If you like statistics—and even if you don’t—here’s an interesting one: Businesses pay four to five times more to acquire new customers than to attract repeat clientele. For this reason, as well as for its overall financial health, you need to be proactive to keep customers coming back to your restaurant. Here are four ways to do so:
1. Increase your restaurant’s exposure quotient
With so many restaurants open seemingly everywhere—and others in the works—frequent exposure even to existing customers is a must to keep customers coming back to your establishment instead of someone else’s. Advertising is great, but it’s expensive—and even if you can afford it, it may not be enough to truly keep your restaurant in the forefront of consumers’ minds. So if you have a customer database in your POS system—and you should—use it as a source and send customers mailers with information about new menu items, promotions, or special themed events. Convey similar information on your restaurant’s social media pages and on your website.
But don’t stop there. It’s also easier to keep customers coming back when you communicate relevant news and offers to them via other means, such as targeted mailings and email. Don’t alienate these diners by sending them unwanted messages; rather, communicate only with those who have opted in to receive email notifications and e-newsletters, as well as “push” notifications to their smartphones.
2. Pump Up Your Loyalty Program
A loyalty program is a great way to keep customers coming back to your establishment—and more often, too. Consider the statistics: According to Loyalogy, a provider of loyalty systems data, such a program can increase the frequency of customers’ visits by 35 percent. And leveraging loyalty programs has become easier, too: Software for executing these programs is now integrated with many POS systems or can be seamlessly interfaced with existing POS applications.
For maximum loyalty program effectiveness, go beyond simple incentives that require customers to purchase a certain number of items to get one free (or something similar). Instead, raise the stakes—e.g., with a tiered option (“Spend $20 and get $5 off the bill, spend $50 and get $10 off the bill, or spend $75 and get $15 off the bill”). Game-based loyalty programs are also appealing enough to keep customers coming back. In these cases, reward loyalty program members by handing them a game piece, scratch-off card, or similar token whenever they visit your restaurant and/or automatically send digital game pieces to their smartphones each time they come in.
3. Speed Up Service
Just as enhanced communication and loyalty programs keep customers coming back to restaurants, few things are more of a deterrent to cultivating repeat business than slow service. So if you operate a quick-service or counter service restaurant, consider enhancing your POS system with a kiosk where customers can place and even pay for orders instead of queuing up to do so; some delis and convenience stores have been very successful with this approach. You might also equip an employee with a mobile POS device that can be used to accept orders from customers as they stand in line awaiting service and transmit these to the proper station.
In table-service restaurants, there’s the option to help keep customers coming back by deploying tablet-based self-ordering systems, or replacing manual order-taking methods with mobile POS devices that work the same way as those described above. When orders are transmitted straight from customers’ tables to the kitchen and/or bar, staff can start preparing them faster—cutting down on frustrating waits. The process goes even faster when individual order components are transmitted as customers request them; in fact, drinks and appetizers can sometimes be on the table before patrons have finished ordering their meals.
4. Freshen Up Your Menu
There’s nothing like great food to keep customers coming back to any type of restaurant, but sometimes, even the most loyal patrons become bored with an establishment’s cuisine. To prevent this from happening, pepper your menu with specials and “limited time only” offerings, using the above-described methods to publicize these changes. Use social media to elicit customer feedback about your new items and suggestions for other dishes. You can also feature new twists on old favorites. Don’t forget to assess the success of these items—and get an idea of which may merit repeating—by plumbing your POS system for data.
Keeping customers coming back to your restaurant may not always be an easy task, but it can be done. The four ideas discussed here are just a start; the more initiatives you undertake, the greater your chance for success.