The Holy Grail for an independent restaurant owner is the ability year after year to keep winning new customers. If there was an easy formula everyone would follow it but unfortunately, it’s a difficult process that you have to keep working at. If you can make it work your business will thrive. These are Tasty Eating’s top tips for attracting and keeping new customers.
Offer Something Different
If you stand out from the crowd you will get noticed and attract customers. What is distinctive and different about your restaurant ethos? Do you use fresh local fish? Is your meat from a particular breed of cow? Are your chicken wings covered in a top secret sauce? Are you the only Burmese/Russian roller derby hybrid takeaway in town? Do your staff all sing all the orders in operatic voices to the customers? Whatever sets you apart, you have to make the most of. It doesn’t have to be a gimmick – it could just be a simple mark of quality for your food, but if your USP differentiates you in a crowded market place then it’s something worth highlighting.
Make the most of the marketing opportunities. Along with using the traditional marketing tools a canny business will use social media as a cheap way of getting your restaurant noticed.
Anyone in your business with a decent smartphone can take high-quality pictures of menu items and post them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Hipsters might call it food porn but who cares if it makes customers sit up and take notice. The pictures also can get shared which will spread the word about your menu. Your website is important as a marketing tool too – the trend now is for minimalist, simple design that is easy to navigate – be careful not to overload it with superfluous information – just the menu, contact detail, and some quality photos.
Video is the Future
It’s possible today to shoot a high-quality video for a very affordable price, for as little as €500 to €1000 you can produce a three-minute video that tells your restaurant story and enhances your brand – as with photos, this can be shared on all social media platforms.
What’s the WiFi code?
This is often the first question many digital natives ask. These days offering free WiFi is a sure-fire way to attract customers to your restaurant. It may not be necessary for a takeaway, but any establishment with seating should make this a priority. Make sure it is fast and easy to access – without a complicated signing in process. Some WiFi systems offer a sneaky and automatic ‘Checking in’ system where your customer ‘checks-in when they use your WiFi and all their Facebook friends, can see where they are – another way of spreading the word.
Be Part of the Community
Be aware of what all the local sporting and social groups are doing. Sponsoring football, GAA or rugby teams is a surefire way of attracting business, both from the team and its supporters and from the opposition teams that they come up against. Look into having a mobile unit that can go to sporting events or other social gatherings and get your food noticed at these.
Are you planning anything which can be translated into a great fun launch? A renovation of the premises? A new menu? A celebration of a special day for your town or community? Any event which brings attention is worth putting a bit of effort and money behind. ITICA’s national fish & chip day – half price fish n’ chips – is now in its seventh year and works brilliantly for its participating chippers. Nothing like a deal offered with good will to bring the crowds. If they like what they taste, they’ll come back.
Offer Great Customer Service
Make sure your staff are trained to interact well with your customers. Friendly efficient staff go a long way to making your restaurant memorable in a positive way. Play to their strengths, it a staff member is naturally funny and charming put them front of house not locked away in the stock room.
For God’s Sake Think of the Children
We all know they can be annoying and messy but make sure to welcome your customers’ children – and have something to entertain them – colouring pages, WiFi. Include some healthy snacks on the menu to keep parents happy – something like Milano’s small plate of raw vegetables is quick and easy. Make sure to serve the children quickly to avoid too many tantrums caused by blood/sugar crashes. Some Dublin hipster joints have a policy of no children after six – bad move. They are your future customers.
If your customer asks for something off-menu, try and accommodate them. Showing you’ll make an effort to make their dining an experience as enjoyable as possible is a way of making them more likely to repeat the visit and spread the word to their friends.
The Food, The Food, The Food!
Finally and most importantly make sure your food tastes good. Taste it yourself, get your friends and family to taste it, listen to their criticism, is your food as good as you can make it?