Pick up a marketing book and chances are you’ll find a paragraph with a quote along the lines of “it’s much cheaper to retain customers than to find new ones.” This statement is especially true for restaurants and it’s critical that restaurant owners don’t overlook the lifetime value of a customer.
As a restauranteur it’s very easy to only think of the money that’s landing in your cash register from the customer right there and then. But that’s a shortsighted view, why you ask? Well let’s look at an example:
It’s a busy Saturday night at your restaurant and you’re at full capacity. A couple who have just moved to the area walk through the door, but you turn them away in favour of a visiting party of 10 who have finsished eating but you are certain will rack up a huge bar bill. Good move? Perhaps not.
Think long term – if this couple enjoy their meal, and they visit your restaurant twice a month thereafter, within a year they’ll outspend the party of 10 who were just visiting the area that you’ll probably never see again. It might sound unrealistic, but it happens and you should do your best to accommodate them.
Obviously it all stems from the ground up – you have to offer great food and provide fantastic customer service to even stand a chance of a customer visiting you again. But is that enough?
Sometimes the customer needs a nudge and in tough economic times eating out is one of the first expenses to be dropped. In fact, 90% of UK adults now use recession-busting shopping strategies when they do their weekly shopping. (uSwitch). Here’s 5 tips to make sure your diners keep returning:
As a restaurant, your customer database is one of your most powerful marketing assets. If you haven’t got one – then you need to start one, and if you have got one then you need to be constantly adding to it.
With 32.3% of consumers saying the recession has made their participation in loyalty programs more important (Colloquy), this is definitely an avenue worth pursuing.
Airlines and Supermarkets have been using loyalty reward schemes for years with great success, so there’s no reason you can’t emulate that with your restaurant.
Unlike standard discount vouchers that anyone can use, loyalty schemes are unique in that they allow you to structure discounts in a way that rewards individual customers for repeat visits.
There’s a common misconception that loyalty schemes are expensive and complicated to implement but it can actually be very simple. For example a card that you stamp after every meal, when the customer reaches a target, for example say 5 stamps, they get something free, or discounted.
Depending on the type of restaurant or budget, you could take it a step further by introducing loyalty cards that work electronically. Each visit, they are swiped and accumulate points. You could even bring other local businesses on board that use the same points system. That way you spread the cost and you all benefit!
Keeping things fresh and up to date lets your customers know you’re very much still open for business. It can easily put you back into the forefront of their mind when it comes to eating out. What do we mean my keeping things fresh?
Promotions and discounts are a great way to serve a timely reminder to existing customers that you’re still open for business. If you’ve got a customer database you can easily segment customers, perhaps you have customers that only visit you twice a year. Simply email them all a 15% off voucher and chances are they’ll make it 3.
It’s important that you don’t overdo the discounts or become a one trick pony running the same offers every month. It won’t take long for your restaurant to become synonymous with “discount dining” and with that title the only way you’ll be able to fill your restaurant is by continually churning out special offers. This not only effects your margins but also the perception people have of your establishment.
You might think it’s difficult to get coverage in your local newspaper but in reality they’re actually desperate for news to fill their pages. Here’s just a few ideas that are bound to make it to print:
So there you have it, our 5 tactics for generating repeat business at your restaurant. Remember to check out our restaurant marketing ideas series for more ways to promote your restaurant.
Photo credit: ben_osteen
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