As the owner of Bellina Alimentari, I perform many different jobs on a daily basis. The one I most enjoy, and the one I find most rewarding for the business as a whole, is interacting with our customers. Through our Culinary Club, which offers a variety of exciting activities, I am given the opportunity to engage directly with our guests, exchange ideas and explain the philosophy of Bellina Alimentari personally.
The goal of these culinary events — ranging from cooking classes and workshops to tastings and private parties — is to provide a unique customer experience that creates a sense of community and fosters a passion for food as a way of life. What’s more, it allows us to solicit feedback and improve the customer experience and by doing so enrich our business. To make these events a success, we follow these guidelines:
Create a compelling schedule
Offer your guests something they will enjoy and that they won’t experience anywhere else. At Bellina, we carefully craft each month’s schedule to include unique experiences that will attract a variety of customers. Themes range from pasta-making to Italian sauces, three-wine, three-cheese tastings, foodie photography, how to make gelato and more.
To maximize value to the customer, we keep each class intimate (no more than 12 spaces) and affordable (ranging in price from $28 to $45). And we make sure to promote these events through event-listing sites and media alerts, as well as our monthly e-newsletter, in-store materials and both Bellina’s and Ponce City Market’s website and social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram).
Interact with your guests
Our Culinary Club events are a great way to connect with customers and tell them about Bellina and what we do. Instead of throwing information at our guests, I personally share our story and philosophy with them in a warm, social setting.
Aside from exposing new customers to our restaurant, these events provide a perfect opportunity to interact with guests and tell them about Bellina and what we do. Ninety percent of participants have a drink or two during or prior to the class, and many will stay afterward for dinner.
Ask for feedback
We continuously ask our guests for their input. What are their needs? Do they want healthier menu options? Faster service? What kind of classes do they want to take? Talking face-to-face with our customers is the single best way to find inspiration to make things better. And not only does customer feedback improve the guest experience, it builds a relationship, which leads to loyalty and repeat visits. Remember: Treated correctly, your customers will always be your loudest cheerleaders.
In addition, we ask all Culinary Club participants to take a survey at the end of each class. We compile the results and analyze the data to help us make business decisions that can further enhance the Bellina Alimentari experience.
Keep It simple
Bellina’s Culinary Club accepts online reservations to make booking our classes easy and efficient. We accept all credit cards, especially American Express, to make this part of the experience as convenient as possible. Some customers are very loyal with certain cards, and having to tell a patron that we don’t accept their preferred form of payment could be frustrating for them. Limiting our customers’ payment options creates unnecessary frustrations and would undoubtedly lead to lost business.
Following these simple rules — offer compelling events, build personal relationships with your customers, listen to their needs and make ticketing a breeze — will increase customer loyalty to your brand and help promote your restaurant.
Tal Postelnik Baum is the owner of Bellina Alimentari, an Italian restaurant and market in Atlanta.