OK, we get it. One of your biggest priorities is attracting new customers to your restaurant. And rightly so. But you might be losing out on a lot of business if you haven’t figured out effective ways to increase restaurant customer loyalty.
Here’s why: Acquiring a new customer can cost anywhere from five to 25 times more than retaining an existing one. In contrast, increasing customer retention rates by 5 percent can up profits by more than 25 percent. Loyal customers not only offer repeat business, they are often vocal brand ambassadors.
So, how can you win more business by boosting the loyalty of your existing customer base? Here are five strategies to implement.
How to increase restaurant customer loyalty
If you want your restaurant to thrive, you need to create loyal customers. Keep them coming back for more by following these five steps.
Deliver exceptional customer service.
Get involved in your community.
Connect with customers through social media.
Develop a distinctive loyalty program.
Use technology to make the experience more personal.
Turn every new customer into a lifelong fan with these tips.
1. Deliver exceptional customer service
You could invest a lot of money in advertising, social media and SEO, and people could still visit your restaurant once and never return.
To make matters worse, these customers will tell their friends about it. An average of 15 people will hear about a poor service experience, while 52 percent of customers will never do business with a company after one negative incident. How can you prevent this?
Before people visit your restaurant, they’ll most likely have formed expectations based on reviews or the information on your website.
Think through your entire process — from guest arrival to departure — and find ways to delight patrons.
Seemingly simple things like calling customers by their names and taking notes of their preferences can make all the difference.
Deliver a consistent experience
A consistent customer journey increases satisfaction, builds trust and boosts loyalty. Treat first-time visitors to an excellent dining experience and then consistently deliver that same experience — or better — each time they return.
Value your employees
Your workforce is your most valuable asset. When employees are poorly treated or undervalued, it shows in the services they provide. Happy employees are 12 percent more productive and will put in the extra effort when serving customers. Disgruntled employees, on the other hand, can ruin your marketing efforts.
Related: 9 ways to motivate employees
2. Get involved in your community
Consumers love businesses that care about their communities. Participating in local events can help you build a stronger local network and customer base, and it doesn’t take much to get started.
Support causes relevant to the community
Nothing builds restaurant customer loyalty faster than promoting shared views on a social issue. Seeing your restaurant listed as a sponsor for a sustainability event, for example, might be the reminder a customer needs to stop by. Find local events you can get involved with to demonstrate your restaurant’s commitment to important causes.
Select a local charity of your choice and donate some of your earnings.
Showing them that you value their contributions is a sure way to win their loyalty.
Consumers perceive local foods to be fresher, and they appreciate that it supports the local economy. By sourcing ingredients from the region, you can build stronger relationships with farmers while endearing yourself to your customers.
3. Connect with customers through social media
Social media is perhaps the best way to highlight your community efforts and interact with your customer base. By sharing user-generated content and responding to comments, you can help build an engaged following.
Interact with your regulars
As you participate in local events, you’ll most likely run into your regular customers. Make them feel like part of the family by sending them a shout-out or retweeting or sharing their own photos.
Respond to comments and reviews
Positive comments and reviews are easy to deal with. But even negative posts can provide opportunities to demonstrate diplomacy and how much you value feedback. Just be sure to always keep your responses positive and professional.
Take the time to listen
Use social listening to identify your most active and vocal customers. Then find unique ways to reward these social VIPs, such as inviting them to special events.
4. Develop a distinctive loyalty program
An effective loyalty program can deepen customer engagement and drive more sales for your restaurant. The operative word here is “effective.” Here’s what that means.
Create a program that’s special
Consumers are wary of generic loyalty programs that are interchangeable with your competitors’ programs. Be sure to build a program that stands out and doesn’t just give the customer points every time they purchase for a discount at a later date — everyone does that. Try offering different tiers for different purchases, or create offers for kids.
Make the rewards attainable
Your loyalty program shouldn’t be too tasking for the customer. One of the top reasons people quit loyalty programs is that rewards take too long to accrue.
Host members-only events
In addition to a regular points program, consider members-only invites to special dinners or charity events. This is especially true when wooing millennials, who are more likely to identify with brands that promote social causes they support.
5. Use technology to make the experience more personal
According to research by Epilson, 80 percent of consumers are more likely to do business with a company that offers personalized services. So, if you’re serious about boosting restaurant customer loyalty, you should find ways to customize the dining experience.
Know what they like and what they don’t
Invest in a customer relationship management system that allows you to identify your regular customers and save their preferences. This will allow you to welcome guests more warmly, as well as tailor your email marketing messages to their specific needs.
Use digital menus to your advantage
Adaptive digital menus improve order accuracy, speed up service and make it easier to upsell items to customers. Some technologies can even recognize regularly paired offerings over time and suggest these to diners.
Editor’s note: With GoCentral from GoDaddy you can integrate your restaurant’s website with OpenTable to take reservations, show off your menu, and display gorgeous photos of your food.
Keep in touch
Send regular email surveys to understand customer preferences, then use this insight to segment your customers and personalize email offers.
A final word
Here’s what we know: Restaurant customer loyalty is good for business. By delivering consistent service, you’ll increase the chances that customers will come back and spread the word. But don’t stop at great service. Get involved in the community, engage on social media and find creative ways to reward your most active customers. These strategies will help you gain strong brand advocates and give first-timers more reasons to stick around.