7 Proven Ways to Build Customer Loyalty in the Restaurant Industry

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Given how hot the competition is, keeping customers coming back is arguably more important today than it’s ever been. Loyal customers mean repeat business and free marketing through word of mouth. Plus, keeping an existing customer is much easier than gaining a new one. But achieving that level of customer loyalty demands more than simply delicious, excellent food. It requires a mix of time-tested strategies.

1. Deliver Exceptional Service

While the quality of your menu is certainly important, almost equally or in some cases even more important is the service that your establishment has to offer. Train your staff to be friendly and hover around to ensure your customers are well attended to. They should be well-versed and knowledgeable about your offerings and be able to answer customers’ questions regarding ingredients and food preparation. 

Encourage them to go above and beyond to accommodate special requests and complaints to the best of their ability. Work on consistency — provide excellent service on each subsequent visit — whether it’s the 1st visit or 20th. And try to get to know your customers on a personal level. If your team provides outstanding service, it helps to create a unique dining experience that your customers will remember and will want to experience again. They will relate to your restaurant as a trusted friend who they can visit again and again.

2. Create a Welcoming Atmosphere

The ambiance of your restaurant will help dictate the overall dining experience. A restaurant is a business that thrives in a friendly, hospitable environment — the kind of place you also consider a home. Lighting, decor, music, and cleanliness all make up an important part of the atmosphere; be sure to make them complement your brand and target audience.

A romantic dinner spot may need a warm, dimly lit interior with comfortable seating. Bright, playful, and shared tables could be popular with young families and friend groups in a fast-food setting. While a bar may thrive within dimly lit halls. All in all, you want to create a space where your ideal customers can hang out, feel comfortable, and at home.

3. Building a Human Connection

Building real human relationships with your customers is a powerful way to stand out in the era of automation and digital interactions. Motivate your staff to have small talks with customers, get to know their names, their favourite foods, and even their birthdays. Train employees to read the cues from customers so as to offer quick service to customers in a hurry while taking a moment to talk to the regulars who want to catch up. If you train your staff to deal with each customer individually, guests will feel special and much more inclined to return in the future.

A personal connection with your team can make customers feel like your restaurant is a place they belong to. This bond can establish an emotional connection that can increase customer loyalty and advocacy as your customers come to see your team as an extension of their social circle and not just to dine. 

4. Offer a Loyalty Programme

A well-developed loyalty programme can be one of the best, most trusted ways to attract more returning customers. The more they come in and buy, the more they get rewarded, which can make your restaurant more attractive to them than your competitors. Loyalty rewards often take the form of a percentage discount, complimentary items, exclusive offers, or early access to new menu items.

To get the most out of your VIP programme, ensure that your customers can easily register and track their progress. An advanced POS system such as 3S POS can be a game changer when it comes to planning and executing custom loyalty programs. It offers multiple features to automatically add or remove customers from a program based on their order history and preferences.

5. Engage with Customers Online

Among all the channels restaurant brands can use to build a reputation, the most important one is the online space. Be active on the same social media platform where your target audience is. Post relatable content, such as tempting food pictures, glimpses of behind-the-scenes, or unique offers. Reply to comments and messages quickly to let your customers know that you appreciate their feedback and care about their experiences.

Beyond this, use email marketing to keep your customers thinking of your restaurants between visits. Shoot them with personal offers, invites for events, and all the new releases on the menu to keep them working! Use your POS data to target each customer individually based on their preferences.

6. Host Special Events

Special events provide customers with a reason to visit your restaurant beyond the usual meal times. Examples include themed dinners, wine tastings, live music events, and cooking classes. These tailored experiences result in memories that are specifically associated with your brand, increasing the emotional attachment consumers have with your business.

Also, events are a great way to drive word-of-mouth marketing, which is universally considered the strongest form of marketing. If the experience is one to remember for the group, individuals within the group are likely to return at a later date in smaller groups. 

7. Collect & Act on Feedback

If you want to keep your customers coming back, you have to know what they want and how well you’re delivering on their needs. Use surveys and comment cards to ask guests why and how they enjoyed (or disliked) your service. Give customers an incentive to share what they think by giving them a discount or an entry into a prize draw.

Act on that feedback as soon as you start getting responses. Modify according to the most common suggestions, so customers know you are listening and your solution is reactive. It suggests that you care about what they have to say and are invested in making their experience better.

Conclusion

Developing loyalty among your restaurant customers is a multi-layered process that hinges on excellent customer service, an inviting atmosphere, and engagement both in person and online. When you build human relationships, offer loyalty programmes, and run special events, you can convert casual diners into loyal regulars who will help grow your restaurant for years to come.

Moumita Das
I am a b2b Digital Marketing Manager, currently working at a Hospitality Tech Solution Company. I have 7+ years of experience in marketing. I specialise in SEO Content Creation, Market Research, Competition Analysis, Digital Product Strategy, Account Based Marketing and Social Media Marketing.

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