Retaining customers is a constant challenge for restaurateurs, depending on how attractive a restaurant appears to a customer after their first visit. If there was a love-at-first-sight box, you would probably want a new-coming customer to tick it.
Here are 10 great restaurant strategies to make customers fall in love with your restaurant’s service and encourage them to dine out with you again in the future.
1 — Exceed Customer Expectations
This is a powerful tool that should be on every restaurant’s priority list.
Although people eat out for different reasons, when it comes to service quality everyone has set expectations.
But it’s not all about cleanliness, atmosphere, and service; it’s also about offering the customer a unique experience, giving them a reason to dine out with you again.
This being so, work toward making the guest experience remarkable. Train staff and keep them up to speed on your restaurant’s best practices. Restaurant key customers will dine out with you because your service offers them something special — whether that be a sought-after dish or staff engaging in photo opportunities with customers.
Granted, this requires restaurateurs to put their thinking caps on, but this doesn’t have to be difficult in the digital age. Consult customer feedback sites like Google reviews for ideas and then evaluate any opportunities to inspire memorable moments.
For advice on customer expectations today, find out how to attract restaurant customers during COVID-19 and what your business can do to help.
Figure 1. Dinner by Jennifer Kramer via Flickr
2 — Offer Best Value to Customers
The phrase “best value” is usually about making the most out of your money without breaking the bank.
This doesn’t necessarily mean being cheap as one magazine mistakenly puts it. Rather, best value is about the effective use of money, no matter the price. If the cost fulfils the need, that’s “best value”.
As it turns out, this is important to most customers. A new survey on how to attract restaurant customers recently identified that most people saw value for money as a primary concern when it came to deciding where to eat. Restaurants need to make customers feel they’re making good use out of their money.
There are several ways to do this. You could adjust your menu to fit new trends, taking into consideration the level of high-priced dishes.
There’s another option. Drawing new business with discounts and special offers is fine, but can have a double-edged effect. New customers could be willing to try you out, seeing a risk-free situation. Yet providing these offers may not fit with your restaurant’s image. Strike a balance between these factors to solidify your restaurant’s image.
3 — Discover How to Attract Restaurant Customers in Wider Industry
Whether conscious of it or not, every restaurant has a primary customer base, a certain character type.
With this in mind, it’s best to build a general picture of who you’re serving.
You can do this manually, observing and gathering information on customers to meet their general interests. For example, you might be located near an office and suddenly begin to notice how many smart-dressed customers you’re serving. Hence, shape your restaurant’s atmosphere to fit a formal image and accommodate these customer’s needs.
However, to build a more accurate picture of your restaurant’s overall clientele, you could use free restaurant analytics to do all the legwork for you — to analyse how to attract restaurant customers. The sooner a restaurant identifies its ideal guests, the better.
4 — Identify with Restaurant Key Customers
Once you have an idea of who your customers are, your restaurant will benefit from aligning their interests with yours. Discovering how to attract restaurant customers also relies on ethics.
How customers view themselves and their actions matters. Social identities are more important than you might expect as they guide people’s behaviour. Membership in a certain social group will drive someone’s later decisions and choices at any given moment.
What’s more, a customer dining out with your restaurant wants you to hold the same values and ethics as them. This deepens the guest-host relationship and means realigning your restaurant’s image to fit with current social concerns.
For instance, a customer base that cares about whether your restaurant’s processes are transparent will ask questions like: Are goods locally sourced? Is this restaurant environmentally friendly?
To give your service a more authentic flavour, invest time and energy in buying fruit and vegetables from local growers and/or goods from nearby farmers. Then inform customers of your sustainable practices and display your support for locals on your menu.
Figure 2. Cherry Tomatoes by Ian Sane via Flickr
5 — Use Branding to Attract Restaurant Customers
Branding today goes beyond the restaurant’s slogan and logo. Increasingly, customers are more interested in everything a restaurant has to offer, including stories.
You could say that a restaurant’s reputation is the restaurant’s brand. Think about it as a calling card, and when thinking about how to attract restaurant customers in 2021, look to the web for insight.
The importance of having an online presence cannot be overstated. This is how most customers research new restaurants. They’ll read a webpage before making a call.
So if you have a website, make sure you display a mission statement and an “About Us” page — both super important as today’s customers want content as well as tables.
6 — Develop an Ideal Restaurant Message to Customers Online
Social media is a branding opportunity, and it’s a good idea to use social media as a platform to create and share appealing restaurant images for your customers online.
The virtual sphere is crowded, so restaurateurs must anticipate a customer’s visual tastes correctly.
Have a peek at what other popular restaurants are doing. You want your restaurant and its dishes to be Instagrammable — essentially a heightened form of word-of-mouth in the digital age.
One restaurateur in London’s Chinatown has already noticed keen customers engage in present-day behaviour. “Every time people are at a restaurant,” said the restaurant owner, “they eat with their phones first — it’s a common theme anywhere now”.
A strong social media presence reflects the positive flavour customers will taste at your restaurant. Encourage everyone to share their content online — after all, it’s a way to imprint your restaurant’s image onto minds across the globe.
7 — How to Attract Restaurant Customers with Free Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi access now plays a major role in all our lives. Even if your restaurant doesn’t currently provide Wi-Fi access at all, customers will expect you to. Providing free Wi-Fi is costly, but the benefits are clear.
Connecting your guests to the web is a great opportunity to entertain them without having to think about each person’s particular tastes. Leave them to their devices and they can choose to make use of time any way they like.
Plus, free Wi-Fi allows guests to pay via their mobile — i.e. Apple or Google pay. Unless they have data limits on their phone, a Wi-fi connection will make matters easier.
Figure 3. Free as in Wifi by Alan Levine via Flickr
8 — Appeal to a Customer’s Current-day Needs
Today’s customers want a speedier service. Any slow restaurants are at risk of being left behind.
Finding out what customers want is pretty simple when you consider that most people are phone users.
Consider current trends. For instance, since spring 2020 online ordering has grown rapidly at an unprecedented rate. How can restaurants learn from this? Implement an online menu with attractive graphics to rival online ordering pages. Make it simple and enticing enough. Keeping up with current trends, you’ll soon learn how to attract restaurant customers in 2021.
Also, a new technique allows incoming customers to pre-order drinks, appealing to a sense of customer convenience. Learn how your restaurant can offer customers access to early orders before they’ve even been seated.
9 — Correspond with Customers
If you want to foster long-term relationships with customers, it’s always a good idea to stay in touch.
A quick look over past guest lists will allow you to handpick the customers who decide to return and those who don’t. Naturally, restaurants will see some customers go due to all sorts of reasons (e.g. a customer moves). In reality, a customer base is ever-changing.
However, a quick message to one-off diners can clear things up. Engage customers in a survey via an SMS message that links to a dedicated site and ask questions related to their first visit. Even if this turns into criticism, you can use this information constructively to improve your restaurant’s service later.
Emails can be effective (especially for advertising special events, such as birthdays or holidays), but are overused in the industry. A recipe for success is to be inspiring — share news and unique stories to create great email content.
Whatever the case, a past customer will always return if both the food and service prove to be exceptional.
10 — Learn How to Attract Restaurant Customers with a Free App
Once you’re done using these restaurant strategies to attract customers, you could use an app to take your guest management further.
Attracting customers is tricky. That’s why we developed the first-ever truly free app to help restaurants improve customer experiences at no cost whatsoever.
For more great restaurant strategies on how to attract restaurant customers, feel free to contact us today. Let us help your restaurant jumpstart customers to return for more.