How restaurants attract and keep loyal customers

How much time and money do you spend attracting new customers?  How many coupons, discounts, promotions, and deals have you created just to attract a new face to your business?

Now let me ask you this more important question: What steps do you take to turn a new customer into a loyal customer?

We asked 100 restaurants and cafes in Northern California this same question.  Unanimously, the answer was the following: “Our great food and excellent customer service is what keeps our customers coming back.”

In the age of new technology and a fickle generation, great food and great customer service just doesn’t cut it anymore.

What makes a customer loyal for restaurants?

We surveyed 200 people in Palo Alto and Mountain View and asked what makes them loyal to a restaurant or cafe?  Here are the answers we got:

Jennifer from PA: “I’ve been going to La Morenita restaurant for several years now.  I think it’s because I’ve gotten to know the staff personally.  Though waiters come and go, the people they hire always take the time to learn my name and the way I like my food.”

Tony from MV: “I go to Posh Bagel every morning.  The service is quick – I can always count on the cashier knowing my ‘usual’ so that I can get in and out as fast as possible, and get to work on time.

Han from MV: “Barracuda always makes me feel good when I go there.  Last time I was there, the manager gave me a bottle of sake just because he remembered my face.”

It’s all about recognition at a restaurant

Punch cards work like a charm at cafes and yogurt shops.  So why don’t restaurants do the same thing?

Actually, they do.  It’s called the General Manager.

Part of the job of the General Manager is to remember the names and faces of his best customers.  Think about the last time you walked into your favorite restaurant; what was your experience like?

I’m willing to bet that the receptionist and waitress recognized you.  Furthermore, the General Manager came out and greeted you personally.  This is the special treatment that all of your customers deserve.

Capture the deal seekers

Of course, not everyone cares about the special treatment that I described above.  What about the deal seekers – the Groupon users that just want a good deal and don’t care about the food or service.  In order to capture these people, you need to speak their language.

Deal seekers love a good discount.  But more importantly, deal seekers use social media, have a smart phone, and talk about the best deals to their friends.  This is a great opportunity for you to capture the attention of a deal seeker and offer then something so great that they tell all of their friends about it.

The best thing you can offer deal seekers: Rewards

Let rewards be the nicotine for your deal-seeking customers.  If a deal seeker knows that on his 3rd visit, he’s going to get a free dessert, then he’s going to keep coming back to your restaurant.  The deal seeker has so many choices: happy hours, season specials, coupons; remove the uncertainty in his life by offering him a rewards program.

Long-term restaurant success

Loyal customers give you positive reviews on Yelp, tell their friends about your business, and celebrate occasions at your business.

Give them the recognition and rewards that they deserve.  If you do, they’ll bring the new customers in for you through word-of-mouth.

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