Good restaurants attract lots of customers — but great restaurants keep them coming back.
Every time a customer walks through your doors, you're presented with the opportunity to turn them into a devoted regular. Focusing on restaurant customer loyalty helps you drive a steady stream of revenue, creates a focus group for feedback, and encourages powerful word-of-mouth marketing every business needs to thrive.
If you're wondering how to increase customer loyalty in restaurants, here are six strategies to make sure that your diners come back for more.
1. 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 specifically crave your burgers?
For starters, show 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 unique dish 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 think of any today, start brainstorming 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 store or a chain of restaurants, building a memorable brand can help drive awareness among 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.
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. Then be sure to feature it prominently on your menu design and promote it on your marketing channels.
2. Serve food with a side of experience
If a song sounds good, 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 a top-notch guest experience will help drive customer loyalty 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. Or 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 memorable so that they'll want to keep dining with you.
3. Create a customer loyalty program
Loyalty programs are an effective way to drive repeat orders and increase customer engagement. Making the effort to turn first-time customers into regulars pays off — according to Antavo’s 2023 Global Customer Loyalty Report, loyalty programs generate an average of 4.9X more revenue than what they cost.
Determine what type of loyalty program makes the most sense for your business. You may choose to use a tool that integrates a points program into your point of sale system, or send exclusive discounts to customers on your email list.
You can also offer loyalty incentives through your delivery platform. DoorDash partners can enroll in Store Loyalty, which allows you to reward DoorDash customers to encourage repeat orders. You choose the reward and the spend minimum — for example, $4 off after spending $40 or more — and then monitor your program's performance in the Merchant Portal.
With no marketing charges and no additional commission, the only cost to you is the reward redemption you choose to provide to customers. Store Loyalty is specific to DoorDash, so if you already have your own loyalty program, you can continue to run it in tandem with Store Loyalty.
4. Tell 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.
I'm kind of sewn into the brand, which is why a lot of people are able to identify with the brand and where it comes from. It’s never just about the business. Souley Vegan was birthed out of my experiences, and because I speak so candidly about my experiences, people are able to identify with me — and they love the brand even more.
5. 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 train your servers to communicate to customers that their experience is important, no matter how many other people they're serving. If you can do that, your customers are more likely to keep coming back.
6. Provide a seamless online ordering experience
Your service, food, and atmosphere are all important, but customers are also driven by cost and convenience.
When looking for a go-to restaurant, the quality of food and story of the owner can be magnetic, but a convenient online ordering experience can be the thing that ultimately tips the scale.
With DoorDash, you can easily offer your menu items for delivery and pickup, making it convenient for customers who want to stay home or grab food on their way back from work.
Use Store Loyalty to encourage your DoorDash customers to keep coming back by rewarding them through a customer loyalty program. And with DoorDash promotions like Order Again and Save — which reels in former customers and incentivizes them to try your food again — you can turn one-time customers into recurring regulars.
Sign up for DoorDash and see how our platform can help you grow your sales and reach more customers.