How to Turn New Customers Into “Regulars”

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Restaurant Customers

The main goal of any restaurateur should be to turn their customers into "regulars," the individuals who keep coming back time after time.  From choosing the appropriate restaurant furnishings to providing great local dishes, everything should focus on getting people in and keeping them coming back.  Fortunately, doing so isn’t the most difficult thing in the world.

Start a Restaurant Loyalty Program

One of the best ways to keep the chairs for a restaurant full is to offer a customer loyalty program.  Patrons that have long frequented a restaurant will be excited that their commitment is paying off, and new diners will have an incentive to come back.  

Whether it’s offering a free meal after so many visits or a discount for patrons who visit once a week, just having something to let customers know they’re valued can really pay off.  Many restaurants create loyalty cards that look and feel almost like credit cards, but simply offering a punch card that’s marked each time a patron visits would be enough.

Get Customer Contact Information

Getting a patron’s contact information can go a long way in keeping restaurant booths full.  A name and email address is often enough, and this will allow an eatery’s owner to send out updates and upcoming specials to those who opt in. Whether this information is garnered through having "Suggestion Cards" for everything from restaurant furnishings to d├ęcor or simply by providing a one-time discount for those who sign up for the email list, the point is that this information is invaluable.

Provide Curbside Pickup and Online Ordering
There are times when a person wants to avoid cooking without having to sit inside of an eatery and undergo the full dining experience.  Fortunately, many of these people also want to avoid greasy fast food meals.  This leaves a great opportunity for restaurateurs who offer curbside pickup and online ordering.

These offerings provide flexibility that keeps many patrons coming back merely for the convenience.  Restaurateurs who opt to provide online ordering, though, need to make sure their site is capable of handling the process before offering it.  Once everything is ready to go, make these features a key part of advertising.

Provide Freebies
A customer loyalty program with free rewards goes a long way, but why require customers to keep coming back for their reward?  After all, if a patron doesn’t fully enjoy their experience, the promise of a free dish may not be enough to entice them to return.  This is why it never hurts to offer up something free on any visit.

If the kitchen is running behind, offer a table free salads.  Did the bartender make one too many drinks?  Make one more and personally deliver it to the couple sitting at Table 14.  Even if there’s no reason to do so, take a gratis dessert or drink to a face that’s new to the eatery.  These little gestures can easily secure a customer for life.

A perfect ambiance, fancy restaurant furnishings, great food, and excellent service go a long way in the restaurant industry.  Sometimes, though, they don’t go quite far enough.  The aforementioned tips, however, could be just enough to turn the one-time or occasional patron into a restaurant regular.