The Art of Encouraging Return Diners
It’s far easier (and more cost effective) to sell to an existing customer than to find a new one.
But of course, you probably already knew that. You’re the one spending time on signage to entice foot traffic, on social media to reach new audiences and on your menu, of course, to make sure you’re staying on top of trends.
With that in mind, it’s obvious that a venue’s success is heavily influenced by its ability to bring customers back again and again. So, let’s talk about 5 ways to turn new customers into repeat customers.
#1 Provide Great Service
The obvious place to start is with great service. Customers are more likely to give repeat business to a restaurant where they have experienced high levels of customer service. And conversely, they are less likely to return if they receive poor service. Ensure that all your staff (not just servers) are committed to excellent service, and always ask for feedback after your diners have finished eating. Although we don’t necessarily adhere to the ‘customer is always right’ adage, it is always important to listen with respect.
#2: Offer Online Ordering and Delivery
Not all of your customers want to eat out all of the time. But they may really enjoy your food, and be keen to eat it at home. Make it easy for busy diners to order online and pick up their food at your restaurant or have it delivered to their door. By offering your menu online you make it far easier for new customers to become repeat customers.
#3: Create a Community
Creating an atmosphere of welcoming community and connection are key factors in encouraging return customers. This can be as small as the décor and layout of your restaurant (aiming to make diners feel relaxed and ‘at home’) but also extends to things like happy hour, themed food nights (like Taco Tuesday or Steak Night). When your customers have a good experience, and trust that they can get it again, they are likely to bring friends and family when they return as well.
#4: Start an Email List
One of the more difficult parts of encouraging return custom is staying front of mind after the first visit. Perhaps the diner loved your restaurant but simply forgot to return. If you can capture their email address (either when booking or paying or on your website) you will be able to remind them of your restaurant and any special offers. Once you have their email you can (being careful not to become ‘spammy’) touch base with them every now and again to announce new menu items or offer deals.
#5: Follow Up
If you do capture diners’ email addresses, sending a short, personal email to thank them for their visit is a nice touch and one that encourages good will. This email shouldn’t try to sell them anything, it is just a thank you note (and gives them an opportunity to provide feedback if they like) so your customers know you value them.
Encouraging return diners is certainly more of an art than a science. A combination of customer service, food, ambience, pricing and follow up will produce a memorable dining experience, and one that hopefully will turn a once-off customer into a loyal diner.