How to Keep Diners Coming Back
Updated: Nov 13, 2019
If you're the owner of a restaurant, you likely understand the difficulty of getting customers in the door. Today, competitive forces in the marketplace make driving traffic into your restaurant harder than ever. The unsettling feeling of seeing empty seats in your restaurant is part of restaurant operations, however there are some steps you can take to limit these times and keep diners coming back.
Monitor Your Service and Make Improvements
Great service will ultimately dictate if your customers are willing to revisit your restaurant. Because of this, you should be cognizant of monitoring the performance of your service and make any necessary improvements.
For example, if you are noticing long wait times, locate the problem and create a solution. Do you have old kitchen equipment that can't get the job done? Is miscommunication the culprit for long waiting periods? Is this a FOH issue? Are diners lingering longer than before? Consider each aspect of your operations and how this effects issues your restaurant faces.
As the owner or manager of your restaurant, it's your responsibility to figure out the underlying cause of any service issue and make an adjustment. Service issues can often be a hidden problem(s) and are not always obvious to restaurant management. It takes a keen and focused eye to identify and remedy these situations.
Often times, restaurant managers are hesitant to offer increased discounts to their customers. Many believe that discounts can severely decline ROI and are ineffective alternatives for making customers happy.
This is actually far from the truth. According to a study from Claremont Graduate University, customers who receive a coupon are happier and experience less anxiety and stress while eating out. Consider a less stressful customer to be a higher value customer, which can often greatly outweigh the discount you offered this customer. An independent research study done at the Columbia Business School, found customers who receive discounts from coupons:
● Believe products have more worth and are more likely to spend more money.
● Focus more on abstract experiences (pleasure, experience, desires) rather than making a concrete purchasing decision.
Discounts make customers more relaxed and likely to enjoy the experience your restaurant has to offer. Better customer experiences lead to better reviews and word of mouth, which ultimately leads to higher revenue and more demand for your restaurant in the marketplace. The trickle down effect of one promotional discount or offer can lead to significant long term returns. Being strategic and calculated with discounts when your supply warrants it is smart business for today and tomorrow. Simply running a Happy Hour special is not enough either. Consider a strategy to reward opportunistic diners without damaging your brand or consumer perception.
Provide Vibrant Entertainment
In the world of pop-up stores and real-time promotions, find ways to surprise and delight new and existing customers alike. With the amount of choices to today’s customers, consider new offers to help keep your restaurant stand out amongst the competition and increase foot traffic. Using areas of interest thru local clubs, causes, sports teams or events, seasonal moments, and holidays all are ways to bring a voice to your restaurant in unique ways. What are your Movember plans? Have you considered having a onesie tasting menu? Doing anything special for school holidays? What about a FriendsGiving drink special? All the unique ways to activate customers and bring positive customer experiences into your doors are things you and your management team should discuss. Not only is their same day revenue opportunity but they can also lead to indirect promotion on social media.
Improving foot traffic and revenue with your restaurant should be a daily focus of not only for what can happen today, but what that can lead to tomorrow. Simply putting a chalkboard on the sidewalk isn’t enough in the modern restaurant environment. Find tools to amplify your voice in the marketplace and experiment with new ways to attract new customers and reinvigorate current ones. Over time, you'll find your own best practices to keep diners coming back to your restaurant and your tables full. Have fun, take calculated risks, and remember that the time a customer spends with you is your most valuable asset.