When it comes to restaurants, the value of repeat business cannot be overstated. Ask any marketing expert, and they'll tell you it's more expensive to gain a new customer than to retain an existing one. A powerful restaurant guest retention strategy can contribute to your bottom line and also provide many key benefits that include:
- Developing a profitable and loyal customer base
- Effective word-of-mouth advertising
- Encourage more direct bookings (so you won't have to pay commission fees)
- Easier to upsell and cross-sell services to diners who value you
But in the age of instant gratification and cut-throat competition, it is increasingly challenging for restaurants to set themselves apart and craft a client retention strategy to encourage repeat business.
Continue reading for eight tips that will help you craft an effective customer retention strategy for your restaurant.
1. Review Past Orders to Identify Priority Diners
The first step should be to qualify and prioritize past diners. You'll need to define a model based on how recently the guest visited you, the monetary value of their visit, and the frequency of their visitation. This can help you identify past guests and draft an outreach program based on importance and behavior.
Try to distinguish diners who ate one month ago vs. two months ago (recentness), diners who spent $200 vs. $20 (monetary value), and diners who visited or ordered 6 times in a year vs. once (frequency).
Now that you have identified past diners, you can start crafting a strategy to ensure they keep coming back to your restaurant and become brand ambassadors. It's important for you to personalize services for them and foster a strong relationship with them before you can expect any results!
Pro tip: Revisit your CRM for data about diners. One misplaced entry or tag may prevent you from identifying qualified leads, so make sure to do thorough research to cast a wider net. It will take time to review your CRM but it will save you time, money, and prove to be profitable in the long run.
2. Use a CRM Software
Speaking of CRM, if you don't already have one, start integrating it with your daily operations. The CRM (or customer relationship management) software lets you organize, store, track, and monitor information related to your audience, including purchase history, preferences, contact details, and more.
In the digital age, many restaurants are sitting on a treasure trove of data. The smart restaurateur uses data-driven marketing to offer a personalized experience for diners before they ever submit a lead.
To this end, a CRM seamlessly integrates data analytics into your workflow without requiring manual labor.
Thankfully, there are many CRM software free to use. Some of the more advanced features may cost a premium, but that is to be expected. Wondering which CRM software is best for your restaurant? Do get in touch with us for more information on this matter or check out this listicle.
3. Market to Your Diners' Interests
Now that you have identified qualified leads from the past, it's time to craft a marketing strategy tailored for them. Take a note of any past activities, interests, or behaviors that the diner displayed when they visited your restaurant and use that information to create your outreach program.
Did they request pizza with basil sauce? If so, send them extra basil sauce at no extra cost the next time they place an order. If they have a preference to sit at a certain area of your restaurant - such as the rooftop or patio - you should accommodate this seating arrangement well in advance of their next visit.
There are many ways of using data analytics to boost repeat business and bookings. One effective method is to use a unique customer loyalty program - it can win back a lot of customers. More on that below.
4. Create a Unique Customer Loyalty Program
Loyalty programs help you improve relationships with guests. You could offer exclusive coupons for favorite meal items, a free item on special occasions, invites to special events, and more.
One neat trick is to incentivize referrals. Ask guests to refer a friend, and when this person buys something, it will double their loyalty points. Furthermore, a free or discounted meal is a nice reward in return for a referral.
A good CRM software should easily integrate with your loyalty program and retain customer information while providing useful data analytics. It's a great way to stay on top of important information related to your diners, such as anniversaries, birthdays, allergies, etc.
5. Listen and Respond to Feedback
Make it a top priority to listen to your customers on social media or whenever they reach out to you via phone. Claim your listing on review sites such as Trustpilot and Yelp where you expect diners to leave feedback. Respond to those reviews in a professional and timely manner (even if you're getting negative feedback).
One neat trick is to set up a Google Alert so that you will be emailed whenever your restaurant is mentioned.
When you do get negative reviews (and this is to be expected because you can't please them all), remember to maintain professional decorum at all times. Don't lose your cool, because even if your guest is being unfair, other people are watching how you respond. And if you scare them off with a bad attitude, they won't do business with you.
If you are not getting much feedback, try offering a survey on your website or app (if you don't have one, we recommend setting one up now). Another good idea is to incentivize reviews by offering something in exchange.
6. Make it Easy for Guests to Dine In and Order Online
Guests, especially those belonging to Gen Z, now expect you to take online orders through an app or website. If you don't have a solid off-premise dining experience, start working on it right away because you're missing out!
Technology is a key component of online deliveries. So start getting listed on popular food delivery apps such as DoorDash, GrubHub, and goPuff. These apps are compatible with most payment options, including credit cards, PayPal, and even cryptocurrency.
Bonus points if you have your own exclusive app (besides having a website). Your app and website should offer payment options such as online wallets, credit cards, and bank transfers.
Your app should also provide real-time updates about in-store restaurant activity about waiting time, delivery time, and more information.
Note that many guests who are planning to dine in will prefer to make an online booking via your official app, this is more convenient for them.
Besides the points already mentioned above, you should have a Point of Sale (terminal) and a QR code system. Just make sure that each method is secure and fully encrypted. It is your responsibility to protect the financial and personal data of your clients.
7. Aim to Provide a Top-Notch Customer Experience
Customer service experience is a vital factor in driving repeat business. This all starts when diners first come in contact with you. Whether this is through your website, via email, phone, or a random visit. It is critical to make sure that your guests get a good first impression of the restaurant, the staff, and the food.
Although good customer experience is an obvious no-brainer, you'd be surprised how often it gets disregarded by staff, especially during peak hours.
Pro tip: Make your employees feel valued.
This is important because their morale is central to the customer service experience. Happier staff translates to better service for your diners. Unhappy staff can make guests uncomfortable and they'll avoid your restaurant.
You can make your employees more valued by giving them benefits such as health insurance, maternity leave, paid time off, student loan reimbursement, etc.
You can also focus on creating a healthy company culture that acknowledges employee achievement. Most customers prefer to work with restaurants that value their staff and treat them fairly. Show everyone your appreciation.
8. Be Transparent About Food Ingredients and the Supply Chain
Diners appreciate restaurants that are honest about the ingredients they use in their food. Food transparency provides guests with useful information about the food, such as nutrition facts, food origin, and allergy concerns. It contributes to the food quality itself.
A study conducted by Fooddive
found that nearly all respondents said they would pay more if the restaurant provided them with more transparency about food.
Try to provide them with cleaner and healthier ingredients. Millennials and younger generations care more about sustainability - so try to minimize your carbon footprint, shorten the supply chain, reduce food water, and lower your water consumption.
Be honest about your process and provide regular updates to diners. This should be very well perceived by your diners who will leave positive feedback and serve as your brand ambassadors.
Wrapping Up - Customer Retention Should be Top of Your Agenda
Happy diners are at the heart of the success of any restaurant, and creating brand loyalty should remain at the forefront of making this a reality.
Right from making reservations on mobile apps to the actual dine-in experience itself, you can align your restaurant and operations in such a way that they improve the diner's experience - every step of the way.
Want to learn about strategies you can use to improve your restaurant's reach? Get in touch with the experts at MenuCRM to learn more.