All restaurant owners look forward to high seasons. The tables are fully booked, the bar is packed with last-minute diners desperate for a cancellation and you don’t sleep a wink, but it’s all good because business is booming.

High seasons are boom times, but they’re few and far between. The true gold mine of the restaurant business is found in loyalty. Loyal customers will keep you in business long after the excitement of a grand reopening has passed. They don’t have a seasonal fascination with your establishment – they genuinely love it.

This kind of loyalty is not easily earned. Customer retention takes work and requires a decisive strategy. Hopefully, these restaurant tips can help you devise a strategy that will help you build lasting relationships with your patrons.

Amp up your IQ (Instagrammability quotient)

I’m pretty sure I just made that up. But I also have a well-formed idea of what it is. Your restaurant’s Instagrammability quotient or IQ is a score that determines how made for Instagram your restaurant is. Younger patrons are letting Instagram decide where they’ll travel to or eat out at next. You have to work on your IQ to get on their radar. It’s basically the sum total of your décor, location, branding and meal presentation. These are the main ingredients of an envy-inducing Instagram post. Make sure your restaurant has plenty of flattering light otherwise your patrons’ food will go cold while they try to edit their snaps to a presentable level.

Give them free stuff

Positive reinforcement is a psychological phenomenon that none of us is immune to. You encourage behaviour by rewarding it. Reward programmes come down to this fundamental principle and they don’t even have to be that wildly creative. Franchised coffee shops and smoothie bars still hand out stickers (or digital equivalents) with every purchase. If you collect enough stickers, you get a free frappuccino or a superfood smoothie. Some restaurants will ask you to sign up for their newsletter in exchange for a free meal on your birthday. Whether you stick to these tried-and- tested techniques or improve on them (like Starbucks did with their app), the underlying science is reliable and straightforward – quid pro quo.

Spice up your menu

Let’s take a few steps back. Your IQ and loyalty programme are set up to fail if you don’t have a well-conceived menu. You need a balance of signature dishes with the potential to become favourites and exciting new dishes to satiate wandering taste buds. Even the most loyal of patrons will need the occasional surprise. As long as your new dishes match the established brand and philosophy of your restaurant, there’s very little chance that you’ll scare off any loyal patrons because you tried something different.

Slide into their DMs

Maybe not literally, because that would cross a line. But interacting with your patrons on social media is an excellent way of boosting consumer-centricity and brand intimacy. A word of caution though – people have a low tolerance threshold for bald-faced marketing messaging on social media. What works is a more natural approach where you join a conversation that’s already happening or lead one that doesn’t end in self-promotion. The point is to make your restaurant’s brand relatable and that’s much harder than it sounds. If you don’t have any social media experience, consider hiring an expert to handle it for you.

Keep the standards high

It takes one instance of bad service to turn off a loyal patron. That’s why the term, “consistent quality”, is used so often when describing successful and award-winning establishments. Your staff must always be well-trained and professional to all patrons. Orders must be accurate and served timeously. Waitrons and service staff must be knowledgeable about every menu item and always quick with a solution to a patron’s problems.

What makes all this easier is a little secret weapon called Pilot PoS. It brings everything in your restaurant together into one easy-to-use platform with powerful functionality. Don’t believe me? Download Secret Ingredients for a Successful Restaurant and see for yourself.

Author : Rudi Badenhorst