The success of a restaurant is determined by the customer’s experience. In an industry as competitive as food and beverage, it’s essential to take steps to stay ahead of the curve to keep customers coming back. From implementing new menu items to keeping the restaurant clean, owners must maintain an operation that builds customer confidence and loyalty. Here are 16 tips all restaurant owners should implement.
1) Respond to every review
Respond to every review, good or bad. Treat each online review as if the customer were in person. You should thank your customer by name for their positive review, and apologize for the negative reviews.
Responding to every review also shows you want to build relationships with your customers, and it fosters good will with potential customers. Reasonable customers know you’re going to make mistakes, and owning your mistakes will rarely be held against you.
Though you may not have the time to respond to every review, because running a restaurant can be all-consuming, this task should not be overlooked. Hiring a reliable company to manage your reputation will immediately pay dividends.
2) Claim all digital listings
Staying in control of your digital listings is key to managing your online reputation. Providing accurate information to your customer gives them quick access to pictures of your food, hours and reviews without having to visit your website. Listing sites also provide more places to find your business, drive more traffic to your website and give you access to analytics. You can also respond to customer reviews quickly, addressing issues or thanking them for their business.
3) Offer discounts for pick up
Paying fees to outside delivery companies that eat into your profits is a hard pill to swallow. Offering discounts for pick up will help generate more income. If Uber Eats charges you 30% for delivery, you should offer 15% off to the customer for pick up. You and the customer just saved 15%! It’s hard to beat the math on this one.
4) Limit your delivery menu
Some items on your menu should not be available on delivery sites like GrubHub, Door Dash or Uber Eats. With high delivery costs from third-parties, it’s not cost-effective to offer an entire menu and can cost you in the long run with poor reviews. Selecting items that offer high profit margins, hold heat longer or can be prepared in a shorter time are the best options for delivery. Cold sauces that don’t reheat well can deliver a bad review, ultimately costing you more customers.
You should not underestimate your menu. Some of your items are specialty items and have such a high demand, customers are willing to come to your restaurant to pick them up. This can save you from 15-30% on delivery costs.
5) To Go menus for everyone
To place your advertisement in the hands of a customer is marketing gold. That’s advertising! Advertising is a billion dollar industry. Companies pay millions of dollars for their ads to reach customers. Your customer is literally at your table or counter, so every customer should receive a to go menu to encourage to go orders, preferably through online ordering.
6) Be consistent with your newsletter
Newsletters are hands-down the most effective tool you have to maintain a relationship with your customers. Newsletters are not only a cost-effective way to inform customers about upcoming deals and events, but it embeds your brand and builds trust. Your message will reach a receptive audience, encouraging their feedback and increasing sales. Create a schedule with your newsletter: weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, but be consistent in its delivery.
7) In-House Marketing
Incentivize your customers with in-house promotions using table tents, posters, banners and coasters. Include trackable methods like bar codes, QR codes and keywords to have measurable results. You can also use in-house promotions to increase your per ticket average by upselling items not on the menu, or items included in a promotion.
8) Keep your restrooms spotless
Keep your restrooms spotless. Keep your restrooms spotless. Keep your restrooms spotless. It matters. Clean restrooms can make or break your restaurant. If this is at the bottom of your list, then it’s time to re-prioritize. Sanitation affects your image and your bottom line. One post about your “disgusting restroom” to social media from an unsatisfied customer could effect sales significantly. Nearly 3 in 10 customers say that they will not patronize a business with a dirty restroom.
9) Clean and refill condiments
Opening your restaurant with half empty, dirty containers isn’t the best way to start the day. Make it a part of your procedures to refill or replace your condiment containers at the end of the night. Wipe them down and ensure customers aren’t touching sticky containers. That’s a quick route to a bad review, and the loss of a customer.
10) Market what separates you
Whether you’re a burger hut, diner or barbecue shack, you’re one of many. A customer needs to know why you’re different. Do you marinate your steaks overnight? Is your brisket slow-cooked over 12 hours? Customers want to know about your fresh ingredients, meticulous process of making stew and the special spices that make your sauces so amazing. So add what separates you to your marketing campaigns.
11) Professional photos of your menu
Perfectly plated, clear images of your menu are more likely to attract customers. The only way to produce professional photos is to hire an experienced food photographer. Customers like to see the food they will order to evaluate quality and presentation. Your photos promote your brand and entice customers to visit your restaurant. And while you’re at it, get a few photos of your restaurant. It will give customers a sense of what it’s like to dine there before arriving, and they’ll be more inclined to stop in.
12) Hire professionals that read analytics
In marketing, data is everything. Google analytics provides very insightful information, but it means nothing if you can’t read it or turn into actionable insights. Analytics defines customers: when they visit your restaurant, how often they like to order and when they order. So you’ve got data, now how do you use it? Professionals will know how to dissect the data and implement strategies that engage current and potential customers. They will also let you know what promotions are working, what elements of your business are costing you the most money, and how to fix them.
13) Build relationships
Building business involves networking, but it’s important to know which contacts are worth cultivating. Whether you are looking to gain new customers or cross-promote services, it’s important to connect with complimentary industry professionals. If it fits your style of food, connect with wedding planners and bands. Connect with venues that don’t offer a menu. Invite industry professionals to sample your menu once a month. Offer to sponsor an event with food or donate to a food bank. Make sure to follow up for more opportunities and exposure, and market your good deeds.
14) Incentivize Customers for Social Media Shares
Capitalize on your customer’s base, not just your customer base. Instead of paying to advertise, incentivize your customers with discounts and offers. Allow them to become your brand ambassadors and ultimately drive sales to your business by exposing your food to their friends and family.
There’s a great app launching this year: picnhashtag. This app allows customers to find restaurants offering deals for social media shares. http://picnhashtag.com
15) Clear, concise website
A clear, concise website is the foundation of your online presence. It should be clean, fast and designed for online ordering. This should be done by professionals and not in-house.
16) Online Ordering
Update your website with a fast and easy-to-use online ordering system. Fast, clean and mobile-friendly online ordering systems make it easier for customers to order from their phones, increasing the chances that current and new customers will place an order.