We have often been asked, “What is the best way to attract customers to my restaurant”? That is a difficult question to answer, because there is no single best way. Spending money on advertising, mailing flyers and promoting dining specials can be a good start and may get people in your door – once, especially if you’re the new place in town. However, the real trick is getting customers to come back – that is the key to a successful restaurant.
In our opinion, it is the customer experience at your establishment that drives repeat business, which will attract new business, as you will read below. Even if your publicity and marketing program is nothing more than an easel on the sidewalk in front if your sandwich shop, there are broader concepts that you can apply to bring people to your door again and again.
Here are 4 basic things all restaurants should be doing to attract customers:
Be The Best, Consistently – Seems easy enough: Strive to offer the best food and the best service. However, you should also be the best boss to your staff; hire only the best employees (with the right attitude) and enable them to be awesome through excellent training, to give the best customer service; have the highest possible sanitation standards; buy only the freshest ingredients; get involved and give back to your community. Be mindful of being consistent in all these things so that customers have the same good experience time and time again. This will pay off, as you will read below.
Manage Your Reputation – These days reputation management needs to take place both on-line and off. On-line reputation management is a frequent topic of debate, with review sites like Yelp and Tripadvisor providing near-real time feedback from unhappy customers. Complaining about or simply ignoring poor on-line reviews will not make them go away, they are a reality of doing business today; they require timely, professional responses that address problems, quell issues and regain customers. Using customer reviews as a training tool can actually help to improve your operating procedures; see our Blog on how to use: Customer Feedback in your Pre-Service Meetings. However, restaurant owners must also manage their reputation off-line, meaning in person at their restaurant. Additionally, training your managers and front-line staff to resolve customer issues effectively will go a long way in guarding your good reputation. See our blog: Bad Experiences Can Make Loyal Customers.
Social Media – Traditional advertising is static and communicates in one direction. Social media is dynamic and can be to be a powerful sales tool. It allows you to engage customers directly like never before, encouraging a dialogue with you, as well as between customers and their friends, to discuss your restaurant. The key to enhancing your restaurant sales through sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest is to use them actively - daily postings of food photos, promotions, upcoming events, specials, video instruction of how to make your recipes - all work to drive engagement, which in-turn drives traffic to your restaurant. The most important thing that a good social media program gives you is feedback from your customers, which we noted above can help improve your operations.
Everyone is a Sales Person – Traditional marketing tells us it is easier and cheaper to have repeat customers than to attract new customers. However, that adage doesn't remind us that happy customers are the easiest and cheapest way to get new customers. You may remember the commercial: “I told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on.” If every customer you serve has an excellent experience, from the food, to the service, to the cleanliness, to how a problem is handled, they might sing your praises to others, both on-line and off. You start to create “Raving Fans”, who will tell two friends off-line; on a social media website, that could be 2000 “friends” – they have become your salespeople.
Similarly, as we discussed in our Blog: Employees are Your First Customers, happy employees, who believe in your brand, are proud of where they work, and will give the effort needed to achieve the level of service you require. Also, away from work, they will speak positively of your restaurant and become brand ambassadors out in the world.
A satisfied customer is the most valuable form of advertising and marketing. You can’t buy it, you can only earn it through good customer experiences, fortified by staying top of their mind. By focusing on what happens during customers’ interactions with your restaurant, in all forms, you will have a much more successful and sustainable business – And people will come to your door.
Don’t know where to begin? 4Q Consulting can develop customized Sales and Marketing plans, and operational guidelines to help you grow your business. Email us today for a free business consultation at www.4qconsult.com.
All original content copyright Noelle E. Ifshin, 2012-2013.