Few businesses stay afloat without generating a sense of brand loyalty among their customers. It’s normal for customers to have no preference when it comes to certain kinds of business, but most people have a few strong preferences for restaurants. Repeat business is incredibly vital for the growth of a restaurant since it allows the business to forge stronger bonds and encourage future engagement. As a restaurant owner, here’s what you need to focus on when building a loyal customer base.
It may seem obvious, but quality is the most important aspect of creating loyalty for a particular restaurant. This isn’t to say that every restaurant must have a Michelin star or only serve the most specialist dishes. Quality within a specific sector of the industry is how a restaurant stands out from its competitors. You can increase quality in many ways; by choosing better ingredients, hiring more talented staff, or elevating the level of customer service. Think about what makes sense for the type of restaurant you run and how quality plays a role.
If you own a restaurant that exists in the middle of nowhere, repeat customers may be few and far between. Where your restaurant is situated will influence the traffic and therefore the potential for regular customers. If your premises are on someone’s route to work, they may frequently decide to stop in for breakfast. Never underestimate the power of your restaurant’s location, especially in relation to customer loyalty and frequency.
How your customers are treated will be a huge deciding factor for whether or not they want to come back in the future. One bad experience with a waiter could be the catalyst for someone to not only never return, but also to tell other people about their negative experience in your restaurant. Train your staff to deliver consistent, courteous customer service. Decide how you want customers to feel in your restaurant and what style of service would suit this best. For example, some places benefit from an attentive style, whereas others are more suited to laidback and informal service. The ethos of your restaurant will hint at which service style is right.
Inconsistent restaurants rarely survive long. Customers expect to receive the same service and enjoy the same quality of food each time they visit. Using the same ingredients from the same suppliers is a big part of securing this. By stocking up on bulk organic spices, for instance, you make it easier to maintain consistency across your menu items. Once your restaurant has set its standard, you must not deviate from this. Reflect on real data before making changes; otherwise, you may notice a decrease in sales.
For customers to return regularly to your restaurant, you will need to price your menu items fairly. This doesn’t automatically mean that everything should be cheap, but rather that each item should be valued according to how much it cost to source the ingredients, to prepare the dish, and to serve it in your specific establishment. Some restaurants are more expensive than others due to the entire experience, not only the quality of the menu. Pricing your menu can be tricky, but it doesn’t need to be impossible. Consider what your target audience would be willing to spend as your basis for calculations. Customers are far more likely to come back if they feel that they are getting value for their money.
How your restaurant feels to a customer when they step through the door may not be a wholly tangible factor, but it is an important one. The mood, appearance, sounds, smells, and overall first impression will immediately tell the customer so much about your business. Do what you can to make your restaurant as welcoming and well-designed as possible to attract your target audience. This will mean researching your competitors, finding what they do well and improving on what they do badly.
It is much easier for a restaurant to gain repeat customers when it has a positive reputation. To an extent, how the outside world views your business is out of your control. However, you can use public relations strategies to encourage the public and your target market to see your restaurant in a specific light. An efficient and affordable way to achieve this is to make it easy for customers to write reviews where other people can find them. Restaurants are particularly susceptible to reviews swaying their customers either towards or away from their business. People often check reviews before deciding which restaurant to visit, so make sure there are plenty of positive reviews for potential customers to read.
How a business brands itself is how it wants the outside world to perceive it. Customers subconsciously or consciously connect with brands that align with their own opinions and preferences. For example, a restaurant that brands itself as environmentally friendly can expect to enjoy repeat business from customers who share these greener views. Luxury restaurants are attractive to people who want to indulge themselves just as more youthful, informal restaurants attract customers who want a relaxed experience. Use your restaurant’s branding to target the audience that will respond best to what you have to offer.
Loyal customers should be rewarded with exclusive offers that encourage them to continue returning to your restaurant. Reward schemes give these customers advantages through discounts and deals other patrons won’t have access to. For example, when a customer joins a loyalty scheme, they are more likely to choose your restaurant over another so they can use their benefits. This saves individual customers money without negatively impacting your restaurant’s sales.
The value of repeat customers in the restaurant industry cannot be overstated. While it is beneficial and necessary to continually attract new customers to your business and branch out to wider demographics, maintaining a reliable core of loyal customers is essential for stability in an otherwise chaotic field. By focusing on high-quality service and food, you lay the foundation for customer satisfaction. Reinforce this with fair prices, a welcoming atmosphere, and attractive branding, then your restaurant will enjoy more return customers.