How to improve customer loyalty during a restaurant’s downtime

Whether you’re experiencing a dine-in slump or seeing a drop off in guests early in the week, slow times are inevitable in the restaurant industry. Specific challenges, like low lunch traffic, benefit from increased marketing efforts, while off-hours provide unique opportunities for reaching your loyal customers. According to OpenTable:

“5% of a restaurant’s guests account for more than 20% of total revenue.”

Out of those revenue-generating guests, only half are repeat customers. Nurture this small group during your downtime by making purposeful marketing and branding decisions. Branding during a slump requires effort, but doesn’t need to eat up your budget. Restaurant owners should:

  1. Follow up with previous restaurant customers.
  2. Extend a brand’s loyalty program.
  3. Increase local exposure using current connections.

Tap into your loyal customer base and show guests they’re appreciated. Keep your brand and fantastic dining options in front of their eyes, starting with simple outreach to your best clientele.

Follow up with previous dining guests.

The easiest way to reinforce your brand value is to reach out to your customers. Guests want authentic engagement, both online and in real-life experiences. Position your brand as a restaurant that desires a connection to their VIPs by tracking guests that are:

  • High-dollar customers.
  • Considered regulars.
  • Bringing in large groups or parties.

Reach out to your loyal guests by personalizing your communications. Along with your typical text follow-ups and loyalty rewards, contact guests who’ve made recent large purchases or had an event catered. Send personal emails thanking them for their business. Consider mailing your top guests a handwritten note.

Your outreach generates trust and inspires customers to share the love with family and friends via word-of-mouth.

Level up your loyalty program

Loyalty programs increase your customer’s lifetime value and encourage repeat sales. During a slow season, it’s easy to fall into a rut and go on autopilot. Target loyal dining guests by offering additional points during slow shifts or seasons. While this added value won’t change a restaurant customer’s dining habits, it demonstrates appreciation.

Get your staff involved by providing elevator pitches they can use for VIPs and regular guests. It can be as simple as educating employees on the finer elements of your loyalty program or specific goals for doubling points during certain times or days of the week.

Slow times serve as reminders to preserve your brand value by focusing on the loyalty of your regular restaurant guests.

Your loyalty program should be an extension of your brand in every way, from logo to messaging. If you don’t have one yet, then use your slow time to develop a program that works.

Increase local exposure

Holiday Table Card DesignsUse your inventory of printed materials to bring awareness to your brand by targeting local customers. Start with current connections with local businesses and organizations.

  • Provide menus, coupons, business cards with your brand messaging.
  • Check out your local calendar of events and see where your business could fit in.
  • Promote extended hours or a special dessert before or after a community event.
  • Offer take-out and catering options for backyard BBQs or appetizers for events.
  • Drop off your business cards with local businesses, like hotels, flower shops, and farmer’s markets.

Regardless of the time of day or those slow times during the year, you can take steps to keep your brand in front of your guest’s eyes. Slumps give restaurant owners a chance to make meaningful customer connections via digital and in-house experiences.

If you’re experiencing a downturn, then don’t pour money into marketing to new customers. Take a step back and find ways to engage with your loyal customers.

Management consultant and brand strategist for small teams. Fan of dark tea, thick books, peace, and unity.

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