While you must never lose sight of the importance of good food and good service, there are all manner of ways to encourage repeat business to your restaurant.
Remember that many people like to have a ‘local’ restaurant, or a favorite place that they can go to where they know they’ll enjoy the food and be treated well. Making your restaurant that place is great for business, and great for the bottom line. Having regular customers keeps your restaurant looking busy – potential customers looking through the window will rarely be impressed if there is no one else in the restaurant looking like they’re having a good time.
Regulars might never be the people that spend mega bucks at your restaurant, especially as they will tend to not go for the full three courses with aperitifs if they use your restaurant as a place to get ‘something to eat’ rather than a fancy experience, but those extra $20 or $30 a head once a week or so really help – and you never know who they’ll tell about their favorite restaurant!
So how do you turn occasional customers into regulars? And how do you make sure you look after them once they become regulars? Here are a few fresh-thinking ways to make sure these people come back and spend their hard-earned money in your restaurant.
Use Social MediaTwitter and Facebook aren’t just for kids, in fact, many businesses are finding that using social media effectively is a great way to build business. It’s easier than you might think too, so if you’re a technophobe don’t be concerned. In fact, if you’re a total technophobe, you could even ask a savvy waitress or barman to create a Twitter and Facebook account for you and get them to up date it regularly – although you’ll need to pay them an extra hour or two per week for their trouble.
Use social media to write about special offers, when you’ve taken delivery of a particularly delicious batch of asparagus or when you have a last minute cancellation and have a free table. Say amusing/wry/silly (but not unprofessional) things about what you’re up to – if you’ve got a new waiter or that you’re working on developing a new pudding menu with the chef and thoroughly enjoying the tasting session…whatever, just engage with people and they’ll think of your restaurant next time they want to go out for dinner.
Loyalty CardsThere’s a reason that every shop, restaurant and hotel chain seems to want to give you a loyalty card nowadays – it’s because they work. Loyalty cards are a cheap, easy way to engage with your customers and make them feel important to you, while gaining valuable customer information. Always remember the old saying ‘What’s in it for me?’ – You can’t just get people to fill in loads of details but not offer them anything. So maybe you could have for every ten main meals ordered you get the eleventh free, or for every five bottles of house wine bought there’s the sixth free, or a free coffee for loyalty card holders…whatever suits your business.
FreebiesEveryone loves a freebie. We’ve all been to a restaurant where the waiter brings you a little liqueur after the meal – on the house – and it puts a little spring in your step. Conversely, we’ve also all been to a restaurant where you feel like the owners should recognise you by now yet they treat you like it’s the first time you’ve been. Don’t be the second restaurant. Giving people a good measure of a liqueur of their choice after the meal (make sure the waiter makes it clear it’s on the house) costs pennies but is a nice gesture. Or make your own bread in house and give generous baskets with lovely salty butter, or have tasty little canapés brought out when people order an aperitif. None of these things need to cost you much, but they’re worth a lot more to the customer.