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5 ways to grow your restaurant’s customer base

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Diners today have more options than ever before, so operators must use everything in their arsenals to keep them coming back. If they have one bad experience at your establishment, it’s on social media that day and you’re stuck with a bad review that turns customers away. To be truly successful, it’s vital that a restaurant keeps those patrons coming back time and time again with a strategic process, creating great experiences and a loyal customer base.

Building customer loyalty requires a few things, according to Technomic’s 2017 Value & Pricing  report, including: Offering value beyond price; focusing on both quick and quality service; a pleasant atmosphere; high-quality food and menu items; and craveability—the idea that the customer can only get what they want at that particular restaurant.

It’s not easy to focus on everything at one time, so start with these five top considerations that will help to grow a loyal customer base.

1. Showcase quality ingredients

When a restaurant cuts costs by using lower-quality ingredients, customers can tell—and they won’t return. Costs are indeed rising, but today’s consumers will pay more for higher quality ingredients and consistently good menu items. Technomic’s Value & Pricing report found that 37% of consumers are seeking out higher-quality menu items at restaurants more now than they were two years ago, while 81% say that quality of the food is the most important facet of deciding to visit an eatery. Better to make smart changes in the kitchen that improve efficiency and increase table turns than to cheapen the menu and lose customers.

2. Focus on a smaller menu

When a customer sits down to a massive menu, it tells them that the restaurant may not truly specialize in anything. The idea that the guest can get the best of one of their favorite dishes at that particular restaurant is what keeps them coming back—but a huge menu doesn’t allow for that to happen. Additionally, Technomic’s report notes that 14% of guests look for unique menu items, and a smaller menu lends itself to an opportunity for that.

3. Solicit online reviews

The truth is that people often only turn to the internet to post a review if they have had a negative experience with a business. This can lead to a successful, established restaurant only having mediocre feedback on social media, which can cause potential customers to reconsider their visit. Don’t be afraid to ask customers who visit regularly to write a review on Facebook, Yelp, OpenTable or another popular website. Add the request to the checks, the menu or signage, so the idea sticks in a customer’s mind.

4. Offer discounts to reward loyalty

Few things bring a customer back more quickly than feeling like they get a little something extra out of it, which is why customer loyalty programs are so popular. More than 40% of consumers say that they will eat out more often if they get a good value, while nearly 80% say that value is important or extremely important when deciding where to dine. Therefore, if a family has a loyalty card that allows them to rack up points for a discount off their bill, or another incentive, they may decide to head to the restaurant that will give them something back.

5. Add the human touch

In the end, service sells itself. A patron won’t return to a restaurant where they didn’t feel like their business was appreciated. There’s plenty of competition for a guest’s dining dollars in most areas of the country, so friendly staff and professional service is one of the top components of luring a customer to return to a restaurant over and over again. However, don’t think that a kind server is going to make up for slow service or bad food. Make sure your FOH and BOH both know what’s expected and give them the tools to succeed.

Creating a loyal customer base doesn’t have to be brain surgery—it’s all about offering a high quality, value-added experience, from the quality of the food to the friendliness of the service. By paying attention to detail and ensuring diners have an exceptional dining experience, operators can feel confident in repeat visits.

This post is sponsored by Anchor Food Professionals

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