In restaurant management, business owners often need to diagnose and solve problems like drops in revenue and low customer reviews quickly and efficiently. But what makes the most significant difference when addressing issues within your restaurant business? 

Considering that just five quality reviews can increase the probability of purchase by 270%, the customer experience is more important than ever.‌

‌So how do you identify which touchpoint in your restaurant’s customer journey is the key to a better overall experience? Customer journey mapping can be a powerful tool in managing your restaurant like a pro.

If you’re unsure how to map it out, use this post to understand the restaurant customer journey, its benefits, and how to create yours to improve the customer experience.

Get the tools and guidance you need to find new customers and keep your regulars coming back for more.

What is the customer journey?

The customer journey is the process an individual goes through, from before they know about you until after they’ve made a purchase. You can break down customer journeys into smaller tasks or goals, like the process of getting a lead to sign up for an email or getting a customer to refer a friend.

You can map the journey into a visual representation of every touchpoint, question, and motivation that leads someone to you. This map helps you and your team understand what’s necessary to convert a complete stranger into a faithful client and replicate the process over and over again.

Benefits of a restaurant customer journey map

‌If anyone understood the importance of the customer experience and building excellent systems that prioritize clients, it was Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, who said: “People may not remember exactly what you did or what you said, but they always remember how you made them feel. That’s what matters the most.”

Customer journey mapping is all about understanding how leads and customers feel during every approach to your business. Suppose your restaurant understands the needs, motivations, and frustrations of your customers and satisfies them. If this is the case, your job is all but done.

What does that mean in terms of actual benefits? Here’s what you can look forward to when you map your customer journey:

  • Refocus your approach to market only to highly interested customers
  • Make your customer service more proactive by knowing what touchpoints need extra attention
  • Improve your customer retention rate, optimize marketing costs
customer touch point map
This customer touchpoint map can be a simple template for you to draft your own, from the first time customers see your name to when they eat and exit.

What to look at when mapping the customer journey

‌The benefits of customer journey mapping may sound like exactly what you’re trying to accomplish in your restaurant management role. To dive in, what should you observe and put into your restaurant customer journey map? Here’s a shortlist of the processes you want to look at when analyzing how your customers behave.

  • Pain points that possible clients have before discovering you
  • Emotions they have when they realize they need your service
  • Motivations that drive customers to choose you as a solution
  • Every touchpoint a customer has with your business, employees, website, etc.

These small details will give you a picture of the type of experience your customers have from beginning to end. As you re-create these scenarios, it will become clear where you can do a better job.

Understanding touchpoints

The restaurant customer journey is fascinating because it has many touchpoints with your employees. In each interaction a customer has with someone on your team, they can leave with a positive or negative outlook of your whole business.

Of course, touchpoints start long before the customer walks through the door. They might have seen an ad, watched a commercial, or read a review online. Reviews make a big difference when curating your restaurant’s reputation on and offline.

On the other hand, perhaps a possible customer visited your website and looked at your menu, or maybe they got a 404 error page instead. Both of those are experiences that determine whether or not they’ll become customers.

Optimizing every one of those moments to fit your customers’ behavior and providing the support they need is key to managing your restaurant like a pro.

Starbucks' restaurant journey map
Starbucks’ customer journey map is an excellent example of mapping out your customers’ experience. Source: Multiversa.

How to map the customer journey

1. Define your goal

You can’t accomplish a goal without defining what you want to do. If your goal with this map is to go from 3.5 to 4.2 stars on Google reviews or Yelp, state it. Then remember to set that intention throughout the process and have straightforward ways to measure your success.

2. Get to know your customers

The best way to get to know your possible customers is to listen to your current ones. Read your reviews (good and bad) and take note of the positive experiences people are having. You can pin those down to actual moments in the customer journey later and address the people on your team whose responsibility is to make that go smoothly.

You can also ask customers directly with a survey. Offer anyone willing to give feedback a discount on their next meal or a free appetizer. After all, their input could help you make more money.

3‌. Set and plan for your target customer personas

Building buyer personas — aliases representing the types of people who come in most often — is a key part of your branding strategy. Create profiles of their ages, motivations, pain points, and behaviors. These bits of information will allow you to market to your customers better and provide the best service.

For example, if you know that your customer persona is interested in sustainability, you won’t use a paper flyer inviting them to visit you.

4. List all the touchpoints

Now that you know about touchpoints try to consider every touchpoint your customer has from beginning to end.

Do they find you on Google Maps? Can that listing be optimized in any way? What do they do next? Call? Add an option to reserve a table right on Google Maps and save them time.

Do this with every step of the customer journey.

5. Go on the journey yourself and make necessary changes

If you’re still unsure about exactly what touchpoints your customers have with your business, try going on the customer journey yourself. Put yourself in a potential customer’s mind, or ask a friend to go through what they’d do to find you and follow them through their experience at your restaurant.

Once you’ve seen the touchpoints causing friction with your customers, set up a plan to address them. What can you and your team do differently starting tomorrow? Your very next customer could become your best ambassador if they have a positive enough experience.

Pair your map with a strategy

After you have your restaurant customer journey mapped out, address any issues with a marketing strategy. You can consider asking visitors to sign up for your email list and send them updates, events, and discounts via email. You can even nurture visitors to your website with email automation after they sign up.

Share your brand story, exclusive dishes only you have, and anything that makes you unique and worth trying. At the end of every email, add a button asking them to make a reservation.

You can also start running Facebook ads to reach more people and increase the number of touchpoints your business has.

Learn about your starting point

You’ve learned all about the benefits of customer journey mapping, how to do it, finding touchpoints, and more.

Before you move on to mapping, drafting, and optimizing your customer experience, start by learning where you are now. Find out whether your customers have mainly positive or negative experiences in their touchpoints with your restaurant. You can inquire in person or, as mentioned above, ask them to fill out a survey in exchange for a perk. 

Knowing where you’re starting will give you a better idea of what you want to improve and accomplish after creating your customer journey map.