Owning and operating a restaurant in today’s economy can be a challenging proposition, which is why it is so important to build customer loyalty. In truth repeat customers make up the bulk of any restaurant’s customer base and word-of-mouth advertising can do wonders for building up your clientele. But how do you go about building customer loyalty in the restaurant industry?
Tip #1: Atmosphere is Everything
For dine-in customers the atmosphere of the establishment can rate right up there with the quality of service and nearly as high as the quality of your food. But when you think of atmosphere, think more than the decorations and table linens; think also of an atmosphere of one-on-one recognition. Customers like nothing better than visiting an establishment where they are recognized and called by name. Encourage this kind of recognition in your staff. Everyone from your bus boys to the chefs should be able to recognize repeat customers and make them feel comfortable.
Tip #2: Reward Your Repeat Customers
A customer rewards program for repeat customers is a must if you really want to establish your credibility with your repeat customers. Perhaps a customer loyalty card (with a free meal after so many purchases) or coupons for a discount on their next meal purchased. There are a number of options available when it comes to customer rewards, and each of them is worth the time and effort you will put into it.
Tip #3: Start a Newsletter
Believe it or not, many customers really do pay attention to what goes on in their local neighborhoods. By starting a newsletter you can keep yourself firmly in their minds by their seeing your weekly or monthly newsletters in their email inbox. This mailing list will also help to establish a list by which you can send out offers for discounts and special ‘group’ purchases or birthday discounts or other options, but the set up of a newsletter to address local concerns (and those specific to your restaurant) can be a viable option for asking for the emails.
Tip #4: Drawings and Giveaways
Having drawings and giveaways for repeat customers is a great way to keep them coming in. Have a business card drawing for your lunchtime business clientele, or a random once a month door prize raffle where someone who came in during the course of an evening will receive a free meal for two, or free desert with their next purchase or something similar.
Tip #5: Reward Referrals
If a repeat customer refers a new customer to your restaurant, why not reward them? Perhaps a coupon for free deserts the next time they come in, or even something as simple as a thank-you letter; something to let them know that you appreciate their support.
Truly, your repeat customers are the bread and butter of your business, so why not take the time to ensure that you do everything in your power to win their loyalty? Not only will you be increasing the chances that they will keep on coming back, you’ll most likely gain new customers as well from their referrals, and that can be a very good thing.
Are there any other strategies that your restaurant employs? Leave a comment below and let us know.
Ian Said, is an entrepreneur and founder of Ideal Software, a software development company specializing in Stock Control and Point of Sale reporting solutions.