As much as technology has helped advance and grow the hospitality industry, it has also changed the way consumers think about and interact with restaurants and other businesses. Potential customers can read restaurant reviews from friends or even strangers, and it’s easier than ever to search for new or alternative restaurants to go to. Customers that experience poor service might not be as forgiving as they used to be.
The impact these changes has had on customer loyalty is drastic, and some reports even indicate that 79% of customers would switch to a competitor due to poor customer service. This number is certainly alarming, and serves as a reminder that building your restaurant’s customer loyalty is more important than ever before.
Repeat business is the easiest way for restaurants to boost ROI and profitability, but that’s easier said than done. In the case of fast casual restaurants, up to 60% of customers don’t come back after their initial visit. While these statistics seem alarming, there are many things restaurant owners can do to mitigate customer loss. Let’s take a look at four proven ways to build customer loyalty in your restaurant:
1. Create a Customer Loyalty Program
Quite a number of factors go into a customer’s decision to visit a restaurant, including proximity, customer service, and menu offerings, among others. In order to tip the scale in your favor, consider investing in a loyalty program to really kick start customer retention. Loyalty programs can increase the lifetime spend of a customer by up to 30% due to more frequent visits and larger bills. Loyalty programs might even help bring back customers originally lost to competition.
The easier it is to join the loyalty program, the better; customers don’t want to have to jump through hoops to receive these benefits. Whether your loyalty program uses bonus points or some other system, incentivizing customers to come back is the best way to build loyalty.
2. Host Special Events
Customer loyalty programs are so successful because they encourage and reward repeat business, but that isn’t the only way to bring in customers. Hosting weekly or monthly events are a great way to increase customer support, especially if the customers have a chance to benefit from these encounters. Trivia nights, for example, are a popular way to bring in a crowd on a weekday. These events are exciting for customers, and they usually lead to larger tabs. Giving a gift card or some other reward to the winner further incentivizes customers to come back weekly.
Other ideas for events include advanced screenings of new menu items or nights that benefit a local charity. Use your imagination and test a few different events out to see what customers respond to.
3. Make Guests Feel Like VIPs
Restaurants always want to ensure that each and every customer is treated well, but there are a few things you can do to go above and beyond. Special perks for members of your loyalty program – like a free appetizer – can help them feel like VIP members and not just another customer. A special plan for new customers can also go a long way toward ensuring they return again in the future.
Learning first names might seem like a minor detail, but it can truly help customers develop a personal relationship with the waitstaff and restaurant itself. To further enhance the VIP feeling, picking a customer of the month from your loyalty program is a great idea. In order to ensure customers are loyal to your restaurant, you must first prove that your restaurant is loyal to them.
4. Communicate with Customers
It often isn’t enough to treat customers well while they are at your restaurant. To really improve customer loyalty, restaurants should reach out to them through email or text (with the customer’s permission, of course). Targeted communication can go a long way toward ensuring that customers are aware of happy hours and other events. Plus, you can remind customers when they are close to redeeming something from your loyalty program.
Restaurants can encourage sign ups for email or text communication by offering free desserts on birthdays, or simply require this information to sign up for the loyalty program.
Customer loyalty can be fickle, but there are a number of ways to ensure that customers regularly return to your restaurant. Just like with any relationship, loyalty is a two-way street. Customers won’t always go out of their way to visit your restaurant unless you give them good reasons to do so. The more you do to build customer loyalty, the more your customers will reward you for your efforts.
Are you planning in implementing new customer loyalty strategies in your restaurant? We can help! Contact a Leebro POS specialist to discuss your options.