42% of adults are not eating at restaurants: Bring customers back in the door

There’s a lot of hype about why restaurant sales are stagnant. Blame it on the Millennials right? Yet, a study by Deloitte finds:

Food, alcohol, furniture, food away from home, and housing all constitute roughly the same percentage of the consumer’s wallet today as they did in 1997.

But, it’s tough to generate customer loyalty that turns into more visits and higher spend. Fortunately, data from the National Restaurant Association shows:

42% of adults say they’re not eating at restaurants as often as they’d like.

How can you get repeat business and capture more dollars from your core customers? Use the art of following up to engage guests with a focus on their lifetime value, not one-time transactions.

Restaurant guests want to eat out more

National Restaurant Association: Phone survey results

Turn one-time visits into a habit.

Each positive return visit increases the chance that your guests will be back. Fast Casual suggests after the first visit there’s a 50-50 chance your customers will return. However:

That chance jumps to 70% once a customer has visited twice and then, with a customer’s fourth visit, the figure jumps up to 85 percent that the customer will be back within six months.

While it’s vital to make each visit pleasant, you also need a strategy for following up to ensure customers choose your restaurant next time. Take advantage of the lifetime value of your customers by mapping out the steps—and the roles of your crew—for a repeatable process.

Personalize communications and deliver value.

Your restaurant guests are out there. But, they aren’t choosing your restaurant every time. Instead, customers divvy their budget among a variety of businesses. In a Deloitte focus group session:

Not a single person spent more than 30% of their 30-day budget at their most-visited restaurant.

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Use your customer management system to identify two types of customers.

  1. Big, yet occasional, spenders
  2. Guests who stop in every four to six weeks

Analyze the data about these customers including average ticket size, number of guests in their group, and commonly ordered items. Then, tailor your follow-up messaging to reflect their preferences.

High-ticket guests come for an experience.

Show your appreciation with a personalized follow-up note. Then, aim to increase the frequency of their visits and improve customer loyalty.

  • Include an incentive with a short expiration date.
  • Set up an alert so you can notify them about restaurant events.

Repeat guests are those who are most likely to turn into brand ambassadors.

These guests are loyalty reward members and your staff knows them well. But that doesn’t mean you should let their journey go on auto-pilot. Instead, find ways to follow up, generate social proof, and build a relationship via social media.

Monitor social mentions for super-fast follow-up.

Social proof and reviews affect your restaurant sales. Each guest that posts about your restaurant online can drive traffic to your business. Although social media marketing is important, following up with your guests on social channels is also vital.

  • Monitor your social mentions on several channels.
  • Like, share, and comment on posts about your restaurant.
  • Thank guests who share your promotions or write a rave review.
  • Reach out within minutes, not hours, to guests with negative reviews or posts.

Don’t discount other ways of following-up.

Restaurant owners aren’t limited to following-up only on certain channels. In fact, data shows that your customers prefer a variety of contact methods, from postal mail to email.

Increase engagement levels by asking your restaurant customers how they prefer to receive communications. Then, devise a plan that takes different platforms into account so you can follow up in the ways most likely to generate results.

Types of customer follow up by channel

Deloitte: Second Helpings report

Although increasing lunch traffic or sales during a slow season is crucial, don’t get stuck in a cycle of reactive marketing. Instead, find ways to follow up with your guests as part of your overall communications strategy.

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

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