August 28, 2015

How to Boost Customer Loyalty

Not long ago the recipe for a successful restaurant was easy; great food and excellent service.  But, while these factors are still important to a restaurant’s success, the digital age demands more. 

5 tips on how to keep your customers coming back to your restaurant.

5 tips on loyaltyWith so many online tools at the disposal of consumers – which help them choose between establishments and post personal reviews – restaurants have to put in more effort in order to enjoy prolonged popularity.

The digital age has raised the bar in terms of customer expectations.  The internet allows consumers to research before they spend, which seems to be an ever-growing trend.  If you attract first-time customers to your restaurant, your marketing is nicely on the right track.  However, you want to turn your visitors into loyal, repeat customers.  Fortunately, achieving this is relatively inexpensive, and only requires some dedicated attention on your part.

Here are a few ways to boost your customer loyalty:

1. Be Attentive
As previously stated, many of your customers will have researched your restaurant before visiting, meaning they know something about you.  However, if unrequited, this knowledge of your restaurant can lead them to feeling undervalued.  To avoid this, take an active role in the welcoming of your guests, and in the general running of your restaurant.

Take a moment to speak with your guests as they arrive.  If they seem to value the attention, be sure to engage with them over the course of the evening.  If they seem less appreciative of the attention, don’t pester them but remain visible in case of any enquiries or complaints.

By being actively involved with your customers, you will be able to identify repeat visitors.  Make an effort to learn something about these customers, without being too invasive.  This will instil confidence in your patrons, and could be key to turning them into loyal customers.  After all, being made to feel special is important to many consumers.

2. Offer Small Extras
Opting for loyalty memberships can be costly, and can still leave your customers feeling slightly undervalued as it is their continued patronage that is driving the discounts.  It is better to present loyalty benefits which are based on your own acknowledgement of your customer’s repeat business.

This requires extra emphasis on point 1; be attentive.  If you actively engage in conversation with your repeat visitors, you will get to know them personally.  This makes the gesture of sending over a free coffee on your customer’s birthday, for example, seem far more genuine than a points-based reward.

It is, however, important that you treat all customers equally and fairly.  Neglecting to offer small gestures for any reason can quickly lose you customers.  It is thus important to be especially attentive when identifying your repeat customers.  Still, if you maintain your engagement, offering extras works out cheaper than offering official discounts, and can prove more effective in boosting loyalty.

3. Don’t Neglect Social Media
Social networks can be very effective tools for turning visitors into repeat customers.  If you have your customers ‘like’ or ‘follow’ your social pages, you are able to connect with them daily, which makes the all-important customer engagement that much easier for you.  Customers will be able to comment on recent experiences at your restaurant, as well as have access to your latest specials or recommendations.  This helps them to become familiar with your establishment, and allows you to better keep track of your regulars.

However, while social media does offer the above benefits, it should always be properly maintained.  Be sure to post regularly with important news pertaining both to your own restaurant and the industry in general, only post professionally photographed meals, and always reply to your comments quickly.  Failure to properly upkeep your social media can have negative effects on the part of your customers.

4. Appreciate the Community
As members of the local community, your customers will appreciate the fact that you take an extra interest in community involvement.  This works to your advantage, since your restaurant is probably already a part of its local community simply through its product acquisition.

Given that many restaurants often acquire resources from local sources in order to promote freshness, they are inadvertently supporting local suppliers.  However, while many restaurants are featured in their communities as result of this, many neglect to capitalise on the fact.

Customers will feel a sense of loyalty if you support the area in which they live, and take a common interest in it.  In addition to sourcing produce from local vendors, there are several ways in which you can show your support for the local community, such as:

•    Offering your restaurant for community meetings and events.
•    Playing local music in addition to the charts, and possibly inviting local musicians to perform live at your restaurant on occasion.
•    Purchasing local art as opposed to buying generic decorations, and possibly giving local artists the opportunity to display and sell their work in your restaurant.

It is also important to display a sense of charity.  For example, instead of simply disposing of your usable wastage, donate it to the local homeless shelter.  Or, perhaps you could send your old appliances to the local charity shop.  Acts of kindness such as these don’t cost anything extra, but can resonate extremely well with the local customers, encouraging them to remain loyal to your restaurant.

5. Keep Your Staff Happy
Given that your waiters are often the primary source of customer interaction in your restaurant, it is important that they portray a sense of amiability and desire to please.  Friendly and helpful staff could be the solitary factor in turning visitors into repeat customers.

The best way to ensure that your staff members are happy and content is by taking an active interest in each of them, resolving any issues quickly, and reinforcing their work ethics through incentives and rewards.

The digital age has certainly increased competition between restaurants, but this doesn’t have to affect your business.  By being attentive to your customers and staff, taking an active role in your community, and using technology to engage with your customers, you can solidify your restaurant by turning your visitors into loyal, satisfied customers. Here’s an interesting article on McDonald and the business lessons that it can teach you.

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