In part one of our four-part series on increasing your restaurant sales, we looked at how to draw in new customers through marketing on the Internet, curb appeal, and community events.
But all the marketing in the world won’t assure getting that customer back through your doors a second time. This week, we take a look at the second way to increase your restaurant sales — increasing customer frequency — and all that begins the moment your customer sits down for the first time.
It’s a common misconception that quality of food is the driving force behind repeat visits to restaurants. Of course, if the food you serve isn’t exceptional, you may not see a customer return, but great food is no guarantee of that return visit either. Food is only one part of the overall experience a diner has at your restaurant, alongside service, value, and atmosphere. All four of these factors come together in overall experience to drive return visits. Don’t believe us? We have the numbers to back it up.
Based on 99,000 verified diner survey and actual dollar spend across our network of restaurants, Rewards Network data shows that overall experience is the #1 influencer for return visits, not food alone. Even if your food is ranked higher than overall experience in online reviews, the likelihood of a return visit is lower.
In fact, when the food rating is one point higher than the rating for overall experience, we have seen a 20 percent drop in the likelihood that diner will return to your restaurant. And when the food rating is two points higher than that of overall experience, the chance of that diner returning is actually 38 percent lower than if the ratings were equal.
Research also shows that overall experience factors into diner perception after they leave in terms of recommendations as well. 95 percent of diners who rated the overall experience of their meal a 5 out of 5 also said they would recommend the restaurant to others.
But if overall experience was only rated a 3, the likelihood of a recommendation to friends and family drops to 6 percent (and to only 1 percent with a 1 or 2 rating in overall experience). If you wouldn’t recommend a restaurant to a friend, why would you return yourself?
Offering exceptional service alongside exceptional food is a tried and true method of ensuring customer satisfaction with their meal, and remains a significant factor in why a customer would choose to sit down at your table. Consumers want to feel cared for. They want to know that they are getting a good value for their time and the expense.
Efficient, accurate, and pleasant service goes a long way toward making customers feel like they’ve gotten their money’s worth. And providing that in a warm and engaging atmosphere that is both clean and up-to-date is a proven start to keeping your customers coming back to you again and again.
But there are three more ways to capture a return visit and increase frequency in customers after they leave your restaurant.
Respond to customer feedback.
We often think the restaurant experience ends with a paid check and the drop of the napkin as your customer leaves their table. But having an engaging experience with your customer after they leave your restaurant is just as important as what happens when they are sitting at the table.
Monitoring customer reviews — either through a plethora of online outlets or Rewards Network’s own Comment Management System — doesn’t just keep you informed of public perception. It offers you an opportunity to keep your diners engaged even when they’re not sitting in your establishment or waiting on a delivery at home.
Addressing customer concerns quickly and calmly goes a long way toward turning a negative impression into a positive attitude about your responsiveness. Do take the feedback seriously, but don’t let your emotions get the better of you. Your reply should be personal to the customer, but not personal to you. Just let the customer know you care and that you will take steps to ensure the problem never happens again. You’d be surprised how far a well-worded apology can go toward securing a dissatisfied customer’s future loyalty.
But responding to online reviews is not just for fixing problems. Take the opportunity to say thank you when you receive a positive review from a customer. Responding to compliments from customers who thoroughly enjoyed their experience won’t just make them feel appreciated. It will also make you feel more connected to the people you serve every day and serve as a pleasant reminder of exactly why you opened your restaurant in the first place.
With every consumer outlet offering loyalty programs, from grocery stores and gas stations to high-end department stores and the travel industry, the expectation for additional rewards with every purchase is at an all-time high among your customers. Credit cards are chosen not just for their interest rates anymore, but also for the cashback, miles, or point rewards they offer on every purchase. So, why should restaurants be any different?
It’s important to offer customers rewards that resonate with them, and not simply what is important to you. Points or miles earned toward vacations, money saved for a child’s education, or contributions to a charity can influence return visits more than priority reservations, two-for-one specials, or other discounted or free items from your menu.
That’s why Rewards Network offers every consumer their rewards of choice: to motivate return visits to the establishments in our program. Based on 103,000 verified surveys and over 12 million annual visits to program restaurants, bars, and clubs, we’ve found that diners who initially visited a restaurant based on Rewards Network participation are twice as likely to return to the same restaurant than diners driven by some other factor. Simply put, rewards work.
Hold special events.
Often planned around increasing sales during off-peak hours, special events can also be a prime motivator for increasing the frequency of your repeat customers’ visits. What could be more enticing than an activity you enjoy at a place you already know and love?
In states that don’t prohibit it, Happy Hour is of course a classic way of bringing customers in at a time easily remembered and very attractive for those just leaving the office. Trivia nights can not only drive repeat customers through your doors, but also their friends looking to compete for bragging rights (or maybe a discounted drink or two).
Or if your restaurant attracts a quieter crowd, a wine tasting or other gastronautical event could be just what diners need to remember how much they love the experience they have with you. In all of these cases, having a limited time offer menu or menu item can drive customers back to you to try something new as well, and often at a premium. Putting a time limit on your LTO, even a vague one, can make the difference between thinking about dining with you and actually walking through the door.
Events like these lead to customers you get to know well and can count on for years of faithful patronage. For your customer, it creates the personal feeling of a second home right at your table or bar. Who doesn’t want to go to a place where where everybody can easily call you by name? And with these type of events on your restaurant’s social calendar, you’ll be shouting “Norm!” in no time.
Continue on to Part 3 of our series on the four ways to increase restaurant sales: increasing customer spend per ticket.