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How to retain customers for your café/restaurant business

You have successfully set up your dream restaurant or café and now you want to enjoy the freedom of running your own business while enjoying your passion for food and people. For your business to be a success, it is vital that customers have a great experience and want to return to your venue. Keeping the customers you already have happy is important, as they are the backbone of your business and provide a regular stream of revenue. But you should also consider that the customers you retain will actually help spread the word and attract new customers to your business. According to Harvard Business School: “increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%.”

How to retain customers for your restaurant business

Here are the top things to consider to secure customer retention as told by Emma Evans in collaboration with Eclipse Furniture:

The design and atmosphere of your venue

Though great food is important to the success of your restaurant, it isn’t quite enough to bring customers back again and again. Customers need to feel comfortable and enjoy the atmosphere of your venue, in order to want to return. Your venue needs to create surroundings that make customers feel relaxed, invited and happy to be there. You should consider factors such as music, lighting, spacing, seating and decor when creating a unique environment to capture your customers and keep them wanting to come back.

Venue furniture experts Eclipse Furniture say that: “A cosy atmosphere is the result of lots of different elements brought together. It’s important to think about every single element of your venue to ensure you’re enhancing your space properly”. Lighting, for example, is incredibly important in setting the tone at your restaurant. Crystal chandeliers and candlelight would create the right ambience for a romantic, fine-dining restaurant. Whereas colourful lighting would work well for a child-friendly venue.

Perceived value for money

In order to have a great dining experience, your customers need to feel that they have received good value for money. A customer may be happy to pay £20 for a steak, but not willing to spend the same on a burger. You need to do research on local restaurants, to make sure that your prices are competitive.

It may seem tempting to offer promotions and lower food prices to get customers in, with the hopes of making back the margin on drinks, sides or desserts. But it is a much better idea to instead offer diners bonus extras like access to a free salad bar, or a free dessert. This way, customers are paying the full price, but they still feel that they are getting a good deal by being offered a “freebie.”

Quality of your product

Customers will not return to your restaurant if the quality of your food is poor. The easiest way to increase customer loyalty is to maintain high standards in your kitchen and serve high-quality food to every customer. Make sure that you choose your food supplier carefully. Keep in mind that customers value fresh, local produce because of its positive environmental impact and health benefits. Partnering with nearby farms shows your support for the community and will appeal to diners who like to support the local movement.

Quality of your service staff

Good service is one of the most important aspects of creating a great first-time experience at your establishment. When hiring, remember that all staff will contribute to the atmosphere and energy in your venue. Train your waiters and waitresses to give accurate wait times and seat guests with reservations immediately. All of your staff should be friendly and helpful and able to deal with any complaints tactfully.

Research shows that product knowledge is integral to customer loyalty. Customers are more likely to come back when they know about the food served in your venue. Encourage your waiters to discuss the origins of your dishes with diners, along with any specials being offered or seasonal menu changes. Also be sure that your waiters are guiding new diners to the dishes you’re known for and those that are particularly good at bringing people back.

Also, remember that your staff interaction should match the concept of your venue. For instance, if your restaurant is an intimate place where couples spend a romantic evening, your staff should be attentive, but low-key. Whereas if your restaurant is a loud, interactive experience then staff should be more involved with customers.

Final thought

Creating loyal repeat customers is extremely important to the success of your business. Remember, that along with bringing in a steady revenue, regular customers are also likely to bring in new customers through recommendations. It is therefore essential that you take the time to keep your regular customers happy and offer all customers a great experience so they will want to return to your venue.

More on customer service and starting your own coffee shop business.

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