Customer Retention Is a Powerful Business Tactics
To attract first-time diners, restaurant owners do anything from marketing to branding to offering discount vouchers. But getting new clients and retaining them are two very different things. There are many upsides to having brand-loyal customers. They provide a steady business, act as ambassadors who bring in new people by spreading brand awareness and they help create a family-like atmosphere in your restaurant. In other words, your customer churn rate directly affects your ability to grow your restaurant business and ultimately increasing overall sales. So while getting new people in is important, you should also focus on making them want to come back.
Here are four effective ways to building long-term relationships with your regulars.
Don’t Be Afraid to Get Personal
A rule of thumb for creating a welcoming environment is to be personable. Learn your frequent customers’ names, show an interest in them by asking them how their day was, and encourage your waiters and waitresses to do the same. Offer to get them “the usual” and suggest they try out new menu items. Better yet, tell them you have something made specially for them which they’re going to love. Get acquainted with their tastes and preferences, and make food and wine recommendations based on their likings.
Customer data collection, whether you do it yourself by speaking directly to guests or by inviting them to interact with a customized mobile app, will empower your marketing efforts and help you interact with guests more effectively. Using names, emails and birthdates, start a mailing list to engage with your guests on a weekly or monthly basis. A restaurant newsletter is a great way to provide updates about the brand and new or special offerings, and send out automated birthday cards to let them know you care. Customers who develop an emotional connection with you and your brand are much more likely to become loyal.
While most restaurant owners agree that high customer satisfaction is the key goal of the business, not everyone knows how to measure it. To maintain and constantly improve quality control, you will need to collect customers’ feedback and understand to what extent they are satisfied with your brand.
Instead of shying away from negative remarks or dreading a bad Yelp review, encourage your guests to share their experiences and thoughts. Create a space on the website for guests to leave their comments, read through them on a weekly basis and implement changes if necessary. Scan the various review sites for mentions of your restaurant and reply when possible. Create an atmosphere of openness and transparency by directly asking your guests for their thoughts on anything from the service to the food to the design. Doing this will help you improve your service and better match it to your customers’ needs and wishes.
Learn about Composting
Composting is not just about doing your share for the environment by separating plastics from biodegradables. It is also about complementing your business plan and revenue.
Many local farmers, for example, use food scraps for animal feed and are willing to pay, if only a small fee, for taking it off your hands. Just make sure you’re not violating any local, state or federal regulations.
Perks are a fun and low-cost way to encourage guests to come back. “On the house” items, happy hour specials or birthday and anniversary treats are a good place to start.
Another great way to make your customers feel appreciated is by launching a reward loyalty program. Determine which program will best fit your business and will most benefit your customers. One option that is more appropriate for tech-savvy clients is an app that lets them easily create an account where they can pay the bill or claim rewards. A more traditional option is a membership loyalty credit card which customers can charge and pay with as well as accrue reward points. Smaller establishments like cafés or bakeries can opt for punch cards. Customers are sure to buy their morning coffee from you if they know they’ll get a free drink every 10 punches. It’s also a great way to promote new menu items, for example by offering a free dessert every 5 punches.
Keep an Eye Out for Food and Industry Trends
In addition to your own vision and wishes, your restaurant should reflect the ever-changing interests and needs of your clients. As trends in the culinary world are constantly shifting, you need to develop a sharp eye to staying up to speed. Get your chefs involved in thinking up new delicious and intelligent dishes, and pay attention to themes by reading food trend reports.
Keeping up with industry trends is not just about food. It’s also about noticing what is becoming more important to consumers in general, beyond the dining experience. Conscious spending, for example, is rapidly growing in popularity. Diners today are interested in knowing the source of the foods they eat, as well as receive full transparency on pricing, manufacturers, fair trade, wages, and so on.
Equally important is how you communicate with customers and whether you manage to evolve together with technology and the new ways of life it brings with it. Modern technologies for restaurants have a lot to offer, not only for younger generations. Digital marketing, mobile apps and smart tablets that make it easy and fun to order and pay are becoming more and more popular in the food service industry. Become more active on the different social networks to reach out to existing as well as new customers and increase engagement. Share your brand story and news on multiple channels and encourage your community to share their own experiences.
Reducing customer churn is hard work, but a loyal customer is the best thing your business can have. Invest in acquiring customers who believe in your brand integrity, who feel welcomed at your establishment and who have a pleasant and delicious experience whenever they visit.
If you have a vegetable garden, whether at the back of the restaurant or at home, manure compost can do wonders for your soil. It enhances water and nutrient holding capacity, eventually helping you grow a truly organic garden.
Use fruit and vegetable peelings, old baked goods, grains, herbs and any other food that is not meat, fish or dairy.
Throw away your trash in an orderly fashion. This will help you implement reusable items and reduce expenses on non-food products. Have a separate bin for glass, cardboard, plastic and so on. Many items you can sanitize and reuse, for example as leftover food containers. Some you can simply use again and again, like cloth napkins as opposed to paper ones. Empty bottles can become vases, and many other items can be used as decoration. Get your team involved and have some fun throwing ideas around. You’d be surprised at how creative people can be.
There are many organizations out there that are always looking for any type of excess food to take back to homeless shelters. In San Francisco, for instance, there are even delivery groups that volunteer to pick up your donation and distribute it to various feeding programs.
You can also offer staff meals. You may not have enough of something to make it through a full dinner service, but your staff would certainly appreciate it more if you gave it to them for free as opposed to just throwing it in the trash.
Whatever you decide to do with your restaurant’s waste just remember that it’s not all trash and that there’s real money to be made from it. More importantly, Try telling your customers that the food they’re eating was grown in a fully organic garden at the back of the restaurant, or that whatever they leave on the plate will be nicely packaged and sent to those who need it most. Tell them that, and you’re guaranteed they’ll be back.