One of the best ways to ensure long-term success in the foodservice industry is by fostering customer loyalty. According to Bain & Company research, a 5% increase in customer retention can lead to a 25-95% increase in profits. So while most diners come and go, earning repeat visits from a select group of customers should be a big point of emphasis. This post will explore 3 things bars and restaurants can do to increase customer loyalty.
Customers love to feel appreciated. So what better way to express your gratitude than by offering a rewards program? Also known as loyalty programs, these promotions originated as cards that were punched or stamped with each visit. But since the advent of social media, many restaurants are updating the programs so they fit seamlessly into the digital world. Today, computer-based platforms make it simple to track the amount of money customers spend at your restaurant. When the time comes to reward customers for reaching a certain plateau, giving customers 10-15% of the money they’ve spent at your establishment is standard.
When rewarding customers for their loyalty, try to keep things simple. If you’re offering a free meal or drink, don’t include stipulations that can lead to confusion and possibly resentment from customers. For example, some restaurants might only offer the reward of a free meal during weekdays. If a customer doesn’t read the fine print and arrives on a Saturday night to redeem his free dinner, he’s not going to take the news well. It might prevent him from returning to your restaurant in the future.
If you still have reservations regarding a rewards program, consider this 2017 report from Bond Brand Loyalty. According to the report, 81% of customers said they were more likely to do business with a brand that had a loyalty program. Perhaps even more amazing, 73% were more likely to recommended brands that offered good loyalty programs. So not only does a rewards program help ensure customers will keep coming back, but it also increases the likelihood they’ll recommend your restaurant to a friend or family member.
Email, texting, and social media make it easier than ever to keep in touch with customers. Whether you want to offer exclusive discount coupons, announce an event your restaurant is hosting, or just send holiday well wishes, the online medium lets you do so with the click of a mouse.
Since customers use different types of social media, try to maintain accounts on a variety of platforms. Post often, as a simple picture Instagram can be enough to convince a customer to dine at your restaurant that night. Also keep in mind that some customers might get overwhelmed by constant notifications—especially when it comes to text and email. So don’t overdo it. And leave an opt-out feature that makes it simple for customers to get off your mailing list.
Your staff should be diligent about reminding diners of your online presence. They should be able to tell customers about the advantages of signing up and even offer to sign them up on the spot if they’re so inclined.
If someone complains about your restaurant through one of your social media channels, do not simply ignore them. Engage with them, if only to apologize for the experience and assure them it was not the norm. Better yet, offer a free drink or dessert to remedy the situation.
Value Your Customers’ Opinions
A small but simple way to show patrons you care about them is by asking for feedback. Restaurants can always improve on something, and often customers can see the blind spots that you can’t. Granted, not all customer suggestions will be brilliant. But they should be respected nonetheless. And as the owner/operator of the restaurant, it’s your job to decide whether their feedback is worth integrating or is better left as an idea.
There’s no hard and fast way to ensure customer loyalty. If it were that easy, no restaurant would ever go out of business. The 3 recommendations listed are pretty common throughout the industry. So it falls on you to put your own unique spin on them. By differentiating yourself from competing bars and restaurants, you’ll already be ahead of the game.