Customer loyalty depends on unique and meaningful personal connections. Use these five tips to boost customer loyalty on a budget…
Start by simply being present, visible, and active at your restaurant. This gives small restaurants a big advantage in our world of franchises and impersonal corporate experiences. A big part of customer loyalty is all about feeling socially connected to the individual people behind the business. When customers can see you hard at work, they immediately warm up to the atmosphere.
You can usually go being just being visible. During slower times, look out for returning customers and make them feel welcome. Learn the names of your regular patrons and greet them personally. A dedicated, friendly manager is a key pull factor for returning customers.
Discounts are expensive. Gestures of goodwill have much more payoff. (tweet this)
Official loyalty programs and discounts can be expensive. Random gestures of goodwill , on the other hand, have a much bigger payoff. This requires that you follow through on step one, and be regularly present and observant. This way you can step in on regular transactions and add little extras here and there. Give the daily work lunch guy a free sample. Whip up a free espresso for a loyal customer on her birthday. These little gestures don’t cost much and they leave a lasting imprint on the receiving end.
Note: Be conscious of who you give special treatment. Make sure your gestures are distributed fairly and keep track of your regular customers.
Restaurants: Get involved in your community. It will increase loyalty and sales. (tweet this)
Restaurants are one of the few types of businesses that will always be part of the local community. There’s little chance of outsourcing or ordering cooked cuisine from out of town. Take advantage of this by connecting with your immediate surroundings. Some ideas might be;
Also remember that good deeds attract lifelong customers. Donate any extra resources you have to a good cause. Before throwing out food or equipment that’s usable, think about any local groups that might need it. Start a regular habit of giving extra ingredients to a nearby shelter, and encourage other restaurants to do the same. When you update your kitchen stovetop, send the old one to the local soup kitchen. It’s amazing how quickly news spreads when a local business takes charitable action. When you give to the community, they naturally want to give back to you.
Social networking is free and easy. One restaurant that I’ve seen do exceptionally well in this area is a place called Flindt in Barbados. This is a small patisserie that does catering and specialty breakfast and lunches. I went to this place every morning for a short vacation, then added them on Facebook in a nostalgic moment. The personal connection they make with images and comments is genuine, creative, and very enticing. Check out how their customers are interacting with their page.
Some tips I’ve learned for boosting loyalty with social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest:
Instagram is worth a special mention. People love to tag their whereabouts and connect with local businesses using this app. Make sure you create an Instagram account and add a simple ‘like’ whenever someone adds a photo related to your restaurant.
You may also be interested in this previous post on connecting with customers through Twitter.
Your servers are your best sales reps. Not only do they connect with customers on the job, but they’ll also spread the word about you in their free time. Get to know your servers personally and create a bond with your staff. It only takes a little attentive conversation and positive reinforcement. When they feel personally committed to you and your restaurant, they will pass that commitment on to friends and family.
Good food and great service are of course the best ways to keep customers coming back. With that in mind, these steps can add an extra boost to any restaurant’s customer loyalty.
What are your experiences with restaurant customer loyalty? Share your story in the comments.