New customers are always a good thing. But what restaurants really need (and should strive for) are the loyal regulars. In this post, we offer some tips on how to increase the number of repeat guests to your restaurant.
Loyalty card or fifth lunch free
One way to get more repeat guests (and retain the ones you have) is to give out some kind of extra benefits, which only repeat guests can receive. You can offer loyalty cards, which guests can top up with money (cash or digitally), but then get a discount every time they use the card. Or you can go the traditional route: a coupon booklet for lunch vouchers, offered at a discounted price.
For some restaurants, offering a more “luxurious” VIP card to their best loyal guests could be a worthwhile strategy. These special guests can get a 5-10% discount on food or drink (or both!).
You can also introduce a system that offers regulars some free after a set amount of time: offer their fifth lunch or tenth cup of coffee for free. It’s a tried and true (and relatively inexpensive) way to show appreciation to your loyal customers.
What do you really earn from a repeat guest?
Having a group of loyal repeat customers can be seen as a kind of insurance policy. But there can be a downside if you, as a restaurant owner, feel you have to constantly offer something or give out discounts. It’s important to understand your regular guests and why they choose to visit your restaurant over and over. Is it because you hand out VIP discount cards left and right? Or is it because they genuinely love your establishment and the food you serve?
If you run a lunch restaurant, some kind of card or program for repeat customers is a no-brainer. But if your business is one where you cannot count on guests to come 4-5 days a week, you need to spend a bit more time to review what these benefits give you versus the cost, as well as who receives the benefits. Göran, a pensioner who eats at your restaurant virtually every day for the past 10 years is more worthy or being rewarded than the gang that comes every weekend, splits a plate of french fries and complains that they didn’t get enough dipping sauce.
Provide a good (and efficient) customer experience
The importance of a good customer experience cannot be underestimated in both attracting new customers, but keeping the ones you already have. Anything that makes the experience quicker, smoother or easier is going to be received as a plus by guests. For example, it can be as simple as providing self-service kiosks or card terminals that make it quicker to pay at the end of the meal—efficient service cannot be underestimated. Or allowing guests to order via an app can allow them to order their food themselves while also automatically collecting discounts or VIP membership.
Offering corporate cards to companies can also make payment much easier. By offering regular (weekly or monthly) invoices, they can avoid the card transaction costs that they would otherwise be paying every lunch. This makes it efficient for restaurants who have an invoicing system (and reasonably good liquidity). If being out of that money until invoices are paid would be a strain on your business, card transactions are your better option.