This is a guest article by Daley James Francis. He has over 8 years’ experience in the restaurant industry and studied Hospitality Management at college. He understands how important word of mouth is to the growth of a restaurant business, and now dishes out his experience and wisdom at www.restaurateurHQ.com.
In order for a restaurant to thrive, it needs to get great press so that the customers keep coming through the doors with high expectations. This doesn’t necessarily mean from restaurant critics and the usual media channels, but also from word of mouth via the people that matter: The customers.
People are for more likely to visit a restaurant off the back of a recommendation from a friend or family member than they are from a good review in the local newspaper, and restaurant owners know this too, so they make a concerted effort to send customers away satisfied at the end of a great evening so that they transport the goodwill back to their friends and family.
There are a number of ways that restaurant owners can boost word of mouth buzz for their restaurant, and it is easier than you might think. You just need to get a little creative with your marketing plan. Here are 5 great ways to reach those extra customers via word of mouth:
What always separates the great from the good restaurants is a unique selling point that sets them apart from all other restaurant businesses. This can be anything from the type of food you provide your customers, food challenges (anyone who has ever watched an episode of Man v Food will know how popular these are) and the theme of your restaurant.
If you look at some of the biggest brands in the restaurant industry, they all have a unique selling point, from Bubba Gump Shrimp to the Hard Rock Café. But a unique selling point doesn’t have to be a gimmick, it could be something as simple as an item that is on the menu, like a fresh fish menu that changes every day. Something like this will delight the customers and they will almost certainly be singing your praises to friends and family when they leave your restaurant.
Nothing brings a smile to a customer’s face than the opportunity to save some money when they eat out, especially if they are still getting high quality food and service too. A restaurant will often have a launch party and a promotion when a new menu is released in order to catch the attention of customers who are looking for something new. It is really important for building word of mouth that these kinds of promotions take place, as it keeps your business in the minds and on the lips of the people who could make a huge impact on the amount of customers who come through the door.
Holding events at your restaurant is a really great way of creating a buzz around your restaurant. How many times have you asked a friend ‘have you ever eaten at…?’ and received an excited response such as ‘Oh yeah, we had our Christmas party there, it was awesome!’? It happens to everybody, and almost always ends in you visiting that restaurant, either as part of an event – like a work or birthday party – or just as a one-off. You can’t put a figure on just how essential word of mouth is.
Restaurants need to impress their customers in order to expect any repeat business or improved business from word of mouth, and if they can capture that great feedback, it can be an incredibly useful part of your marketing plan. A number of restaurants put simple feedback forms on their tables. They take a matter of seconds for customers to fill out and can go a long way to help restaurant owners understand what is working within their business and what needs tweaking or getting rid of altogether. If customers feel that their opinion matters, it strengthens the relationship and improves the opportunity of them coming back and spreading the love.
The social networking world is the new feedback form, and with it being instantaneous and hugely influential due to how far and wide it reaches, it can really make or break a restaurant business. Last year, the fast food chain KFC spent millions on marketing, only for one social media led story nearly undo it all. A student found a wrinkled kidney that resembled a brain as part of his meal, and when the student took a photo and posted it online, the story went viral. If this happened to a small, independent restaurant, it may have been curtains, but the fast food giant survived the PR disaster relatively unscathed.
Although this is an extreme case, it definitely shows the power that social media can have on the word of mouth of your business, and how important it is to keep your customers happy in every way you can in order to escape a social media mauling.
The power of a smiling face cannot be underestimated in the restaurant trade! From the management, the waiting staff, the chefs to the kitchen porters – the restaurant should be a well-oiled machine where everybody is happy and looking forward to coming to work every day. Without this, the restaurant will suffer. Dissatisfied staff make mistakes, get lazy and their customer service skills can suffer, and one way or another, this will be picked up by the customers, who will either see it clearly or feel it in the atmosphere of the restaurant.
You want your customers to walk through the doors and know right away that everybody wants to be there and everybody is having fun. If the food is great and the waiting staff are happy, it goes a long way to making the customers comfortable, and if they’re comfortable and enjoying themselves, they’ll be telling their friends and coming back again. It is the responsibility of restaurant owners to take good care of their workforce from the ground up and keep everybody happy. The word of mouth buzz depends on it.