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October 17, 2019 Webinar Recap: 7 Strategies to Ensure New Customers Return

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What are you doing to ensure new customers come back again? Unfortunately, too many bars and restaurants leave that second visit up to chance. You’re smarter than that…which is why you attended the October 17th webinar, presented by Buzztime and Wisk AI.

In just an hour, we covered the following 7 proven strategies to drive repeat business – and convert first-timers to long-time, loyal customers.

1) Get Personal with Your Customers

2) Master Customer Service

3) Add Entertainment Value

4) Offer a Strong Incentive to Return

5) Maximize In-Venue Marketing

6) Capture Contact Information

7) Focus on Customer Satisfaction

Even if you missed the webinar (or parts of it), we’ve got your back with a complete wrap up. So read on and prepare to boost repeat business…

Strategy #1: Get Personal with Your Customers

Welcome Customer Preferences and Requests

That means no side-eye from your servers when a guest asks for 3 modifications to their meal, or requests an obscure cocktail from the bar! Welcoming – not just accepting – customer preferences is a surefire way to win their repeat business.

In fact, you should be proactive with notes on your menu for dishes that are vegan/vegetarian, gluten-free, sugar-free, and even paleo or keto diet friendly.

If you ignore this repeat business advice, and downplay the importance of catering to customer preferences, prepare for some bad news: 1 in 3 Americans WON’T return if they felt the waiter didn’t pay attention to their preferences.

Get on a First-Name Basis

Whenever possible, staff should greet customers by name – it’s one of the best ways to secure repeat business and customer loyalty, according to a SevenRooms Study. So, how can you get their first names? When calling for reservations, train staff to ask “is this your first time with us?” The host can ask when guests arrive if it’s their first time visiting, and get their names.

 Facetime with the Manager Can Up Your Chances of Repeat Business

Your managers should always “make the rounds” to each table and chat up new guests. This makes customers feel like VIPs, and establishes a personal connection. Another out-of-the-box strategy for procuring repeat business is a follow up call! Car repair shops do it…why can’t you? Managers can make a follow up phone call or text thanking customers for coming into your business.

Strategy #2 Master Customer Service 

The best way to earn a second visit is to rock the first one! This is the golden rule when it comes to gaining repeat business at your bar or restaurant. We turned to a landmark 2018 Pricewaterhouse Coopers Future of Customer Experience Survey of 15,000 people for the following statistics on mastering customer service:

Put Convenience and Efficiency First

Let’s face it, everyone wants fast service and not having to wait long periods of time to order, receive, and pay for their meals. In fact, 70% of all customers value convenience. If service takes longer than average, don’t expect repeat business. Customers will always remember that you’re the establishment with the slow service, and may avoid you.

Efficient and fast service, the first time, is essential if your mission is to boost repeat business. After all, people never want to wait long for anything – especially when they’re hungry! We’re an “on-demand” society”. For example, for Gen Z, instant is everything. Patience is not a quality of their generation and it’s no surprise that they’re part of the 43% of all customers who would pay more for greater convenience.

Ensure Your Team Has a Positive Attitude

The #1 way to ruin the customer experience and ruin your chances of repeat business according to the PWC survey? Employees with bad attitudes who are unfriendly.

No matter how terrible a customer is behaving, employees must be trained on how to handle these situations with sincerity and gratitude. Staff also represent the restaurant as a whole and have a major impact on repeat business. So, even just one unfriendly staff member could hurt your brand’s image. Any type of unfriendly service drives 60% of customers away. And, unsurprisingly, 42% would pay more for a friendly, welcoming experience.

Empower Your Staff with Knowledge

The survey noted that 80% of customers value knowledgeable staff. Employees must expect to get asked many questions about menu items, ingredients, prices, etc.

The best thing to do is to make sure all employees know the answers to basic and frequently asked questions. You don’t want to risk the 46% of all consumers who will abandon a brand if the employees are not knowledgeable.

Also, treat staff with respect so that they’re not afraid to ask questions, even obvious ones. Overall, your entire team should be trained on all the ins and outs of your restaurant to deliver better customer service (leading to repeat business).

Source for Statistics: 2018 Pricewaterhouse Coopers Future of Customer Experience Survey of 15,000 people

Strategy #3 Add Entertainment Value 

Focus on Fun, It’s as Important as Quality to Customers!

Above all, fun fosters loyalty and can earn you the repeat business you deserve. Want proof? In a Facebook Loyalty Study , researchers asked 14,000 people to describe their favorite businesses. The top word used was “quality” while the second most-used word was “fun.”

Think about it: fun creates an experience. It elevates your food and drinks into something more. Dining out becomes more than just eating and drinking, and 70% of customers agree that going out to eat is an opportunity for entertainment (based on a by AT&T and Technomic.)

To Maximize Repeat Business, Integrate Fun into EVERY Visit

Put fun on repeat, so that every single guest who dines with you experiences your entertainment. Here are some ongoing entertainment ideas to help boost repeat business:

  • Tableside games: Buzztime handheld tablets provide arcade-style games for all ages
  • Smartphone trivia: Customers can compete in trivia against others nationwide, using the free Buzztime entertainment app on their smartphone and playing along on your TVs
  • Outdoor patio games: cornhole, “giant” Jenga or Scrabble, or any of these 20 bar patio games!
  • Food and drink prep with FLAIR: flaming cheese, Caesar salad prepared tableside, flaming drinks or bartender drinks

Cater to the Kids

The kids are more than alright, they’re calling the shots when it comes to repeat business. If they love a certain restaurant, they’ll tell their parents. And today, 43% of parents let kids decide where to dine according to Technomic’s recent Generational Report.

To cultivate repeat business with kids, focus on fun specifically geared towards their little lifestyles. That means letting them go wild by writing on the wall (a chalkboard wall of course). Or, it could be a kid’s corner stocked with books and games. How about prizes with every kid’s meal…just like McDonald’s? Finally, one night a week, host a family night: hire a magician, storyteller, or musician. Then watch as repeat business with families takes off…

Special Events Drive Repeat Business

For best repeat business results, run special events on a recurring basis so it becomes a welcome weekly or bi-weekly habit for your customers. Right now, super social events are trending. While live music always works, it doesn’t exactly encourage conversation. Instead, try a DIY craft night like a Paint n’ Sip night. Or run a live trivia event using Buzztime tablets or smartphones – your staff can host, or hire one of Buzztime’s pros. How about running workshops and classes like Bartending 101…led by your staff?

Strategy #4 Offer a Strong Incentive to Return

Discover Jon Taffer’s Approach to Repeat Business

Mr. Taffer shared this strategy for repeat business in a video featuring his no-nonsense approach. It all starts by training your servers and hosts to ask EVERY customer if they’ve dined with you before. Then, the repeat business magic happens, which we’ve summarized for you, here:

  • Step 1: The host or server identifies guest is new, puts down a different color napkin so everyone in house knows they’re new!
  • Step 2: Manager makes a visit to table, recommends a dish, and writes “$5 off” that dish on the back of his/her business card
  • Step 3: When the guest returns and redeems the card, the manager hands out another card with offer for free item (dessert or appetizer) at next visit

By the third visit, Jon Taffer claims that the likelihood of you earning repeat business from that customer is 70%. So, why does this method work so well? There are three reasons. First, it’s personal. It’s harder to refuse a second visit when it’s requested by a manager, in person. Second, this repeat business strategy is rewarding. There’s an incentive for the guest to return. Finally, Jon Taffer’s method is trackable…servers can enter data about repeat visits and offers into the POS system. That way you can see if his method works for you – and moves the needle on repeat business.

Other Ideas to Incentivize Second Visits

To encourage repeat business, try offering “bring-back bucks.” These are simple coupons handed out to customers good for a set amount off their next visit to you. The key is to make these bring-back bucks valid within a limited time period, like 2-3 weeks.

Another smart way to drive repeat business is to sell tickets, collect RSVPs, or even take reservations for upcoming events. To do this, train your wait staff to always personally invite customers to those events. Ultimately, you want to use FOMO (fear of missing out) to encourage an RSVP or ticket sale…right at the table!

Strategy #5 Maximize In-Venue Marketing

Use the Space Within Your 4 Walls to “Sell” That Second Visit!

There’s no need to turn your restaurant or bar into Times Square. However, subtle, tasteful marketing on premises can promote reasons for your customers to come back. Yes, in-venue marketing is the “unsung hero” of earning repeat business.

Digital Signage Turns TVs into Customizable Billboards

Simple software from Buzztime turns TVs and screens into digital ads. Use these digital ads to increase repeat business. How? By promoting upcoming events, specials, new menu launches…anything to bring ‘em back! Professionally designed templates are included and your ads can be pre-programed by daypart.

Tap Into “Hidden” In-venue Marketing

Digital signage is just one way to get the word out about reasons to return. Try these other methods for sparking repeat business by promoting events:

  • Posters in unexpected places: coat roam, restroom, walls near restrooms
  • Custom coasters at the bar: great opportunity to invite customers to follow you on social media
  • Menus are for more than food: include reminders of weekly events like happy hour

Think of Your Staff as Repeat Business Ambassadors

Your own waitstaff and bartenders are marketers and can help you earn that second visit! Train them to personally invite customers back or to a special event.

Strategy #6 Capture Contact Information (Then Use it Wisely to Drive Repeat Business)

How to Gather Key Contact Data

When it comes to increasing repeat business, capturing contact information is everything! First, with the right information such as the customer’s name, phone number, or email address – you can set up a number of marketing campaigns.

Having the customer’s name also gives you a chance to personalize communications – and as we mentioned earlier, personalization is important in earning repeat business and customer loyalty.

One way to gather contact info is through online ordering. While a customer is processing an order online, you can ask for their name, email, and phone number.

You can also create a rewards program, where customers hand over information in order to join your program. Strong incentives are essential not only for driving signups, but for encouraging repeat business! For instance, offer a free meal after their 5th visit.

An additional way to collect data is by offering free wi-fi at your bar or restaurant. Whenever someone signs up through a 3rd party gateway – like Yelp Wifi – they’ll have to enter their name and email address.

Lastly, collect information through email signup forms at your website, and then use those emails to drive repeat business. Email signup forms automatically add customers to your email list with their names and email addresses. In order to get customers to sign up, offer an incentive like, “free meal during your birthday month.”

Once you gather all of this information, use it wisely to boost repeat business. Set up email campaigns using an email management software like MailChimp. With it, you can track exactly who opened your emails, how many times they opened them, and if they click on any links.

Strategy #7: Focus on Customer Satisfaction

The One Thing That Can REALLY Ruin Your Chances at Repeat Business (Hint: Shortages)

Last but not least, customer satisfaction plays a crucial role in driving repeat business. Some of the obvious aspects that please customers are:

  • Food and beverage quality
  • Timely service
  • Atmosphere
  • Pricing
  • Cleanliness
  • On-time seat reservations
  • Staff allergy awareness
  • Simplifying saying “thank you”

However, what’s less obvious, is what WISK AI noticed after developing their app. Consistent supply shortages can cause a huge reduction in repeat business. In other words, having everything you need in stock at all times is absolutely necessary in pleasing your customers and it shouldn’t be ignored!

There’s nothing worse than showing up to a bar or restaurant and wanting something on the menu, only to hear they ran out of the specific type of vodka needed to make the drink. Having to tell customers that you’ve run out of their favorite menu items causes disappointment, distrust, and reduces your chances of repeat business.

With proper inventory management from WISK AI, drink shortages can be completely avoided. You can easily track inventory to ensure that you have what you need in stock, including the most popular drink ingredients. As a result, customer satisfaction will be retained, leading to repeat business.