Customer relationship management (CRM) and customer data platforms (CDPs) are both powerful tools that can help restaurants improve their customer relationships. However, they have different strengths and weaknesses, so it’s important to choose the right one for your needs.

As a restaurant owner or manager, you know that customer data is crucial to your success. You need to understand your customers’ preferences, habits, and feedback to provide them with the best possible experience. Two systems that can help you collect and leverage customer data are Customer Relationship Management and Customer Data Platform (CDP). But which one is best for your restaurant? Let’s take a closer look.

CRMs and CDPs are used by whom?

The majority of the difference between CRMs and CDPs are based on who they are intended to assist and how. The two main groups are customer-facing roles, which involve interacting directly with customers and prospects, and non-customer-facing roles, which involve indirect customer interaction.

Both customer-facing and non-customer-facing roles can benefit significantly from the implementation of CRM and CDP systems. These tools empower customer service teams to provide personalized experiences and enable marketing teams to target campaigns effectively. Additionally, non-customer-facing roles, such as analysts and product developers, can leverage the insights derived from these systems to make informed decisions.

The restaurant industry is experiencing rapid growth and evolving customer expectations. According to the National Restaurant Association’s “2020 State of the Restaurant Industry,” technology is playing an increasingly critical role in managing customer relationships and enhancing the dining experience.

What is a CRM?

A CRM system is a software application that helps businesses manage their customer relationships. It typically includes features for storing customer contact information, tracking sales and marketing activities, and managing customer support tickets. CRM software can help restaurants increase customer retention by up to 50%.

CRM systems can be a valuable tool for restaurants. They can help you:

  • Keep track of your customers’ contact information and purchase history
  • Segment your customers into groups based on their interests and behaviors
  • Track the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns
  • Provide personalized customer service

What is a CDP?

A CDP is a software platform that collects and unifies customer data from a variety of sources. This data can then be used to create a single view of each customer, which can be used for personalization, marketing, and other purposes. CDP software can help restaurants gain a deeper understanding of their customers and deliver more personalized experiences.

CDPs can be a valuable tool for restaurants that want to:
  • Get a complete view of each customer
  • Personalize their marketing campaigns
  • Target their advertising more effectively
  • Make better decisions about product development and pricing

Which is Better for Restaurants: CRM or CDP?

So, which is better for restaurants: CRM or CDP?

The answer depends on your specific needs and goals. If you’re looking for a system to help you manage your customer relationships, then a CRM is a good option. If you’re looking for a system to help you collect and unify customer data, then a CDP is a good option.

In general, a CDP is a better choice for restaurants that want to get a complete view of each customer and use that data for personalization and marketing. A CRM is a better choice for restaurants that want to manage their customer relationships and track sales and marketing activities.

Now, let’s compare the two systems’ benefits and drawbacks in a restaurant context.

CRM for Restaurants


  • Personalized marketing: A CRM system can help you send targeted marketing messages to customers based on their purchase history, preferences, and behavior.
  • Improved customer service: A CRM system can help you keep track of customer feedback, issues, and complaints and respond to them promptly.
  • Increased loyalty: A CRM system can help you reward loyal customers with personalized offers and promotions.


  • Limited data scope: A CRM system may only collect data from a limited number of sources, such as your POS system or email marketing platform.
  • Siloed data: A CRM system may store data in separate silos, making it difficult to create a unified customer profile.
  • Limited scalability: A CRM system may not be able to handle large amounts of data or complex data structures.


Let’s say you own a pizza chain with multiple locations. You use a CRM system to collect customer data from your online ordering system and loyalty program. With this data, you can send personalized promotions to customers based on their favorite toppings, order frequency, and location preferences. You can also track customer feedback and resolve any issues promptly.

Imagine a scenario where a restaurant uses CRM data to execute a birthday promotion for its loyal customers. By sending personalized offers and messages, the restaurant increases customer loyalty and drives repeat business.

Furthermore, research from Gartner reveals that businesses adopting CRM systems often experience a significant boost in customer retention rates—up to 27%. This statistic underscores the substantial impact that CRM systems can have on a restaurant’s bottom line.

CDP for Restaurants


  • Advanced data collection: A CDP system can collect data from multiple sources, such as your website, social media, email, and mobile app, creating a more comprehensive customer profile.
  • Personalization at scale: A CDP system can help you deliver personalized experiences to customers on a large scale, such as recommending menu items based on their past orders or suggesting new locations to visit.
  • Predictive analytics: A CDP system can help you predict future customer behavior, such as which customers are likely to churn or which ones are most likely to respond to a promotion.


  • Higher cost: A CDP system may be more expensive than a CRM system, especially for smaller restaurants.
  • Complexity: A CDP system may require more technical expertise and training to set up and use effectively.
  • Data security: A CDP system may store sensitive customer data, such as credit card information, which requires robust security measures.


Let’s say you own a high-end restaurant that offers a unique dining experience. You use a CDP system to collect customer data from your website, social media, and reservation system. With this data, you can create personalized menus for customers based on their dietary restrictions, wine preferences, and past dining experiences. You can also predict which customers are likely to visit again and offer them exclusive VIP experiences.

The demand for personalized dining experiences is on the rise, with Deloitte’s “2019 Travel and Hospitality Industry Outlook” indicating that 76% of customers expect tailored experiences when dining out. This statistic emphasizes the importance of CDPs in helping restaurants meet these heightened expectations.

Consider a case study where a boutique restaurant used CDP data to identify customer preferences and successfully launched a new menu item. By catering to individual tastes, the restaurant not only increased sales but also strengthened its reputation for innovation and customer satisfaction.

Here is a table summarizing the key differences between CRM and CDP:



Feature CRM CDP
Purpose Manage customer data Unify customer data
Data sources CRM system, marketing automation platform, e-commerce platform, social media platform  Any source of customer data
 Use cases Track customer interactions, automate marketing campaigns, provide personalized customer service  Create a single view of the customer, improve marketing campaigns, personalization, and business decisions
 Cost  Typically less expensive Typically more expensive
More Differences Between CRM and CDP:
  • Data collection: CRM systems typically collect data from a limited number of sources, such as sales and marketing systems. CDPs can collect data from a wider variety of sources, such as website analytics, social media, and point-of-sale systems.
  • Data unification: CRM systems typically store data in silos, which can make it difficult to get a complete view of the customer. CDPs unify data from different sources into a single repository, which makes it easier to analyze and act on the data.
  • Data analysis: CRM systems typically focus on analyzing data to improve sales and marketing performance. CDPs can be used to analyze data to improve customer experience, product development, and other areas.
  • Data activation: CRM systems typically focus on using data to interact with customers directly, such as through email marketing or customer support. CDPs can be used to activate data in a variety of ways, such as through personalized marketing, product recommendations, and targeted advertising.

So, which system is best for your restaurant? The answer depends on your specific business needs, budget, and technical expertise. If you’re just starting out and have limited data sources, a CRM system may be a good option to help you manage customer data and improve engagement. If you have more complex data structures and want to deliver more personalized experiences at scale, a CDP system may be a better fit.

Either way, investing in a customer data management system can help you understand your customers better, improve their experiences, and ultimately increase your revenue.

Here are some additional points to consider when choosing between CRM and CDP for your restaurant:

  • Your budget: CRM systems are typically less expensive than CDPs.
  • Your technical expertise: CRM systems are typically easier to implement and manage than CDPs.
  • Your data needs: If you need to collect data from a variety of sources, then a CDP may be a better option.
  • Your goals: If you want to use data to personalize marketing campaigns and target ads, then a CDP may be a better option.

Moreover, stay attuned to emerging trends in customer data management. The integration of AI and machine learning is revolutionizing the way restaurants personalize experiences and make data-driven decisions. By staying informed about these trends, you can position your restaurant for continued success in a dynamic industry.