Customer retention is exactly what it sounds like: keeping the customers you already have and preventing them from migrating to other businesses.
When it comes to restaurants, this means preventing guests from leaving once they walk through your door, as well as creating “regulars” — the most valuable type of loyalty you will ever have. Here are few easy-to-implement customer retention strategies that will keep your guests coming back again and again.
Start a Customer Loyalty Program
Ultimately, customers eat at the same restaurant again and again because they enjoy the food, ambience, and customer service, but when guests are just discovering your restaurant, customer loyalty initiatives can persuade them to return.
Whether you offer well-known loyalty promos like one free coffee after every ten, or get a little more creative, a well-implemented customer loyalty program is the first step in persuading customers to come back. You don’t need to use an outside vendor to start your loyalty initiative. It can be included in your point of sale software package.
Master Social Media
When customers follow your business on social media, they are basically asking to receive free ads from your restaurant every day. That’s what makes it such a valuable marketing strategy.
Instagram, especially, is the #1 social platform for restaurant marketing, and is tailor-made for lucrative customer acquisition and as a vehicle to retain customers. Start small by giving your customers an incentive to follow you on social, and then lure them back to your restaurant with delectable photos of perfectly-plated meals. Post multiple times a day for best results.
Keep in mind that many customers find new businesses via social media, as well. Because of this, it’s important to keep all your information up to date across every social platform and online list.
Don’t Forget Email
Sure, email is less shiny than social media, but it plays an important role in your marketing plan. Use email to update your customers about special events, promos, and even your daily specials. Don’t be afraid of overdoing it with email blasts. As long as you give your customers a way to opt out, you have nothing to lose by emailing often.
Of course, in order to email your customers, you first need to gather their email addresses. Be sure to use a point of sale system that tracks your customers’ emails and can sync seamlessly with best-in-class email tools like MailChimp.
Make The Check-Out Experience Pleasant
Customers are like the rest of us; they leave your restaurant with a memory of the last action taken at your business, which likely revolves around paying their tab.
For full-service restaurants, a mobile tablet check-out setup is one option, preventing frustrations around waiting for the check. Mints and other perks at the end of the meal also sweeten the end-of-meal payment. When customer service improves, customer loyalty rises as well.
Add a Personal Touch
“Where everybody knows your name” is more than a line from a sitcom theme song. Customers become regulars when they feel attended to and remembered.
They are also more likely to bring friends and out-of-towners to a restaurant where they can show off how well they know the business owner. It makes your customers feel like important members of your community, and turns them into brand ambassadors. The resulting word-of-mouth marketing is priceless.
As is the case with many independent restaurant owners, this personal style of customer service probably comes naturally to you. But if it doesn’t, consider strategies that will help you deliver more personalized service.
For example, if your point of sale system shows that a customer comes back again and again, designate them customer of the week, then take a polaroid (with their name written underneath!) and display it on your ‘best customers’ board. As the board becomes more populated with members of your community, you can use it as a cheat sheet of sorts to remember the names of your most loyal customers.
The Main Course
By following these simple customer relationship management techniques, you should see your restaurant sales rise.
As the old business school adage says, attracting new customers through marketing campaigns is more expensive than it is to improve customer retention.
Part of being a successful restaurant is raising your retention rate over time, which is definitely possible with the right restaurant marketing strategies like the ones above.