Published May 21, 2021
In the evolving restaurant industry that’s poised to perform much better in 2021, staying ahead of your competition involves more than being one step ahead of it. And your customer service is no exception to this. So it’s not about just being welcoming: it’s about creating the kind of dining experience that leaves such a positive impression your guests cannot wait to tell their friends and family about it. As the market continues to grow more competitive and changes during to a difficult period, restaurants must increasingly focus on customer loyalty and retention.
Your best customers are those whose business you’ve already earned.
Once a guest has a positive experience with your establishment, it takes less effort (and fewer marketing dollars) to win their business again. And repeat business isn’t the only perk. Existing customers provide word-of-mouth marketing for your brand by introducing your restaurant to friends and family.
Customer loyalty is essential to the long-term growth of a restaurant. Consider the following smart strategies to help you build a devoted customer base.
Customer retention should be priority number one for your entire organization—from management and marketing to the kitchen and waitstaff to increase loyalty. And because you can engage and communicate with your customers in multiple channels often in real time, such as online reviews or on social media, making sure your customers are satisfied isn’t just about marketing campaigns. To gain the kind of customer loyalty that can support your bottom line means engaging with your customers wherever they are—and that’s changing and growing all the time.
Use every option available to get happy customers to tell their story about your restaurant, from internet platforms like Yelp, TripAdvisor and Facebook to traditional survey forms customers can drop in a box on their way out the door. The key is to be proactive by asking for feedback.
As you work to keep customer disapproval to a minimum, unhappy guests are simply an inevitable part of doing business. Address customer complaints as soon as possible and apply the lessons learned from their feedback, especially when it’s negative.
If a customer is frustrated or disappointed, it’s important to first acknowledge his or her complaint quickly and then make every effort to resolve it. When a customer has their problem resolved successfully in a timely manner demonstrating that you value them, they often become more loyal than customers who never had a problem.
Related: Beyond a delicious dish: building restaurant loyalty with your guests
Just because a customer signed up for your loyalty program doesn’t mean they’ll always remember to open the app when a purchase is made. If consumers aren’t active in your rewards program, you could be missing out on an opportunity to develop stronger relationships and gain deeper insights into their shopping habits.
Here are a few ideas for growing your restaurant’s customer loyalty program:
If a points-based program, which rewards customers for long-term loyalty after they build up a certain number of points, isn’t delivering the results you expected, consider shifting to another format. A tiered program, for example, can offer larger and more lucrative rewards to the most active customers. Another option is a partnership or coalition program in which points add up as customers spend money at multiple businesses.
One trend in loyalty programs is the move away from old-fashioned punch cards to phones or other mobile devices. If you use a point-of sale-system that includes loyalty program functionality, customers can get their discounts automatically—and instant gratification for belonging to the program—at checkout, no loyalty card required.
Customer rewards should be attractive enough to entice participation while remaining affordable for your business. In a fan-oriented loyalty program, for example, guests can digitally check in when dining at your restaurant to earn points towards a free t-shirt or other merchandise. Whatever you offer, just make sure it’s something your customers find desirable and delivers real value.
POS-based loyalty programs provide a treasure trove of data on each customer. Using that data, you can create customized promotions a customer can’t resist. For example, a restaurant owner can see how much a guest spends on desserts or appetizers. When a new offering is added to your menu, you could offer those patrons a special promotion to earn more points with their dessert purchase.
By growing your loyalty program, you can make your relationships with a larger group of customers more concrete and longer lasting. The key is to make sure your program is easy and offers value to customers.
A friendly smile and a nice welcome are just part of providing great customer service. Your customers want to be engaged with and that includes outside the dining room. From responding to online customer complaints to giving them offers in their social media feeds, there are countless ways you can improve your customer service that will delight them.
Drive repeat visits and boost revenue through optimized, data-driven marketing