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Restaurant Customer Retention in NYC: Turn New Diners Into Regulars

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Last Updated on January 19, 2017


There are about 24,000 restaurants in New York City alone. Restaurant customer retention can be difficult to manage in that kind of climate. With all of those choices, how do you motivate your customers to keep coming back for more?

Luckily, Restaurant Week will be stirring up some fresh interest in the local dining scene and hopefully drive some new business your way. You want to make a good impression, so what’s a good way to turn them into repeat customers? Make their experience stand out, and offer something better than the rest. Here are some great ways to boost restaurant customer retention.

5 Tips for Restaurant Customer Retention in NYC

1. Entertain to sustain the audience

It’s dinner time and your customer is deciding whether to go back to your restaurant or try a new place down the street. What tips the scales in your favor? Having special events and entertainment is a great way to get restaurant customer retention. Diners will choose your business repeatedly if offer special one-time events and a fun night out. Go classic, with karaoke, open mics, trivia, and live music. Or you can stand out with stand-up comedians, themed parties, and cooking demonstrations. There’s nothing better for building customer loyalty than a great, memorable guest experience.

2. Try a regular theme

You may also want to have new specials frequently, and advertise them widely. This is great for restaurant customer retention, because it reminds past guests of your business and gives them a reason to come back and try something new.

You can also team up with neighboring businesses to benefit both of you. Have a movie theater nearby? Offer a dinner-and-a-movie deal for everyone who shows tickets in your restaurant. Having recurring events helps increase restaurant customer retention because it integrates your restaurant into your customer’s routine. Taco Tuesday? Breakfast for Dinner Day? Make it your own and diners will remember to visit regularly.

3. Participate in your community

Hosting a fundraiser for a local organization or student group is a great way to get involved, and it drives traffic to your restaurant. Sponsor a club or team by promising to donate a certain percentage of sales (of customers who show the event flyer) for the night. The group will publicize your fundraiser, one-time customers will have extra incentive to stop by again, and your restaurant will get a positive reputation.

Another way to improve restaurant customer retention is to have a presence at local events and street fairs. Cater an event, support charity, or sell your specialty at a booth. Not only will this get your name out there, but it will also show people you care. That’s the kind of place customers want to keep coming back to.

4. Reward customer loyalty

You don’t have to be indirect with your guests. If want them to return, reward them for it! Rewards and special deals give customers a reason to visit a second time. Often, they will visit more frequently than they would have otherwise. Punch cards are fine for creating restaurant customer retention, but consider expanding your audience and accessibility with an app. If your restaurant doesn’t have one of its own, use an outside service. Offer deals for multiple check ins or reviews on apps like Yelp and Foursquare.

There’s more than just monetary rewards for building restaurant customer retention. Have a poll of frequent customers and ask what would get them to come back. Give them something else they want. If you have entertainment, give your rewards members the first chance to get tickets. Guaranteed reservations during busy hours and special events are also great options for a restaurant customer retention rewards program.

Everyone likes a birthday present. Let your customers know you haven’t forgotten them with a birthday card (or, more likely, an email). The coupon or free drink will get the recipient in the door, hopefully with a few celebrating guests in tow. By sending out a gift coupon, you’ll get the restaurant customer retention of the customer, and the business of the rest of their party. A special deal is an incentive, of course, but just the reminder is likely to encourage repeat visits. It will also help you make a personal connection and generate restaurant customer loyalty.

5. Comfort + Food = Loyalty

Nothing drives people away from good food faster than a bad atmosphere. Create a comfortable atmosphere for your customer- not too hot or cold, make sure no vents blowing directly on one table more than another. If you find that you need to have few vents blasting cold air over a table to get the whole dining room cool, consult your HVAC professional.

The ideal set up for a large dining room involves several small vents spread throughout the space. You can achieve the perfect temperature without one unlucky table. If you want to have restaurant customer retention, give your customers an experience that matches your food. Your dining area shouldn’t be too dark either. Mood lighting is one thing, not being able to see what you’re eating is another. Also keep an eye on the noise level, check out noisy vents, and keep music to a level that still allows conversation.

Of course, you could use all these tricks and still lose customers if they have a bad experience at your restaurant. Even if you think it can’t happen to you, there are preparations you should take. A great restaurant can still provide a bad experience if something goes wrong. The easiest way to lose restaurant customer retention is for customers to walk away unsatisfied, whether it’s the time they had to wait or inability to get what they ordered. That’s why you need to make sure crucial elements like your refrigeration doesn’t fail on you in the middle of a dinner rush.

Related articles:
12 Tips to Get Ready for a Restaurant Health Inspection
Restaurant Refrigeration: 4 Lessons From Frosty the Snowman

A refrigeration failure can result in many problems. Keeping food at the required temperature is hard when you don’t have enough space or a malfunctioning refrigerator. You could lose stock, and lose ingredients for dishes that customers have already ordered. With so many places to eat around, those unhappy customers aren’t likely to give you a second chance. Having properly maintained refrigeration can help avoid such a hit to your restaurant customer retention.

The most cost-effective way to keep your refrigeration units and ice machines properly serviced and working reliably is by signing up for a maintenance contract. It’s similar to the one you may have for keeping your HVAC running reliably, and can be customized for your needs. Find out more from this free guide: Refrigeration Preventive Maintenance Contracts: How to Find the Right One for Your Food Service Operation.
Get Your Free Guide to Refrigeration Maintenance Contracts, Today!