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How to mine your existing customer base to grow revenue

Even though you will always be busy serving the customers who visit your restaurant on a daily basis, you should regularly take a step back and lay the groundwork for increasing your revenue. Reviewing your existing customer base will help set your restaurant up for success in the future.

I would recommend having monthly “restaurant review” meetings with a small sample of your current guests. Offer 10-15 of them the opportunity to come out for a free dinner and talk about the restaurant. These meetings are very similar to the review meetings that professional salespeople have with their clients. In the professional sales world, it’s all about reviewing expectations of performance, confirming metrics for success and putting a plan in place to deepen the relationship for the future. When that is translated for the restaurant world, these meetings should have three agenda items:

1. Reviewing expectations of performance. What were your expectations when you decided to eat at my restaurant? In other words, why did you choose to dine in this restaurant? Was it your service? Food specials? Atmosphere?

2. Confirming metrics for success. Did we meet/exceed your expectations? Do you enjoy your dining experiences with us?

3. Put a plan in place for the future. What can we do better? In other words, how can we get more of your business?

Discuss the results of these discussions with the rest of your management team. Did you hit the metrics that you previously discussed? Did you succeed with some efforts and fall short of the metrics with others? Take a look at all of the data objectively. Don’t worry if the results fail to meet a goal. There’s nothing wrong with bad numbers—as long as you have an honest discussion with both your customers and your management team about why you fell short. If you didn’t hit your goal of guest satisfaction, try to figure out what obstacles were in your way. Can those challenges be overcome in the future?

Also, consider your customers’ answers to the third question. Are they requesting changes that you can make? If so, consider delivering an offering based on their expressed needs and wants.

Follow up with your guests within a week of the meeting to let them know how you plan to proceed. In all likelihood, you will not be able to accommodate everyone’s exact wishes, but let them know that you value their opinion and that they may see some changes/additions coming soon. This simple act of personally staying in touch with your guests will help you grow your business. Also, your responsiveness to their concerns will help you build trust.  In any kind of sales, the old adage holds true: People buy from those they know, like and trust. The added bonus is that they’ll recommend you to their friends.

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