Seeing familiar faces return time and time again to your restaurant is one of the best markers of restaurant success. But creating a high level of restaurant customer loyalty that moves your business from just getting by to profitable requires forethought and a bit of strategy.
At the core of a successful restaurant customer loyalty strategy is excellent service. If you’ve worked in hospitality or food service for any length of time, you know the value of excellent service. A little extra goes a long way in the eyes of your customers.
With this in mind, the following article dives into 5 ways that you can increase restaurant customer loyalty for your quick-service restaurant or cafe.
Why is restaurant customer loyalty important?
Simply put: It will be challenging to sustain your sales without a solid customer base.
Restaurants rely on customers in a small, local radius for most of their revenue. Customers won’t drive from dozens of miles away to visit a restaurant, at least not very often. If your customers don’t return to your restaurant, you’ll eventually find it too costly to continue attracting customers through other strategies, like advertising.
Returning customers often share their experiences with relatives and friends. They’ll likely invite people to join them in future visits, spreading positive word-of-mouth about your restaurant. As more people discover your restaurant, you’ll see steadily increasing sales.
As your restaurant continues to do well and increase profits, you’ll eventually be able to explore other opportunities. This could be anything from expanding your current operations to a second location, adding a food truck, or attracting investors or a buy-out.
5 tips for improving restaurant customer loyalty
Knowing the advantages of a strong customer loyalty program means you’re halfway there. Now it’s time to put in a little elbow grease to create and increase your restaurant customer loyalty! Here are five tips you can start doing today.
1. Create a friendly, inviting environment to inspire better restaurant customer loyalty
Ensuring customers feel entirely comfortable in your restaurant – and thus increasing restaurant customer loyalty – starts with design and layout, and cleanliness.
When considering restaurant design, keep it friendly and inviting when choosing colors, wall art, and other decorative elements. Lighting is also an integral part of a restaurant’s design scheme. Typically, restaurants tend to lower the lights during the evening, which gives the restaurant a relaxed appeal to customers looking for leisure after a demanding workday or workweek. During the day, you’ll want to brighten your lighting.
Your restaurant’s layout should be easy for first-time customers to navigate. Customers should know where to place orders, how to pick-up orders or sit down to have it served, what to do with trays and trash, etc. without having to ask. If anything is confusing, put up signs as well as providing verbal instructions.
Some restaurants and fast-casual dining establishments cater to remote workers who need a break from their home office. Remote workers may stay for a few hours while working on items for their employer. If this is the case for your restaurant, you’ll want to ensure they have space for their laptop, comfortable seating and ideally an outlet.
This goes without saying but to inspire restaurant customer loyalty, your restaurant needs to be super clean – from your counters to seating to your condiments. Few things turn off customers more than sticky tables, an overflowing trash can, and questionable bathrooms…
2. Offer consistently excellent customer service for improved restaurant customer loyalty
Another critical factor in developing great restaurant customer loyalty is providing consistent customer service across all your staff and locations. Now, this is easier said than done: everyone has a bad day, and you can’t control your staff’s moods or personal circumstances that may impact the quality of the customer service they provide.
However, you can make efforts to improve your employee’s workplace community. Employees who enjoy their workplace are more likely to provide customers with excellent service. To enhance employee happiness in your restaurant, listen to your workers’ needs and regularly ask them for feedback. If they note problems in the workplace, address them.
You should also make your employee’s mental health a priority. Restaurant cashiers and servers are at the frontline of your business, and they’re the ones customers complain to. Abusive customers can frustrate your team and increase their risk of burnout. Ensure you’re providing your employees with the benefits they need to care for their physical and mental health.
3. Add personal touches to increase restaurant customer loyalty
Customers genuinely appreciate it when you go the extra mile to appreciate them for their patronage. Additional personal touches can mean the difference between a customer who visits your restaurant occasionally and one who comes weekly.
This could be something as simple as asking your staff to write a short note on the customer’s receipt or pick-up ticket. For instance, if someone orders the same burger every time they come, a message like, “We’re so glad you enjoy our Kitchen Sink Smash Burger! Best wishes!” is enough to recognize the customer’s tastes and visits.
Even for new customers, ensuring you have the correct spelling of their name for their order can make customers feel more appreciated and comfortable.
4. Make it feel like customers get more than what they paid for
Another way to enhance restaurant customer loyalty is by offering something extra – or at least something that feels like extra.
One example of a restaurant that provides a little extra at no cost is Five Guys. You’ll receive a huge bag that overflows the carton when you order a side of their fries. The price for the extra fries is minimal to the restaurant but integral to the customer experience.
This extra perk doesn’t have to be anything time consuming or costly (and shouldn’t be). Tossing in extra condiments or a few mint candies into a to-go bag goes a long way, too!
5. Launch a restaurant customer loyalty program
Introducing a restaurant customer loyalty program is a more formal way to connect and engage with your customers. Restaurant loyalty programs allow customers to earn benefits when they regularly order from your quick-service restaurant or cafe.
You can start with a simple punch card. Every time a customer makes a purchase, they’ll earn a punch. After so many purchases, you can give them a free meal or a discount on their next order.
When you’re ready for a more extensive restaurant customer loyalty program, you can integrate your POS system to track customer purchases. Guests can sign up online or in person, and you’ll track their purchases through the system and distribute the rewards they earn. If you can personalize your rewards, you’ll see even better results.
Keep guests coming back for more with Table Needs!
Restaurant owners know the importance of a loyal fanbase that regularly dines at their establishment, and these tips will help you do just that! For more ways to create an inviting restaurant experience for your customers, get in touch with Table Needs. We help quick-service restaurants, cafes, and food trucks operate more efficient, more profitable businesses – and we’d love to help you too!
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