Converting Customers into Regulars

Regulars are the backbone of every restaurant. Research from advisory firm Gartner, Inc. shows that as many as 80% of all restaurant sales come from repeat customers. Regulars help restaurants thrive, adding value through continued loyalty and referrals. Executing outstanding plates isn’t the only strategy necessary to ensure first-time guests return. Intensifying customer loyalty is all about delivering genuine hospitality, building connections, providing value and convenience, and leaving guests with a memorable personal touch they can’t get anywhere else.

1. Learn & Remember Guests’ Names

Genuine connections and personalized experiences are vital to creating lifetime customers. One of the easiest ways to deepen the relationship between your restaurant and guests is to learn their names. Learning names expresses your interest in getting to know clientele, and consistently using them acknowledges that your business values its guests. Research published in the Journal of Neuroscience states that our brains become ecstatic when we hear our name called, generating positive associations with your restaurant and more reason to implement this small, but effective  gesture. Addressing guests by name also increases the likeliness that they’ll listen to your suggestions, making it easier to upsell high-profit items.

2. Take Note

Regulars want to be treated differently and better than other customers. Exceed this demand by utilizing your operation’s current technology to deliver a customized five-star experience. Take advantage of your POS system to keep notes on diners’ names, drink orders, wine preferences, dietary restrictions, and birthdays. When regulars are dining with you, put their names on the ticket order, so chefs know exactly who they’re cooking for. Making the most of your interactive database can help your staff build connections with customers, which will ultimately result in enhanced hospitality. If your regulars don’t have consistent preferences, take advantage of their indecision to merchandise top-selling items that will keep them coming back for more.

3. Sell the Next Visit

If you want to create regulars, you must be active about selling the next visit. A smart move is to have servers write their name on the customer’s copy of the check. Guests will then be able to ask for the same server at their next visit and continue to build that relationship. Promoting upcoming specials or events at your restaurant can also give guests a peek into your restaurant’s distinct culture and capture their interest for a return visit. Don’t forget about simply creating desire with visual stimulus. Direct your staff to take the long way around the dining room to showcase eye-catching dishes that make customers say, “That’s what I’m ordering next time!”

4. Make Your Experience Convenient with Digital Perks

Today’s consumers are seeking dining experiences that off er value and convenience, and are more likely to choose restaurants that provide an effortless experience. Digital attributes such as online loyalty programs, free WiFi, and digital transactions can drive business and incentivize additional dining experiences. Consumers are increasingly choosing to pay for items using mobile applications, such as Apple Pay®, and having this effortless experience accessible at your restaurant may be a determining factor in their decision to return.

Online ordering is a trending sector that’s incredibly popular with the takeout category. With online orders comprising half of all deliveries, this platform plays a significant role in the modern customer experience. Utilize ordering systems with online payment options that off er incentives for frequent diners. Be sure to test the system and make sure it provides a smooth, hassle-free experience. Many of these technological applications also collect customer data, such as order details and frequency, which can help operators cater to preferences and increase brand perception.

With an open rate of 98%, text message marketing is an effective way to provide regulars with convenience while keeping your restaurant top-of-mind. This strategy puts access to your restaurant at customers’ fingertips. Operators can utilize these messages to send special offers, allow guests to make reservations, send reminders for bookings, and ask for customer feedback. Some popular services include EZ Texting™, Textedly™, SlickText™, and TextMagic™. Research to see which text messaging service will work best for your restaurant. Utilize these strategies to strengthen relationships with guests, create regulars, and allow your staff to make meaningful connections that help them sell more, serve better, and win customer loyalty.

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