By Dwayne Reno
Every owner in the food and beverage industry today knows that the ability to maintain a steady flow of loyal, returning customers is worth its weight in gold. Today’s more competitive markets call for more and more ideas that will retain customers and keep new ones coming through your front door. This month’s Social Chat will help you improve customer retention and offer some helpful tips you can take to the bank.
“If it isn’t broke don’t fix it” can make a restaurant broke:
Being conscious of what people are saying about your brand provides you with a blueprint to success; helping restaurants at different stages to identify strengths and weaknesses, menu items that have seen better days and even a problem employee. Yelp and social media is a constant reminder that when it comes to the quality of your restaurant’s food, services, and overall customer experience, there’s always room for improvement even if the feedback is positive you can always find an opportunity to raise the bar.
Everyone is a photographer because every phone has a camera:
In order to troubleshoot problems that are keeping customers from coming back to your restaurant you need to be able to identify them in the first place. This requires having a designated social media person(s), this will provide your restaurant with a frontline that can approach any customer issue as it may not always be brought to your attention.
When working with a social media team you should remember to stay consistent, keep your updates daily.
Choose the best days to post, usually Wednesday to Friday as more people are actively searching online for weekend ideas.
Take the advice of your social media expert(s), remember they serve a long term purpose to keep your restaurant fresh and locate problem areas you might not see or hear about.
Lastly pay them on time. A social media person is essentially a Customer Service Rep – as they are first at seeing and dealing with potential customer issues.
The most important service they provide to your establishment is online customer retention. They are your first line of defense against negative online feedback, your fault or not. It’s important for you to have an “ear to the streets,” what your customers are thinking and saying about your restaurant is important data that can lead to you resolving issues before they influence your bottom line.
Give your regular customers an offer they can’t refuse:
Your regular customers are among your best brand ambassadors, yet they are often underutilized. Creating unique social media strategies can help get your existing customers excited about spreading the word about new and current promotions at your restaurant through their own social networks; make them an offer they can’t refuse. Offer a loyal customer a free meal on their birthday or a free appetizer when he or she brings a friend or two. The key is to keep them “happily” talking about your restaurant. The best part is unlike some aspects of the food and beverage industry, this you can control. So next time one of your regular customer walks in with friends offer them a reason to keep talking about your brand along with their meal.
Enhance the customer experience with live events:
Let’s face it, if you are not given customers a reason to come back, they will find somewhere else to go. This is just human nature; we crave for new and exciting things. If you have found yourself in the twilight of the same old or you would like see more and happier customers each week. You need to keep it fresh and exciting. Live events are a must for today’s restaurant consumers.
Live Comedy shows
UFC Wing Nights
Host a (nonalcoholic) Cinco de Mayo theme at a juice bar, yes at a juice bar.
These are not only a great way to generate new customers but, also a great time to launch new menu items, signature drinks or to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Just remain consistent, if the event is annual, every quarter or once a month; keep it that way and if you can’t… hire a team like On The Haus Media to create and manage your live event platform. Best of all, these live events create customer loyalty and a great atmosphere at your venue!
Be unswervingly consistent:
“It's not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It's what we do consistently.”
― Anthony Robbins
If you provide a customer experience some of the time then you will make money some of the time. One of the worst things you can provide in the food and beverage industry is an inconsistent experience. Don’t offer huge menus if you know the items cannot be consistently order and prepped. Instead opt for a simplest approach for instance, it’s much better to create a simpler menu that can be executed properly, consistently and taste the same, all of the time. Look at McDonalds, Ronald has kept a consistent menu for generations and still consistently maintains lineups at most if not all locations. Sometimes less is more and in the case of the food and beverage industry where overhead cost can bury a restaurants profits having quarterly menu reviews can make the difference in saving a little or saving a lot.
Last thing on my mind:
Don’t wait for a short month or a slow quarter to tell you that you need to employ some of these customer retention ideas. The best time to implement them is when things are going well, “best defense is a good offence” because when things start to go bad, it’s probably too late, good luck!
Dwayne Reno CEO & Founder
Social Chat Blog
Once a month, Building Block Associates serves up some food for thought with our foodservice Social Chat Blog.