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Food for Thought: Growing Your Restaurant Business Part 1

“A well-run restaurant is like a winning baseball team. It makes the most of every crew member’s talent and takes advantage of every split-second opportunity to speed up service.” –David Ogilvy

It is no secret that the restaurant industry is one with both fierce competition and fierce loyalty. Every family has their go-to restaurant and a list of dining suggestions is one of the first things someone new to the neighborhood asks for.

Being a successful restaurant owner can be narrowed down to two main goals: forming strong relationships with your loyal customers to keep them coming back for more, and surpassing your competition so that you reel in brand new customers. This week, we will focus on the first goal of nurturing your brand advocates.

Part 1: Garnering Repeat Business.

As they decide:

97% of consumers search for local businesses online, so it is important to monitor the interaction your customers are having with your business online. Do this by setting up a Google Alert and taking ownership of all online sites where people regularly interact with your business.

For example, customers could be writing reviews about your restaurant on Yelp, Foursquare, or Google places. By claiming those pages for your business, you will be able to monitor what consumers are saying about their experience. Extend your ability to monitor your online reputation by having a presence on appropriate social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter as well. Keep in mind, that not all social networks may be beneficial for your business. Spend time on the ones that will provide you with the greatest outcome.

During their visit:

Repeat customers are your highest value audience. The customer service delivered by your staff and customer experience when dining will play one of the primary roles in keeping those customers returning time and time again.

In theory, these are “no-brainers” but in practice, they can be more challenging standards to uphold. Bonus: Providing a pleasant experience keeps customers in your establishment for longer. This increases the chance that they will order more items like dessert, coffee, or an après-dinner cocktail.

To ensure your customers are getting the best service and experience with each visit, emphasize employee training.  It is crucial that employees not only know what is expected of them but are also empowered to do their jobs well, so establish standards immediately and across the board.

As you bring your interaction with the customer to a close, remember to provide the opportunity for them to let you know how you did. Include a customer satisfaction survey with their bill, or provide a link to a feedback form on their receipt, your marketing materials and your website.

 After the fact:

Remind consumers of your great food and service with an email newsletter, and invite them to return by providing a coupon with an offer they can’t resist. To avoid seeming overly promotional, consider making the content of this newsletter a combination of information and promotion. For example, you could include fun facts about food and drink trends they can look forward to seeing on a seasonal menu, and then tie in a special month-long BOGO only available on the seasonal items.

As you build a list of your loyal customers, make sure to take note of important details like birthdays and anniversaries beyond the standard name and contact information. Gathering information about special events in their lives allows you to send personal reminders, invitations and well-wishes on these days. Adding this personal touch will make customers feel valued and they’re sure to remember the extra effort you put in.

People like to have their expectations met, so give your customers a sense of what is on the way by planning regular promotions, such as a special deal revealed the third week of each month. Another idea that works consistently is to build a promotion with some personality. A themed evening entices customers to your business for a new menu item, style of cuisine or simply a new experience.

Keep these specials small and time-sensitive so customers don’t become used to these special events. It is vital to establish your typical price and atmosphere as a “norm” worth visiting so that these special events and deals carry more weight.

How do you keep customers coming back to your restaurant business? What do you do to make them feel special?

Want to read more? Check out part 2 of “Growing Your Restaurant Business” where we discuss ways to surpass your competition to reel in new customers!



Valpak, one of the leading direct marketing companies in North America, is owned and operated by Cox Target Media, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Cox Media Group. With nearly 170 franchises throughout the United States and Canada, The Blue Envelope® delivers savings and value to nearly 40 million households each month.
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