Keeping your existing customers happy is crucial. They are the backbone of your business and provide a regular stream of revenue. Restaurateurs invest a lot of time and money on marketing their restaurant in efforts to attract new clientele. Obviously, gaining new customers is important for sales growth but keeping existing customers is less expensive and more profitable. By making retention a focus for your business, not only will doing so encourage them to come back but they may actually help you draw in new customers by spreading the good word about your restaurant. Cultivating valuable relationships with loyal customers enables you to capture repeat visits and there are simple server tips and tricks to improve and secure restaurant customer retention.
Reaping the Benefits with Customer Retention
Customer retention, or restaurant customer retention in this case, are measures, strategies and actions restaurants take to reduce customer complaints. The main purpose of customer retention programs, engineered by a reliable restaurant management system, is to help restaurants retain as many customers as they possibly can with loyalty and brand loyalty initiatives. As a general rule, customer retention begins with the first contact you have with a customer with ties to a company, organization or even a community and continues throughout the duration of the relationship.
For a while, many companies have used more a traditional method in spending money on customer acquisition because they believed it was the most efficient and quickest way to increase revenue and retain existing customers. It is also thought, on average, to cost at least 7 times less than customer acquisition. Selling to existing long-time customers is seen as a more effective way of generating revenue because it lessens the need for companies to attract, educate and convert new visitors. Additionally, restaurants that shift their attention to customer retention often find it to be a more efficient process because they are marketing to customers who have already expressed their interest in the products and are engaged with the restaurant brand therefore making it easier to capitalize on their dining experiences with the restaurant. Hence, retention is a more substantial business model as it is key to significant growth in revenue.
How to Improve Restaurant Customer Retention
Established restaurants, for the most part, understand that they need to direct their focus on customer retention. Comfortable commercial grade furniture and table spacing, brand marketing campaigns, and menu pricing may be crucial factors in retaining customers, restaurants are learning that customer loyalty and profitability increases so long as existing customers return frequently so employing and executing the following customer retention strategies, including tips for servers, can have rewarding outcomes:
- Prioritizing Service
Delivering the service those customers would expect and even going an extra mile can make all the difference in creating a high-class dining experience for them. Instituting etiquette for restaurant staff will help them guide new patrons to the dishes that gave a claim of fame to your restaurant as well as favorites that always bring customers back. Your servers should also be able to promote specials, seasonal menu changes, or a specific drink included in the special. Use social networks to your full advantage to share details of return-worthy events such as live musical performances by famous celebrities, stand-up comedies, etc.
- Planning Your Menu Better
As an owner and/or a chef, it is important to understand the “signature” items that customers come to associate with your restaurant as well as what makes them unique from the rest of the dishes you serve. Perhaps you know how to whip up a juicy New York strip or can make a delectable tiramisu. Whatever your specialty may be, make sure that your waiters are serving the dishes that get the most positive feedback to the manager or at staff meetings. You can then instruct them to promote the most popular dishes to first time guests and see how they react.
- Rewarding Loyalty
Money buys a lot of things but not happiness, love, trust, respect, or loyalty. All of those are earned, especially loyalty. Once you have won your customers over with a great dining experience championed with signature food and specialty drinks, it’s time to take another step and offer your guests something special. Whether it is an incentive to encourage guests to come back for another visit or hosting exclusive invitation only events for your VIPs’, creating a loyalty program is one of many ways to drive retention of your most valued patrons. Get acquainted with your customers and custom-tailor your rewards program to suite their preferences or lack thereof.
Participating in Humanitarian Causes
People are becoming more socially conscious due to globalization and they expect businesses they associate with to be the same way. This is especially true for the young generation whom for the most part, are actively involved in philanthropic efforts. If millennials are your targeted demographics, it may behoove you to steer your restaurant in a charitable direction as they are more willing to support businesses that are passionate about making a difference. One of the easiest ways to participate in these initiations is supporting local organizations. You can regularly donate food to a homeless shelter or have your staff volunteer at a soup kitchen on a weekly basis. Or you can host fundraising events to attract customers, and most importantly, convert them into loyal patrons.
Restaurant Etiquette that Cements Customer Retention
Restaurants are an admixture of diplomacy and sociability. Effective communication, confidence, skillfulness as well as politeness are important aspects of being restaurant server/personnel. But waiting tables is not as easy as it looks. It can be downright stressful especially when you have multiple orders to memorize or have to carry a 20 lbs tray of food. Disgruntled customers can put your patience and composure to the test. The following etiquette for restaurant staff that will help services run smoothly and keep customers happy comprise of the following:
- Greet visitors upon entry.
- Remember the customer’s face and name.
- Be well mannered and even tempered.
- Fix unleveled tables before guests arrive.
- Make valuable recommendations.
- Minimize physical contact with customers or avoid it altogether.
- Don’t eat or drink while serving.
- Pay close attention to what you touch.
- Serve at a customer’s pace.
- Provide extra cushions or high chairs for babies/toddlers.
- Do not eavesdrop in conversations guests have amongst each other.
- Stand erect throughout the duration of service.
- Speak softly and avoid getting into arguments with guests and other staff.
- Bring back change unless customers permit you to keep them as a tip.
Servers are Also Salespeople
Restaurateurs don’t normally think of servers as salespeople in a traditional sense. However, they can increase revenue, build loyalty and strengthen the brand with the right trainer. Servers are the face of the restaurant and your reputation rests in their hands. Customers are presented with a choice as far as where they like to dine. Great location, food, and ambience are contributing factors that impact their dining experience – all of which are unfortunately cancelled out by terrible service thus jeopardizing any effort in customer retention. On the other hand, good service can be a differentiator.
Restaurants tend to only concentrate on process and product training. While it’s important for servers to have deep knowledge of the food and drinks you offer and know how to operate a POS, memorizing the menu won’t suffice alone. Training your staff with different strategies can not only set them up for success in selling to customers but can also strengthen customer retention.