Smart Web Restaurant News and Blog

How to Keep Restaurant Customers Coming Back for More

Keeping restaurant busy

There is an old saying “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” So it is with your restaurant. Almost 70% of restaurant customers never return. Worse, many restaurants do not make an effort to retain their customers or encourage them to return. Repeat business is vital to a restaurant’s survival. 

Fact: It costs 7X more to attract a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. 

Fact: According to a recent report, restaurateurs can expect to increase profits by up to 125% if repeat visits are increased by just 5%

What can you do to encourage customers to return? The answer is simple. Find out why they don’t. Here are the primary reasons that a customer doesn’t return to a restaurant and what you can do to fix it.

1. Food Quality

The quality of your food is the primary thing customers will notice. Customers expect good quality food from a restaurant. If it is served undercooked, overcooked, bland or otherwise they are not likely to return to your restaurant. 

The Fix: Pay particular attention to the quality of your food
• Check the temperature of all food before it goes out to a customer. If a customer orders a steak medium well, it should be medium well.
• Be careful with seasonings and sauces-not too much or too little.
• Be consistent with portion sizes.
• Take time to present food in an appetizing manner on the plate. Perhaps add a garnish or a thin swirl or a brightly colored glaze. Food should look as good as it tastes.

2. Customer Service

Even if you provide the best food in town, if your customer service is lacking, customers will remember it and likely not return to your restaurant. Even worse, they may give you a poor online review. According to a Sales Force study on Customer Service, 81% of consumers are more likely to give a company repeat business after good service

The Fix: Every member of your staff (not just the wait staff) needs to be trained to provide exceptional customer service. What is exceptional customer service? Every member of your staff should work together to make each customer feel valued, each and every time they walk through the door.
• Greet every customer as soon as they walk in the door with a warm greeting and a smile.
• Explain if there is a wait for a table, how long will the wait be and offer a place to wait and perhaps a drink at the bar or water.
• Once seated, a server should immediately greet the guest, look them in the eye and offer a menu, utensils and a beverage. Be professional.
• Return to your customers quickly to take their order and ask if they have any questions about the menu or restaurant. This puts customers at ease.
• Anticipate their needs. Put condiments on the table, extra napkins if necessary and always refill a beverage glass.
• Be available to your customers and check on your tables frequently.
• Wait until everyone has finished eating and there is a lull in the conversation to clear the table.
• Ask if they found everything satisfactory and offer a comment card with the bill.

3. Atmosphere

What is the atmosphere of your restaurant? Is it clean, inviting and attractive? Picture this. A couple walks into a dimly lit restaurant, has to inch sideways down the aisle to get to their table which still has dirty dishes on it and a centerpiece of plastic flowers. Once seated, they are handed a 4 page menu with greasy fingerprints on it. They promptly get up and leave without ordering. Wouldn’t you?

The Fix: The atmosphere of your restaurant is the first thing a customer notices when they walk in. Customers are looking for a clean, warm, inviting space to share a delicious meal. It is your job to deliver that. Dirty bathrooms, kitchens, table areas are a big turnoff to customers. Warm ambient lighting with nicely decorated walls and tables, delicious smells coming from the kitchen, and sparkling clean facilities down to the menus will keep customers coming back for more.

4. Pricing

Knowing how to properly price your restaurant menu is the first step toward success. Customers want to feel that they are paying a fair price for the meal they are receiving and not being overcharged. 

The Fix: The secret is in variety. Balance out more expensive menu choices with more moderately priced ones. The cost of food items can fluctuate depending on the season, the cost of gas etc. When prices change, there is little you can do short of changing your menu frequently. By balancing more expensive items that are more prone to price fluctuations with items that have more stable prices, you can help maintain your desired food cost. Balancing menu choices and pricing appropriately will allow you to turn a healthy profit will continuing to attract customers.

5. The Menu

People may not be returning to your restaurant because they don’t like the menu. Your menu maybe too long, too short, difficult to read or just not very interesting. Customers don’t really want to spend a long time reading the menu, they want to see a few very good options and place their order. Limit the menu items. Use an easy to read font and perhaps add some pictures. Are your menu selections briefly described so that they make a customer’s mouth water? They should be. Describe its ingredients and how it is prepared i.e. Pan-seared, broiled, baked to perfection, etc. The Fix: Your menu should be brief, appealing and easy to read. Focus your menu on the dishes that will bring people back to your restaurant. Do you have a one or two signature dishes that people really like? Highlight your signature dishes first and describe what makes them so appealing or provide a picture. Drop underperforming dishes from the menu. Don’t try to offer every dish possible, decide what you want your restaurant to be known for and offer a healthy variety within that space. 

6. Lack of Incentives

Every business on the planet has to put some effort into marketing their business. You need something to distinguish your restaurant from all of the others in town and provide a reason, in addition to the food and service, for customers to keep returning to your restaurant.

The Fix: Here are a few examples that cost very little money but could make your restaurant stand out from the pack. Offer specials on slow nights or give existing customers one time “preferred customer discounts”. Be a venue for live music once per week or start a “complimentary meal on your birthday program.” You should try to offer something a little extra that other restaurants don’t. 

Repeat customers are your bread and butter. They can also be a great marketing asset by word-of-mouth advertising your restaurant. Focus on the six areas above and you’ll create a loyal following.

Want to get more information on how to attract people to your restaurant? Read 7 Effective Ways to Fill those Empty Tables: Marketing Ideas for Restaurants.

Brought to you by Smart Web Restaurant.