The time has finally come. The days of staying in for a home-cooked meal – of spending Saturdays browsing the local farmer’s markets and Sunday mornings at the grocery stores – are becoming obsolete. In an article published by Bloomberg Markets, as of March of 2015, Americans are now spending more money dining out than on buying groceries. For those in the restaurant industry, you are already headed in the right direction for profit; with more people dining out comes the opportunity to build up more customer loyalty, and with customer loyalty comes profit consistency.
Anyone in the restaurant industry has felt the satisfaction of seeing return customers walk through their doors – it’s the feeling of appreciation, accomplishment, and gratefulness. Well, those feelings are well-placed, because those return customers spend an astonishing 67 percent more than a new customer during a visit!
With that in mind, let’s build up your customer loyalty with a few secret ingredients.
Consistency - This is rule number one in retaining customer loyalty. Make sure your customers are receiving the same experience and products that they received the first time they visited your restaurant. More times than not, customers return to a restaurant to quench a craving. Perhaps you have a menu item that cannot be found anywhere else in your city, and if that item was enjoyed the first time, most likely the customer will return for that very same item and experience again. Of course, this means ensuring the same quality of ingredients, and that you keep popular items on your menu. However, less obvious factors should not be overlooked. You should also maintain the presentation of the dishes, the cleanliness of the venue and the quality of service. Consistency is king.
Employees - Chances are you have had an awful service experience in a restaurant or bar. Perhaps you were sat but not greeted in a timely manner; perhaps your server was unfriendly, the staff didn’t know the menu, or the food took unusually long to come out. These instances – all in the hands of your employees – set the tone of your restaurant, and can be very detrimental when it comes to getting your customers to return. You should take the time to make sure that employees are properly trained, and that you clarify your expectations as well as their responsibilities. Teach them to leave their baggage at the door and to come to work with a positive attitude. Staff that appears knowledgeable and effective will without doubt be recognized by your customers.
Millennials - Millennials (16- to 35-year-olds) now outnumber baby boomers (51- to 69-year-olds) as the largest generation group in the U.S. These millennials are constantly on the go, and eat out on average 4-6 times per week. Catering to this age group can be very beneficial in creating long-term customer loyalty. Millennial culture has significant differences than that of the baby boomers, and not all of them are obvious. If your brand allows for it, hold events such as concerts or karaoke, create menu items such as small bites, and adjust hours of operation to be a bit later some nights. All the above attracts the millennial mindset.
Incentives - Who doesn’t like free perks? Incentives and loyalty programs are becoming increasingly popular, especially amongst the millennial crowd. As this crowd’s lifestyle is cultured around social media and technology, many incentivizing programs can be done simply through e-mail or text messages. In addition, Punch cards, coupons, point systems and even exclusive products can keep your customers coming back. Incentives and loyalty programs are relatively inexpensive in relation to the cost of acquiring new customers through marketing and advertisement.
You - Finally, you. As restaurant owners and managers, it is important to be involved in your day-to-day, on-site operations. Customers like to see who they are giving their money to. Take a lap around the restaurant, stop by and ask how a meal is, offer a free desert for an Anniversary or Birthday, engage with your employees. Customers remember these small gestures. It may take a moment or two out of your busy day, but the results of that gesture can be extremely valuable the next time those customers are deciding on where to eat out or suggest to a friend.
Increase customer loyalty, increase profit. If you already weathered the hardest part of getting the customer through the front door for the first time, boosting your customer loyalty seems like a no-brainer, especially with the help of the above secret ingredients.