitouch experience successful. At every point, you're enhancing the guest relationship beyond the core function of your restaurant — and possibly attracting new and repeated diners.

It's all about engaging with customers and providing them with positive experiences well before they enter your restaurant and long after they leave.

The tech that's enhancing the dining experience

Technology makes the multitouch experience possible, but busy restaurateurs have little time to manage new tech platforms and back-of-house systems.

That's why they either don't do it (which could weaken customer relationships) or hire somebody to figure all that stuff out (which eats into their profits).

But through automation and clever technology, it's simple for busy restaurant owners to provide their customers an excellent multitouch experience.

Restaurant marketing platforms

A great marketing platform that is built for restaurants helps you keep in touch with your customers through email campaigns, social engagement, and more, and it can keep them up to date about your upcoming specials, promotions, and changes to tried-and-true favorites.

You can also use a marketing platform to attract repeat business from your existing customers by offering loyalty discounts. Or you can use one to run a hyperlocal social media campaign to bring new people into your dining room.

Staying in touch with customers is a great way to keep your customer relationship game on point, and behind-the-scenes analytics can clue you in on what's working and what isn't.

Website and online ordering tools

If you don't have a website, you're missing out on multiple opportunities for guest interaction.

And if your website isn't eye-catching and doesn't offer multiple ways for users to engage with your restaurant, such as online delivery ordering and contactless payment options, you're really missing out.

Seventy-seven percent of diners look at a restaurant's website before they eat there or order takeout, Restaurant Dive reports — and a whopping 70% of them have been turned off by a bad restaurant website. Having a dynamic website that showcases your excellent food and service gives customers a critical touchpoint — one that could solidify a customer relationship beyond the in-restaurant experience.

Most importantly, especially given the dining restrictions enacted during by the COVID-19 pandemic, having a website with seamless online ordering capabilities is crucial to providing a strong multitouch customer experience. Letting diners quickly and easily order takeout or delivery shows that you're keeping up with their digital needs.

Online reputation management platforms

It's difficult for restaurants to manage their online reputation, but doing so is important for engaging diners. Reviews tell guests what to expect from a restaurant — and can lead to more business. A one-star increase in a restaurant's Yelp rating can lead to a 5% to 9% revenue bump, according to the Harvard Business School.

So reputation management is serious business.

Review management tools can help restaurateurs keep track of their online reputation, see what every review site is saying, and flag new reviews in real time, all via one central dashboard. The truly clever tools can even prompt your happiest customers to leave great reviews at the right time.

Nurturing the holistic experience

Restaurateurs who understand that the customer experience goes far beyond the dining room are poised to thrive. Happy customers mean repeat business, so providing a multitouch experience that engages diners can boost your bottom line.

Building out channels and touchpoints and managing them well means that your restaurant will stay resilient — no matter what the world throws at you.

And new tech doesn't mean that you have to spend every waking hour worrying about every single touchpoint. You can let your automated systems do their work so that you can keep your focus on your customers.

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