Good restaurants are able to attract lots of customers — great restaurants attract and keep them.
Every time a customer walks through your doors, you’re presented with the opportunity — no, the imperative — to turn them into a devoted regular. That’s because a loyal group of regulars is critical to providing you with a steady stream of revenue, a focus group for feedback, and the awesome word of mouth every restaurant needs to survive and thrive. Here are some ways to make sure that your diners coming back for seconds:
Lean into what makes you unique
No restaurant in the world is exactly like yours. Your task is to demonstrate that uniqueness to customers — and prove to them why it’s a good thing. If you sell burgers, how are you going to make sure that customers crave your burgers?
For starters, by showing them how you stand out, and that includes more than just food. Perhaps you have a themed interior that diners love to post on social media, or a secret sauce that’s famous in your neighborhood.
Focus on the good things you have that your competitors don’t, and lean into those differentiators.
If you can’t put your finger on any, start thinking of new ways that you can stand out:
- Develop a signature brand. Some brands are so powerful that you can recognize them from a mile away. Whether you operate one shop, or a chain of restaurants, building a visible brand can help you advertise yourself to customers and keep your restaurant in their minds. If you’re a coffee shop, this might mean investing in a new design for your cups — hiring an artist to help you design something trendy, special and uniquely you. This is an opportunity to get creative and think outside the box.
- Promote crowd favorites. What is your most popular menu item, and what makes people love it so much? Whether you use a secret sauce on your breakfast sandwiches or infuse your home fries with truffle oil, find a way to brand your greatest crowd-pleaser as something that makes you unique. Your menu layout can increase your profit by up to 5% and it can emphasize your signature servings. Promoting the menu items you know your customers love is just one way to keep them coming back for more.
Serve food with a side of experience
If a song is nice, you want to hear it again. If a meal hits the spot, you want to eat it again. People want to replicate experiences that they enjoy. With your delicious food, you’re halfway there — but there are extra perks you can offer customers that help take their experience one step further.
By pairing delicious dishes with a memorable experience, you can boost your brand perception and increase repeat business. Maybe you’re a family-style Italian restaurant that makes every customer feel like they’re part of the family. Maybe you’re a self-serve frozen yogurt store that makes adding your own toppings part of the fun.
Whatever experience you’re providing, make it one that your customers will remember — and one that will make them want to keep dining with you.
Offer up a platter of rewards
Loyal customers spend 67% more at restaurants than first time customers do, and every diner loves a good deal. If you want to convert guests into regulars and increase sales, one option is to offer them incentives. Rewards programs — from fast food franchises, to sit-down chains, to small businesses — can have a huge impact on customer retention and increase overall revenue by 5-10%. Research also shows that 73% of loyalty program members are more likely to recommend a brand if it has a strong rewards program.
Lucky for you, when it comes to loyalty rewards programs there are as many options for restaurants as there are perks for customers. Depending on the size and scope of your establishment, you can choose to go big or start small with your rewards program. If you’re a neighborhood coffee shop, for instance, you might consider offering customers punch cards where they can earn free coffee and treats after a certain number of purchases. This encourages customers to keep coming back and allows you to be generous and say thank you for their business. Small personal touches like this can set you apart from your competitors and keep customers coming through your door.
If you’re interested in implementing a large-scale rewards program, think about low-cost menu items that you can offer on the house for new members — for instance, free chips and salsa or unlimited breadsticks. Start with small perks and build out larger-scale rewards.
Tell your customers your story
Are you a family business? Has cooking been your passion since you were a child? Is the baklava that you serve based on your great great grandmother’s recipe?
You opened a restaurant for a reason, so you should make sure your customers know what that reason is. Sharing the details of your story with customers humanizes you and puts a face to the delicious food that you serve them, which can make a huge difference.
When customers are deciding which of many spots to go to for their meal, telling them a great story gives them yet another reason to think of — and choose — you.
Show them that you care
Connect with your customers and show them that they’re an important part of your evolving story. You got into this business to serve people, so make sure that the people you’re serving know that.
Start by investing in quality customer service. You don’t need to necessarily greet every regular by their name (although it’s wonderful if you can!), but make sure your staff is creating an atmosphere where people feel welcome, appreciated, and important. Make sure you communicate to customers that their experience is important to you, no matter how many other people you’re serving. If you can do that, your customers are more likely to keep coming back.
Make your restaurant worth their while
Your service, food, and atmosphere all matter to customers, but consumers are also driven by two important things: cost and convenience.
When looking for a go-to restaurant, the quality of food and story of the owner can be magnetic, but the convenience of an online-order pick up option or an extra discount can be the thing that ultimately tips the scale.
With DoorDash, you can make your menu available online for delivery and pick-up, making it convenient for customers who want to stay home or grab food on their way back from work. And with deals like the Order Again and Save option — which reels in former customers and incentivizes them to try your food again — you can turn one time customers into recurring regulars.
To learn more insider tips on opening up a restaurant, and how including delivery options can help strengthen customer relationships and drive sales, refer to our DoorDash university guide, Finding Your Restaurant Niche.
DoorDash can help you grow your sales and popularity — learn more today.