The restaurant industry is all about reinvention. Do the same thing for too long and you risk leaving a sour taste in the mouths of your patrons. Even fast food franchises like KFC and McDonald’s with their set formats shake it up every now and again. Change, however minor and infrequent, is vital to the success of your restaurant. And what better time to embrace change than at the beginning of a new year?

It’s wise to start every year with a new strategy to boost your restaurant’s foot traffic. Your plan from the previous year might have worked, but there’s no guarantee that it will hold up for two years. Patrons are unpredictable and the only way to keep up with them is to move as fast as they do. Here are my best restaurant tips for driving hordes of customers to your restaurant all year round.

1. Opt for a makeover

Giving your restaurant a fresh look and feel is an excellent way of renewing excitement. But proceed with caution because renovations are costly. You have to plan well in advance before redoing your restaurant’s interior and secure all the funding so that your operational costs aren’t affected.

There’s also the possibility that you’ll have to close for a few weeks to complete the renovations. Once you’re sure you’ve taken every precaution and gone over all the finer details, you can start to have fun. Choose an aesthetic that’s a logical progression from your old look, but still feels different. It has to reflect the style of your restaurant and the demographic you want to attract. When your makeover is complete, market it as much as possible, throw a grand reopening, and consider getting a new website to match.

2. Make friends in high places

Influencers are the tastemakers of social media. These are people with large followings of fans who aspire to know them or to be them. They wield an impressive amount of power and place brands and products in front of target audiences without aggressive marketing tactics. So it won’t hurt to align yourself with a few of them.

Remember that grand reopening you’re throwing? These influencers should be on your guest list. Invite them again whenever you launch a new menu. You can even work out an arrangement in which they eat for free a few times a year in exchange for publicity on their social media. Remember that these aren’t celebrities but ordinary people who wield impressive power in their social circles – and you need them.

3. Pay it forward

A charitable cause isn’t necessarily the most obvious way to get patrons into seats, but it might surprise you. It adds a philanthropic dimension to your restaurant’s story and will attract millennials, who tend to support businesses that back social causes. There are several approaches you can take, from keeping your menu cruelty-free to donating to a charity of your choice.

Make sure it’s a cause you genuinely care about otherwise it will become a chore for you to keep up. The last thing you want to do is to start a charity drive only to abandon it halfway through the year because your heart isn’t in it. Your patrons will be able to see through any gimmicks or empty gestures. So keep it real.

4. Sharpen your CRM

If you’re not doing it already, you should be collecting information on your patrons. It’s the easiest way to turn one-time curious visitors into return business. Customer relationship management (CRM) keeps your patrons engaged with your restaurant even after they’ve left through newsletters with promotions, loyalty programmes, gift cards and several other patron incentives.

You can combine your patrons’ personal information with Point of Sale data to create deals that are more personalised. This will make each patron feel like they have a unique relationship with your restaurant.

For more restaurant tips that will keep the patrons coming in the new year, download our guide to Secret Ingredients for a Successful Restaurant.

Author : Rudi Badenhorst