Returning diners are vital to the success of your restaurant. If your customers aren’t returning to your restaurant, it’s time to take a look at why and find solutions.
Why is it so important that customers return regularly to dine at your restaurant? According to one source, return customers provide at least 1/3 of your revenue even though they make up a small portion of your customer base. In fact, according to Harvard researchers, you can expect to increase your profits from 25% -125% if you increase repeat customer visits by just 5%.
That’s a huge increase in your profit margin.
While it’s sometimes difficult to decipher why people don’t return to a restaurant, there are some common reasons for a lack of return diners. To increase visit frequency, it’s helpful to understand why customers aren’t returning.
Let’s talk about why your customers aren’t returning to your restaurant and offer some solutions for turning this around.
First impressions are always important, but they are no guarantee of your future, continued success. In fact, consider the restaurant that makes a terrific first impression. That impression sets expectations for future visits. If you don’t meet those expectations consistently down the road, the first great impression is a fleeting memory in your customer’s mind.
You’ve now lost diners who would’ve come back again and again. You’ve also lost their word-of-mouth positive referrals.
Pay special attention to your employees’ customer service. Are they friendly one day and grumpy the next? Do they consistently treat all of their tables the same?
Inspect your food quality on a daily basis. If your customers enjoyed a perfect pizza on Friday, only to come back the following Friday for doughy, non-fully cooked pizza with half the sauce, you probably won’t see them again. Take care that your plates consistently look and taste the same no matter who prepares them.
Price can be a deterrent for many people. Some of your diners may think your prices are affordable only for the occasional splurge but not for the everyday, regular meal. Also, if your prices are much higher than your direct competitors, you’ll miss out on the frequent dining crowd.
If you want to see your customers more often, offer meals at different, accessible price points. (tweet this)
Aim for the “everyday low price.” You can include some higher priced menu items with lower pricing on popular meals. Consider offering smaller menu items at lower prices – people can then combine them to create meals that fit their budget.
Customers may not return to your restaurant if they view you for only one type of meal occasion. Perhaps they only think of you for the quick lunch or the take-out place. Or, as mentioned above, maybe you are only their occasional splurge restaurant.
Use subtle imaging to change the way people perceive your restaurant. Think about the downtown worker who orders take-out for lunch. Stick a flyer in the bag and suggest the customer bring the family for dinner.
You could also use the come-back coupon idea. Consider the restaurant that’s open for breakfast and lunch, but most people visit in the morning for coffee and breakfast. Offer them a discount for a lunchtime meal. This exposes your customer to your restaurant at other hours of the day and encourages the return visit.
You know the restaurant – the one with great food, but filthy bathrooms. Your mind begins to wander, and as you ponder the dirty bathroom you envision the dirty kitchen. Your decision is made – no matter how tasty the food, you will not return due to the lack of cleanliness.
If your bathrooms are ill-equipped – think no toilet paper, missing soap and a lack of towels, your customers probably won’t be back. Add on sticky floors, dirty toilets and filthy stalls, and you’ve not only lost customers but earned several bad reviews, too.
This one’s easy. Clean the bathrooms daily and assign a staff member to monitor them throughout mealtime.
If your servers are stressed, too busy, under-appreciated and poorly trained, it will reflect badly on your restaurant resulting in a lack of return customer visits. Customers don’t return to restaurants where they weren’t taken care of in a timely manner and treated with respect.
Slow service, cold food, inattentive waiters with attitude, and waiters who don’t make eye contact or accommodate your guests can turn a popular restaurant with good food into an empty restaurant.
Train staff to go the extra mile. (tweet this) Teach them how to serve customers and emphasize customer service. Encourage your servers to treat each diner like a VIP in your restaurant. A welcoming smile goes a long way towards repeat business.
Make sure your staff knows your menu and is well-versed in a customer’s options to change menu items. While all menu deviations aren’t possible, do your best to accommodate special requests.
Encourage staff to greet repeat diners personally each time they come in. Instruct them to thank the customer for coming back again. Good customer service helps create an emotional bond to your restaurant. If your customers feel appreciated, and they are treated like guests in your “home,” they’ll certainly come back again and tell all their friends about your great service.
Your extra-large menu probably lacks focus. If you’re trying to offer everything your customers might like, you aren’t giving them more choices and more reasons to come back. You just might be confusing them. They’ll be unsure what your specialties are and what you do well, so they won’t have a reason to return.
Another problem with extra-large menus is ordering time. These days, time is at a premium for most diners. Large menus take longer to order from. Subconsciously, your diners are keeping track of how long it takes for them to get their food. For every minute they perceive the service takes too long, the likelihood they’ll return goes down.
Create a better menu. Don’t try to be all things to all people. Your customers need to know what your restaurant is about, so keep your menu focused.
Emphasize your “greatest hits.” These are the menu items customers order a lot and return for often. Consider ditching the “underperformers.” These are your least popular items that won’t bring people back. Look for your “hidden gems.” These are the secret performers that are well-liked among your diners. They bring people back, but you may not be selling a lot of them yet. Think about tweaking your “one-hit wonders.” Diners order these items a lot, but they don’t come back for them.
The final reason your customers aren’t returning to your restaurant could just be they don’t like your menu. Perhaps they’ve even given you a couple of chances and tried several different items. Perhaps the food was cold or ill-plated so that items mixed poorly together.
Ask customers how they feel about your food. This will help you discover what’s good and what needs changing. See if they have suggestions for improvement. If your food is the problem, work hard to change it as it won’t only affect your bottom line but your future.
Have you had problems getting customers to return to your restaurant? How did you solve the problem? Please share your suggestions here – we’d love to hear them.