From increased labor costs to decreased foot traffic, the food and beverage industry has seen a substantial number of ups and downs over the past few years. To ensure a steady stream of revenue, restaurants need to propel recurring guest visits and instill a sense of brand loyalty.
Of course, anyone can just say they want repeat business—it’s an admirable goal. But to achieve a goal such as this, you’ve got to have a plan. For a start, this article touches on 3 key areas to focus on when creating a recurring visit strategy with the ultimate guest experience.
1. Training Staff for Unparalleled Service
The restaurant business seems to be one of the last bastions of a human to human service industry. This is beneficial to restaurants because, despite the rapid advancements in technology that seem to be consuming our attention daily, consumers crave human interaction.
This means that there’s more opportunity than ever to for your staff to provide excellent guest experiences. Hosts, servers, and managers need to be natural, friendly, and welcoming in a way that doesn’t feel forced.
“Hi, welcome to [your restaurant], my name is [whatever], I’ll be your server today.” That’s the most basic, standard greeting that we’ve all heard a thousand times—and it’s forced. Imagine I invited you a over for a visit and when you got in, I say, “Hi, welcome to my house. I’m Kevin and I’ll be your friend today.” You probably wouldn’t stick around for long.
When we start to think of patrons as actual guests—rather than merely customers—the tone shifts into a far more personalized sentiment. Sure, there has to be a certain level of professionalism that you wouldn’t expect to hear when visiting a friend, but being real is important. People want genuine smiles and personal greetings, not cookie-cutter statements that feel like they’re being read off a script.
Clearing plates and promptly bringing checks are all a part of basic server training, but prioritizing personalized interactions can be tricky. Make sure you hire the right people. Even if you have to teach them the technical skills later, hiring based on personality and social skills is incredibly beneficial—you can easily train people on proper table service, it’s difficult to teach social skills.
Personalizing the guest experience instills a sense of familiarity and comfort that customers notice. Sticking with the norm means you’re just like everyone else—forgettable.
2. Modernizing Your Atmosphere
Today’s consumer is looking for far more than food and service—they want entire, unique experiences. Yes, your food is still the main event, but every touchpoint from the moment they walk in needs to “wow” them. Consider the architecture and décor, the background music, what’s playing on your TV screens, and any other aspects of your venue that engage guests with all 5 senses. Unless you’re some kind of nostalgia-themed restaurant, you’ve got to ensure that your environment is as modern and engaging as possible. For example, consider how you’re using TV screens. More often than not, venues are playing news or sports highlights on mute. This is the “Welcome to [restaurant] my name is [whatever]” approach to atmosphere—everyone’s doing it and no one’s paying attention to it. You’re actually wasting your screens if you’re not using them to their full potential.
Music videos are the solution that more and more restaurants are adapting. It’s an easy way to both modernize an atmosphere and combine the sights and sounds of a venue into one, seamless experience. People take notice when something other than the norm is playing on the TVs of a restaurant. The unexpected delight that comes with seeing something new and different, even in this small way, has a lot of wow-potential.
Digital signage, or “infotainment” as it’s come to be known, is a great way to take advantage of your existing digital real estate and make it work for you. Promoting menu items, special events, or social media pages on your TVs is a great way to generate interest and upsell product. It has to be done strategically, of course, when guests’ eyes are on the screens. That’s why having digital signage in your music video system is so advantageous. They’re already engaged, watching the videos, so if you pop in a promo now and then, it has a lot more impact.
3. Leveraging Online Reviews
According to a consumer review survey by BrightLocal, 86% of customers will read reviews for local businesses—that number is increased to 95% when only considering people aged 18-34. Most restaurants are well aware of the power held by Yelp, Facebook, and other user-review platforms. So, what do you do when poor reviews are submitted online?
The first thing to keep in mind is that you definitely should respond, but respond in the right way. One study states that 88% of consumers are less likely to buy from a business that ignores complaints on social media. Responding with a genuine apology, however, makes these customers 44% more likely to share that positive follow-up and 30% of them will end up recommending the brand!
The negative reviews aren’t the only reviews you should be paying attention to. Responding to positive reviews fosters a path for the guest to become a valuable brand ambassador. Did they absolutely love their dessert? Offer them a free one on their next visit as a way of saying thank you. Recurring visits are directly linked to brand loyalty—and treating your loyalists like royalty will bring big returns!
There may be the issue that your happiest guests aren't writing reviews. Whether it's in person, print, or with a follow-up email, don't be shy to ask your guests to share their opinions and reviews online. People enjoy voicing their opinions and you'll be surprised what a simple, friendly request can do for your online standing.
Of course, there are many ways to enhance your guest experience and drive recurring visits. If you need to modernize the audio/video elements of your bar or restaurant, talk to a Control Play Business Development Executive today and see how our innovative software can WOW your guests and keep them coming back for more!