Restaurants and cafes seem to pop up everywhere and competition is becoming fierce in this sector. Restaurants also are not immune to economic challenges and changing consumer behavior. Just like other businesses, they have to adapt and grow to continue to bring in new business. Customer service is the cornerstone of a successful restaurant. But what does good customer service mean? This is open to so much interpretation. What makes for a positive dining experience differs greatly by customer, however most would agree that customers look for an experience that leave them with a good taste.
Restaurants have to make us want to go there, whether for a quick lunch, dinner with friends or a special occasion meal. But what makes one better than the other? Do you follow the recommendations from friends or ads and promotions? Personally, I go for recommendations from friends and colleagues. I also generally choose a place that’s busy, always a good sign that the food is freshly prepared and will taste good. I’m also encouraged by their social media activities and their ads. In other words, restaurants need to explore an array of offline and online channels to get people flocking to their restaurants. Before you attempt to market your restaurant, you need to meet two basic components: great food and excellent customer service. These two principles are not optional, they are compulsory.
Here are some key tips, tactics and activities you need to consider to keep your restaurant at the top of people’s minds:
1. Overall Ambiance
People will first judge your restaurant by the exterior and interior looks before tasting your food or experiencing your customer service. This includes everything from the paintwork, the signage, the images, pictures on the wall, plants, the spacing between the tables, to laying the tables out neatly before customers arrive.
2. Build a Website
Most restaurant owners in the region make the mistake of focusing on one or two social media platforms and leave out the essential base of their online presence. Having a website is at the core of all your online presence and needs to be maintained in the same way you maintain the general ambience of your restaurant.
3. Produce Content
Have some professional pictures or videos taken of your restaurants. This includes your signature dishes, the chefs at work, indoor décor and outside of your restaurant. You will be able to use these pictures across a wide range of other activities suggested in this article.
4. Make your customer feel safe
One bad hygiene rating can destroy your restaurant. Have someone in-house in charge of hygiene or preferably hire an external hygiene specialist to independently review your restaurant regularly. Your hygiene rating should be no less than the top score. When you achieve this, be proud and promote your rating to make your customer feel safe.
5. Make a list of important people
Make a list of people who have an influence locally. This includes journalists in local newspapers, food bloggers, photographers, social media influencers and PR agents. This list will be useful whenever you open new branches, launch new menus, and promote events or anything you wish.
6. Networking in the local community
This is a great way to raise awareness of your restaurant in your local community. Meeting business owners may lead to hosting a corporate dinner at your place.
7. Invite groups to network at your restaurant
There are lots of societies and clubs who organize events for their members every once in a while. Offer special packages for these non-profit organisations. Some of these members may become regular customers as a result of this event.
8. Contact your local newspapers
Local newspapers are looking for worthy news. Get some free coverage for your special events in the newspaper to reach thousands of people. This also provides great content to share on your social media channels.
9. Advertise in your local newspaper
The cost of advertising in the local paper can vary. The main point is to get people in your doors so you can retain them, so make this clear in your advertising. You want them to take action and choose you for their meal out this weekend. Be sure to include your booking number, address and links to your website to view your fantastic menu and pictures of your food.
10. Leaflet with every delivery
Leaflets or menu flyers is a great way to get people to order again. As we are now turning into an eat-out or order-for-delivery community, these leaflets are a great way to retain customers who are too busy or too lazy to cook or drive to your place.
11. Create a loyalty program
You can create a simple printed card with your restaurant branding to be stamped every time a customer eats at your place. This earns them a free meal after a certain amount of visits. Handing these cards out could encourage people to come to your restaurant more regularly. There are also apps to help you create your own app loyalty program.
12. Mark your calendar for festivals
Food festivals flourish during holidays and summer breaks. Getting out from your restaurant and going to the streets is not only a great way to show your face and network across the community, but gives you the chance to showcase your food to different areas geographically. Depending on your budget, you can either buy catering equipment and have this as part of your long term strategy or rent out the equipment you need for the day.
The great thing about sponsorship is that it can drive customer trust and loyalty, and enhance brand awareness. It’s a great way to humanise your brand. Depending on your target market, you can sponsor sports teams, charitable entities or special events within your community. Approach organisations that have access to your target market in order to engage with the right type of customers for you.
14. Building a personal relationship
Personalization is key to building customer loyalty. Using first or surnames as often as possible is the very best and easiest way to create a personalised experience. Gaining your customer’s name should be done as quickly as possible and then retained somewhere for reference. Train your staff to take this part of the service seriously. Your customer is not the one sitting at table X. Your customer is a person with a name.
15. After service survey
Find out your strengths and weaknesses while the customer experience is still warm. Customers can provide you with great insight on how to improve based on their experience with other restaurants. It also makes them feel that you have genuine interest in their opinion and leaves them with a great impression about your continued effort to improve your services.
16. Get your free business listing on Google
Visibility is key in today’s restaurant industry. If people don’t know you exist, you’ll have a hard time getting them through the door. The growth of mobile and the continued popularity of dining sites/apps offer more opportunity than ever for customers to find you. Get your free business listing on Google My Business. This will build your visibility on Google Maps and Google Search in your local community.
17. Create or take ownership of your page on TripAdvisor
TripAdvisor is one of the most popular websites for people searching where to eat so it’s important to be found and presented well on it. You can add your own professional photos to it to enhance your restaurant image. Encourage your customers to review your restaurant if you feel they like their meal.
18. Set up social media accounts
Adding social media to your marketing mix can hugely increase awareness about your restaurant, generate motivated engagement with your food, and get you more customers in your door. Create accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google Plus, Snapchat, etc. Even if you’re not planning on using them, it stops others taking your account names should you decide to use them in the future. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram also provide the opportunity to place cost-effective ads to build brand awareness and promote special events at your restaurant.
19. Refresh your menu
Even the most popular menus can seem a bit dull with time. You may need to constantly update your menu to keep customers interested in trying something new. Although this can be a successful practice it must be done with care. The last thing you want is to lose customers by removing dishes they love.
20. Dealing with ordering and payment quickly
Some of the biggest inconveniences about sit-down restaurants is all the wait times associated with them. This includes waiting for the food to be served or for the receipt and time needed for credit card processing. Restaurants need to find ways to reduce wait times. Making pre-ordering or pre-paying more accessible is one way to cut waiting time. This allows the restaurant to serve the food on your time and have it ready for you when you arrive. This is particularly important for employees who find that so much of their lunch breaks get wasted due to the time required to order and pay bills.
Marketing your restaurant needs to be an ongoing event. Focus on a handful of priorities or objectives at any given time. Focus on identifying your top three tactics where your best customers come from today. Measure your results and add two or more activities to explore new opportunities. Based on your continuous surveys, identify new ways to improve your services and what you can do better.