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How to keep customers coming back to your restaurant

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If you’re wondering how to increase customers in your restaurant then who better to ask than customers, like us, who love eating out!  There are so many eateries to choose from nowadays that customers have never had so much choice.  This means you really need to stay on top of your game to keep your customers coming back for more.  In this blog post I will share with you ways to keep customers coming back to your restaurant again and again!

Pre-kids I used to eat out several times per week and it was easy to do so as I lived in the centre of town.  Since having kids and moving out to the suburbs, I now eat out less often, but it’s still one of my favourite things to do.  However, going out less often actually means we are choosier about which restaurant we pick as it’s less of an occurrence. 

Although I love trying as many different places as possible, there are still those restaurants that are firm favourites that we return to several times a year.  There the ones where we know what to expect and are never disappointed.  Here’s a look at how to keep your customers coming back for more.

Great interior design

Never underestimate the importance of hospitality interior design for retaining customers.  We definitely go back more often to the places that have an interior vibe we like.  We love rustic places and those with a cool industrial, but quirky edge.  The right interior design can create an environment that makes your customers want to return time and time again.  It can even serve as a way of marketing your establishment as we are always keen to tell others when we’ve visited somewhere that not only serves great food, but looks great too.

It’s also important to maintain the premises.  Don’t let things get too worn.  Make sure you repair and replace things when needed so it doesn’t start looking run down.  If your restaurant looks like it takes pride in its appearance then it’s a great signal that you will take pride in your food too.  First impressions count and the first thing people will see is your interior.

Amazing food for all

You have to get the food right too.  You need to hire chefs who not only have a Bachelors in Culinary Arts but are also passionate about the food they create and who are consistent.  Though you might be forgiven for one bad meal as we often think the chef might just be having a bad night, it’s rare you’d be forgiven for two bad meals.  If we’ve had more than one bad meal at a restaurant then it’s unlikely we’ll ever return. 

Food should also cater to the masses including those of us who are vegan.  One mistake many restaurants make, in our vegan eyes, is making vegan options for adults but forgetting about our vegan children.  Make sure you factor dietary requirements into all your menus so everyone can enjoy food off every menu in your restaurant.  Our top choices for eating out are always those where all of us, including the kids, can choose vegan food.

Clean and tidy

If we want to eat and drink at your restaurant then we need to trust that your kitchen is hygienic, especially if we can’t see it.  This is going to be represented to us by the cleanliness of the rest of the restaurant, the glasses our drinks are served in and the cutlery on our tables.  If everything we see isn’t clean then we can’t trust that the kitchen is any better.

Keeping the tables cleared of old glasses and plates is also important.   We don’t expect to have to sit with the previous customers leftover plates and drinks when we arrive.  Staff should also complete an accredited food handler training course, that is required to learn the proper procedures for handling food so that they reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses.

Efficient and friendly staff

The right staff can also make or break a place for us.  One restaurant springs to mind which we used to love going to, but they changed management.  With the new management came a bunch of new staff members and they were very poorly trained or simply lacked any enthusiasm for their jobs.  We gave them the benefit of the doubt and tried a couple of times, but the service remained dreadful.  Each time we were seated and then forgotten about.  We had to call the waiting staff over to place our orders, remind them about drinks we had ordered, ask for condiments and even flag them down to ask for the bill.  We were sat for so long just waiting to pay our bill when we really wanted to get out of there.

It’s so important for a restaurant to have well-organised and capable staff who keep the restaurant clean and tidy, but also provide a prompt service to the customer.  It’s never good as a customer to feel like you’ve been completely forgotten about and not cared for when dining out and spending money.

Great branding

Branding is so important for any company for marketing purposes and memorability, including restaurant branding to keep your restaurant business in your customer’s mind.  Easy to remember names or catchy names won’t be forgotten, helping your business to promote itself through word of mouth.  Recognisable logos are also key to make your restaurant instantly noticeable, especially in different cities and towns, or in advertisement features. Your branding starts with your logo and this same design should filter through to your marketing materials, adverts, social media, signage and any takeaway packaging. 

Aside from the logo and interior of your restaurant, branding is about your restaurant’s identity too.  What do you stand for?  What customers do you plan to attract?  Brand identity is more important than ever for restaurants. Consumers are more educated about food and the restaurant industry, and they care about the source of their food. They want information on where it comes from, how it was sourced, whether it's organic and if it suits their dietary needs. They want to know more about the people who run the restaurant and what their values are.  And, of course, your customers want to be able to take great pictures of their food to share on social media along with captions explaining your values, essentially giving you free marketing!

Ultimately you need great design, food, vibes and staff to provide an environment and experience that makes the customer want to come back for more!