Customer Retention Strategies for Restaurants

Build your relationship with your customers and keep them coming back for seconds! Customer Retention can significantly boost your sales.
Trace Mannewitz

Value Of Customer Loyalty

Customer loyalty is a combination of a numbers game and a method of connection. From a business standpoint, the more loyal your customers are, the more likely they will return, continue to purchase your delicious food, and tell all their friends about this restaurant they “HAVE to try.” The connection loyalty carries is also worth mentioning. There’s a certain comfort to having your favorite spot and knowing that they know you as much as you know them. 

Naturally, we want to cultivate this relationship however we can. A recent study by a trusted source in the Restaurant Loyalty Industry (the source is us) found that we could segment audiences into four main categories based on customer loyalty: strangers, rookies, regulars, and loyalists. Each of these audience segments has different spending habits— and as they continue down the guest journey path, that spending becomes exponential. 

How To Increase Customer Loyalty?

Become More Than Just A Pretty Plate

The Michelin Star inspection process is based on five criteria: 

  • Quality of the products
  • Mastery of flavour and cooking techniques
  • The personality of the chef in their cuisine
  • Value for money
  • Consistency between visits

For our purposes, we have broken it down into three categories, with which we can judge our restaurants. 

First, the quality of the food. Despite everything else, you’re unlikely to return for seconds if the food tastes terrible. 

Second, the level of service. Does the customer feel like they are treated properly and that they didn’t have any outstanding wants or needs? 

Third, consistency and experience. To be a regular at any food place, you have to trust that you will enjoy the food and service you receive each time you return. Similarly, you want the experience or time spent to be worth returning to time and time again. 

Building customer loyalty is excelling in all three categories. Each time a customer walks through your door, you want them to eat tasty food, feel well served, and have a lovely time at your place of business. More than anything else, improving these three categories will increase customer loyalty. 

Love the Locals

If you’re a single location or even a small franchise restaurant, it can seem daunting to try and compete with massive franchises’ and chains’ resources. However, there’s one area where you can win 100% of the time. 

Large franchises generally don’t have the luxury to get involved in local communities at a base level. They might sponsor a Little League team here or there, but they often struggle to become a member of the community they’re a part of. Smaller operations won’t have that issue— they understand that they live or die based on their community standing and generally work to be a part of it. This can also play towards customer loyalty. 

Consider tying offers or discounts to special local days; run hyper-local ads with copy targeting the community. You could even reach out to local schools, government buildings, or workplaces and offer limited-time discounts to anyone who can bring in a school ID or similar. 

Create A Customer Loyalty Program

I mean, obviously, we’re going to cover this one. Customer loyalty programs are built to encourage repetition and frequency with ordering— why not have yours designed by the best in the business? 

We specialize in helping restaurants guide their customers through the guest journey, turning as many as possible from first-timers or strangers into repeat and loyal customers. The best part is that it’s entirely customized and built to your preference and will work seamlessly with your POS.

Sales jargon aside, having a loyalty program is an excellent way to connect or extend customer engagement. As most restaurant owners know, one of the most challenging aspects of customer retention is maintaining that connection once they have paid the bill and left— a strong loyalty plan can help bridge that connection and encourage them to come back time and time again.  

Listen To Your Customers

Your customer relationship is like every other relationship in life: built on trust and communication. And while everyone in the food industry has learned to fear the adage “the customer is always right,” there’s generally something to be gained from listening to what they say.

The most valuable takeaway from listening is that the customer feels like their opinion is valid and valued. You and I know that not every customer has the right of it, but by listening and taking what valid criticism and praise they offer, you can improve your business. 

Consistently Engage With Your Customers

There is great value in remaining top-of-mind. In a perfect world, customer loyalty would be enough, and they would always turn to you for their nutritional needs— however, the world is rarely so nicely packaged. 

Instead, we must consistently engage with and provide good experiences for our customers. This can come in many forms: the customer seeing an ad or billboard or engaging with an Instagram post of your favorite delectable dish. Regardless of how they see or interact with you, you must regularly put yourself out there so that when they do look for food, you’re the first they consider. 

This is another value of loyalty programs and mobile apps. Push notifications are an easy way to promote special deals or offers, as well as a way to remind your customers that if they come back, you have their favorite food ready and waiting for them. 

Building Habits for Customer Retention

Everyone who comes into your restaurant the first time is a stranger— but they don’t have to leave as such. We are creatures of habit, and even after a great visit to a new restaurant, we don’t necessarily incorporate that into our routines. Retargeting and engagement after the first visit is important to continue building that relationship and help escort your customers through the Guest Funnel.