How to increase word of mouth for restaurants
The big buzz word everyone is talking about is Word of Mouth Marketing. The concept is great – your customers love you so much that they shout it from the mountain top, and essentially do all your marketing for you, for free! The reality of word of mouth for restaurants is a lot more complicated, and for most restaurants probably not quite as far reaching.
According to Andy Sernovitz, word of mouth marketing means: Give people a reason to talk about you, and make it easier for that conversation to take place (Word of Mouth Marketing, How Smart Companies Get People Talking, 2009). So, what could that mean for your restaurant?
First, it means that you have to be top notch in everything you do. Customers aren’t going to talk about their experience if it wasn’t an experience, from décor to food to service. So make sure every aspect of that experience is top notch so customers aren’t talking about the wrong thing.
Take it to the next level and give them something to talk about. Create a moment that not only resonates with your customers, but that resonates with everyone they share it with, and everyone they share it with, and so on. Make it a natural extension of their experience, not something forced or scripted.
Stay one step ahead of your most loyal customers. Follow your most loyal customers on Social Media and read all of your feedback. Regularly read posts and Tweets about you, they are often chalked full of opportunities. Your loyal fans will announce when they will be visiting you and for what occasion, or how much they love specific menu items or servers, and so on. Social Media and Comment Management Systems make it easy for you to find out more.
And then make it easy to talk about! Social Media has changed the ease and speed of communication today, giving ways to post content as it happens, and giving it the ability to be shared for years to come. Be sure your social media pages are up to date and easy to find. And iPhones or iPads in your customers’ pockets or on their tables gives them immediate access to spread the word. Be sure your servers have a camera available at all times just in case your customers don’t – photos are the most popular thing to post and share online. And be sure you are regularly posting on these channels.
Pulling this all together, ideas can range from the most simple to the most extravagant. But if you go extravagant, be sure it is with your best, most vocal/connected customers and it is unique to them. Remember, word of mouth for restaurants first requires something big to talk about. Some ideas:
- If you have a chef’s table or seats right near an open kitchen experience, send a personal invitation to your best photo-snapping customers to sit there and get a first-hand look at your beautiful food – they’ll appreciate the attention and will have better photos of your food to share.
- Well known or celebrity chefs or owners should walk the floor and pose for photos regularly, and allow customers to take your menu home (even better if it’s signed!).
- Is a small child asking a lot of questions about how you make something? Take them into the kitchen and show them (be sure to invite mom or dad to come along and take pictures). Send them home with their own apron or hat with your logo on it so they can re-live the experience over and over again.
- Did customers get engaged in your restaurant? Send flowers to them on their big day or on their first anniversary.
- Did you cater a wedding, birthday or anniversary? Now you know that important date for your important customers, so acknowledge it every year with a card, flowers, or surprise home delivery of an item from that momentous occasion.
- Did regular customers recently have a baby? Send dinner to their home (trust me, they’ll need it, and will never forget it – just avoid anything spicy, or with garlic and onions!).
- Is a regular customer moving out of town? Pack their favorite/regular meal on dry ice and overnight it to their new address with a personal note and heating instructions.
- Does a well connected, regular customer love to share photos and reviews? Give them an iPad as a gift, or at least have one on hand at the restaurant they can use to make it easier.
The bottom line for increasing word of mouth for restaurants is to give customers something to talk about that is unique to them, that is worth talking about, and that they can easily share with the world. This won’t take care of all your marketing for free, but you may be amazed at how far the word spreads and what it can do for business.