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5 ways to encourage loyal customers

5 ways to encourage loyal customers

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The best strategy for getting guests hooked on your restaurant is to have excellent food and service. But there is more to it than that. Here are five ways to build a loyal client base:

1. Set high expectations, then exceed them.

Build your public image in every way you can: word-of-mouth, traditional marketing, online marketing. Outdo yourself when customers visit your physical location.

Your website is a great place to start. It's interactive and always accessible, a big advantage over old-school flyers.

Set an impressive standard with engaging photos and professional design. Start with the landing page, and create a cohesive theme. Use professional photos and always keep your information current.

Your online menu is a key component. Make sure it reflects the true quality of your restaurant. Exceed that image with the real thing.

2. Send email newsletters with promotions.

Email is a great way to stay on your customers’ minds. Set up an email list using a service like MailChimp. This will help you respect the privacy of subscribers by always hiding their addresses from other recipients. MailChimp also helps include interactive links within each email, directing more traffic to your website and social networks.

I've found the best newsletter frequency to be about once or twice a month. You want to send regular updates, but you don't want to bombard recipients with promotional material, which might be a turnoff.

Have a look at this article for extra tips on restaurant email marketing.

3. Stay active on social media.

Your followers have volunteered to hear from you. Take advantage of this by regularly posting engaging content. Stay active in your followers’ news feed.

Think of two restaurants with equal food and service quality.

Restaurant 1 posts an enticing image and personal comments every week on Facebook.

Restaurant 2 posts only every few weeks, and rarely replies to customers' comments.

Which restaurant will Facebook fans be more likely to remember when it's time to book a table?

Go one step further by optimizing your posts according to relevant keywords and consumers. For example, a startup seafood restaurant in Hampton could look up terms like 'Hampton Beach Seafood Festival" and comment on posts relevant to the festival.

Always add a personal touch to your comments. Try not to copy and paste information; social networkers aren't fond of lazy marketing.

Try using Bufferapp to save time and streamline your posts.

4. Have your waitstaff promote your website at the table.

Promoting your website at your physical location is a great strategy.

Make sure your waitstaff is equipped with the right approach. Don't just ask servers to mention your website. URLs are often forgotten, especially with no incentive.

Instead, distribute your website in a subtle but physical way.  Printing your web address on receipts is an excellent way to spread the word. Receipts are subtle and practical.

Add an incentive to visit the site. Tell customers that they'll get a discount or free item in exchange for a mailing list signup. Some restaurants include a little blank space beneath the URL where customers can write a unique discount code. Provide a code for each new mailing list member, have him or her write it down and redeem it later.

5. Promote new weekly food specials online.

Use your weekly specials to connect with past customers. Build your ongoing web strategy around new menu items and special prices. Think of your restaurant like any other company that sends out regular product updates.

Photos are key. Text descriptions provide basic info, but photos really appeal to the appetite.

Tons of tempting dessert specials keep popping up in my Facebook feed. They're from a friend who owns a bakery. I've been there multiple times in the past month. Needless to say, his Facebook strategy is working!

Weekly specials are also an excellent theme for your restaurant's blog. Create a "weekly

Brian Casel is the founder of Restaurant Engine, a website design solution for restaurants. Email him at [email protected].

TAGS: Marketing
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