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The Secret Behind Building Real Customer Loyalty at Your Restaurant

31 October, 2018

Customer loyalty is one of the key aspects of running any business and this is especially the case for restaurants, who rely on customers returning to keep their doors open.

Attracting customers is not always the hardest part – retaining them is. With so much competition around, consumers are spoilt for choice and therefore if they do not receive a service that is of the highest quality, they can afford to look elsewhere because there are always restaurants looking to poach your favourite customers. 

Much like respect, you cannot just expect customers to be loyal to your restaurant and brand. No – it must be earned, and it can be lost at any time if your restaurant fails to constantly please its customers. 

  1.  Keep Your Customers Guessing

It is important to have an established menu that is popular with your customers. You will soon start to realise which dishes are favoured by most – and which ones your menu can do without. 

When you identify which items on the menu are not as popular as you had expected, use this as an opportunity to change things up. Try not to be precious about the things on the menu you like – dishes that don’t sell are costing you money, so you need to listen to your customer base and make smart menu choices.

If you constantly add new additions to your restaurant’s menu, customers will have a reason to keep coming back, as they will not want to miss out on what may be the best meal of their life. 

Equally, if there is an item on your menu that is always in high-demand, consider varying it each month and as a result, you are giving your customers a reason to return time and time again. 

2.Create the Ultimate Customer Loyalty Program

There is no denying it – everyone likes to be rewarded, so why not give back to your customers? Without them, your restaurant would not be continuing to open its doors. 

Creating the ultimate customer loyalty program is not a difficult task. Typically, this sort of program offers various discounts and free items. Many restaurants reward their customers with a free item once they have dined with them a number of times. 

Nando’s have made a name for themselves as being a generous brand thanks to their Nando’s card rewards – customers earn a chilli on their chilli wheel each time they visit and spend over £7. With every chilli earned, the prospect of a free meal improves…

3.Get Technical

When it comes to rolling out your customer loyalty program, it is worth noting that most consumers these days expect to be able to access it on their smartphone. 

Developing a mobile customer loyalty program will come with its own benefits, and not just for your customers either. Mobile apps can be created that notify users when they are on the brink of earning a reward, which in turn will boost sales, as most people cannot resist a good deal - everyone likes to be rewarded. 


4.Encourage Customer Referrals 

Personal recommendations are the holy grail when it comes to running any business. A referral from a friend or family member holds a lot more weight than that of a stranger online, which is why your restaurant should be doing everything in its power to attain these sorts of referrals. 

Delivering a flawless service is the only way you will manage to get personal referrals, and the best way to get those is to up your efforts when it comes to mingling with guests. If you get on friendly terms with your customers and go out of your way to mingle with them as the restaurant owner, they will be far more likely to go home and rave about how fantastic your restaurant is to their loved ones.

But you can boost your marketing efforts in a bid to increase your customer referrals. There are numerous approaches that you can take, and we have listed some of the most popular choices below:

  • Customer of the Month programs: This has been done successfully many a time, so why not try incorporating this into your restaurant and seeing how it impacts the number of customers returning to dine with you again. 
  • Email marketing campaigns: This is one of the easiest, yet most effective tactics to utilise. You can reach huge volumes of customers with just the click of the button and when you offer discounts in return for referrals, you might find that your customers are a lot more motivated to spread the good word. Include testimonials or online reviews in your marketing – this adds credibility to your message and makes it more believable.
  • Freebies: This one should go without saying, but to reiterate, everyone loves a good freebie. Try offering a free starter or dessert to every customer that provides a referral. 


5.If things do not go well

Some things are bound to go wrong, new staff aren’t always up to speed or sometimes it’s busy and people make mistakes. What really matters is how you handle these trickier situations. Handle a forgotten order or unhappy customer badly and the impact can be colossal. Most likely the group will leave with a sour taste in their mouth and not only never return, but perhaps share their dissatisfaction with their peers or in an online review. However, if you handle an unfortunate situation well, it can actually work in your favour and cement the customers loyalty for many visits to come. Approaching the table in person, to offer free drinks or food in compensation, or discounting the bill can works wonders to alleviate any dissatisfaction with service or meals.

One final thing – celebrating the birthdays of your customers is a great way to attract their custom. If you have an online booking system, get your customers to fill out some simple details, including their birthday, so that you can get your marketing software to automatically send out offers when they birthday arrives. 

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