Before we share with you proven ways how to attract new customers to your restaurant, we want to remind you of one the most important points. In the restaurant business, it is imperative not only to expand the customer base but also to pay attention to one’s regular, loyal customers.
This might seem obvious, but many budding restaurateurs are so addicted to attracting new customers that they completely forget about their loyal guests. Yet the influx of new guests often depends on them: if they are satisfied, their friends and the friends of their friends will find out about your location and will want to visit it. When loyal guests share their impressions, they create an approachable and attractive image, which their friends and acquaintances will understand. WOM currently works through social networks, which we’ll discuss in detail a little later.
Some restaurant strategies to attract customers to your restaurant
Here are the main questions you must ask yourself before you go into business:
- Who is the target audience (TA) for your business?
- What interests these people, what will attract visitors to a cafe?
- How will you attract them?
- How do you create a loyal customer base so that you no longer need to keep thinking about attracting new customers?
The chief question is, “Who is your customer?” It is important for you to establish your TA, your typical visitors. What are their interests, how old are they, what are gets them going, what books do they read, what shows do they watch, do they travel, and, not least, what problems and needs do they have? Are they likely to be interested in what you are offering? How can your cafe, bar or restaurant help them relax?
Use this knowledge! Almost all budding entrepreneurs forget about this. Take a piece of paper and write down answers to these questions. When you read them to yourself or your friends, you will have created a clearer image in your mind of your customer. You’ll stop trying to please everyone and focus on a specific group of people. For example, if your aimed to attract families to your restaurant then probably you need to focus to become one of the best kid-friendly restaurants in the area.
Hopefully, we got that sorted out, so now you can proceed specifically to the ways to increase traffic and how to bring more customers to your restaurant, cafe, or bar.
Improve service all the time
We bet you keep asking yourself “how to attract customers to my restaurant?” First of all, be sure to maintain service standards. No matter how many people work in your location (2 or 10), the guest should notice no difference in service. Don’t forget to keep tabs on and train up your employees to be confident at their professional level.
Keep in mind that your personnel are the face of your business; through them, you communicate with the customers, and they make the largest contribution in creating the location’s image. As waiters and bartenders, hire people who love communicating, who can keep up a conversation without being too intrusive. Shy people do not fit in these positions.
The waiter should be the first to notice that the guest’s glass is almost empty and needs refilling. If the customer hasn’t asked for it yet, this will pleasantly surprise him. But don’t take the initiative and refresh drinks without asking the guest.
If it’s not a visitor’s first time with you, you should get to know their name, propose they become a regular and offer them a loyalty card. Show you remember them by asking, for example: “Do you want that order of chicken wings with cheese dip, like last time, or try something new?” Or just recognize the fact that he’s been before with the hint: “Since this is your second time with us, our chef has prepared a great gift especially for you!” Always encourage the customer and give him/her that extra attention, another reason for dropping by again.
The loyalty system is one of the biggest parts of restaurant marketing. The goal of any program not just bring customers into your restaurant but to create a mutually beneficial relationship between visitors and the location. To set up an effective loyalty system for a restaurant, first, you need to find out what exactly visitors want to have and what they can be interested in for a second visit. Provide customer surveys and attendance analysis for a specific period of time, say, month or a week. The main goal of the loyalty system is to keep the location on a demanded level, which ensures a steady flow of loyal visitors. You can create similar loyalty systems with good restaurant and coffee POS system.
Let the chef or his assistants get out to the guests, talk to them. Nowadays this is a rarity in small locations. And don’t forget to serve little treats while guests are waiting for meals, especially if they have to wait a while.
Create your own unique menu
The cuisine is not only a device to attract new customers to your restaurant, but also the basis for keeping them. First of all, you need to surprise your visitors with your menu. Even if the recipes are not amazingly awesome (no Michelin stars here!), the cooking should be at the highest level. Don’t forget about a creative presentation of menu items. Agree there is a difference between Caesar and Brutus’ Victim salads, yet although the differences in ingredients might be minimal, they have to be emphasized. For example, whether you use cornbread crunches instead of rye-bread crunches.
The main goal of a successful cafe or restaurant is to feed its customers delicious food: after all, this is the reason they’ll come back. Undoubtedly, decor and ambience play an important role, but creative inventiveness will not increase traffic to your location if you can’t cater to your visitor’s gastronomic needs.
And do not forget the smell! A coffee house should smell of freshly-ground coffee; in a steak house, you should detect a subtle smell of roast meat and spices. The location should smell palatable and appetizing, and not like in the kitchen, where flavors mix and turn into the smell of McDonald’s.
Maintain the ambience of the location
The interior and ambiance directly depend on the target audience so this point should definitely become one of strategies to attract customers in restaurant. If you have a small facility in a remote part of the city, turning it into a luxury restaurant is not the best option. Instead, focus on the site, create an atmosphere of a Mon-and-Pop joint with a thought-out story, that’s quite another matter.
The ambience is a very delicate question that depends on detail. The details emphasize the chosen style and direction, they impart that unique “something” to your location. Unusual lighting and arrangement of tables, division of rooms by color and cuisine, frescoes, bright patchwork sofas, an array of souvenirs, and much more. The details will be more memorable, but we should not blindly clone a successful concept, copying what works out of another interior—it won’t gel. After all, if the customers have seen this already, they won’t talk about it as something new. Nevertheless, borrowing a few points, adding your own unique details is a good idea.
One of the most important details for attracting new visitors is a prominent, vivid outdoor sign. Not a screaming billboard or huge letters at all the windows through which neither passers-by nor visitors can see anything, but an interesting design, favorably distinguishing you from nearby locations. Typically, the entrance to the location should be in harmony with the interior concept, unless, of course, the opposite is part of the designer’s idea. Take an example with an invisible entrance and a small sign like “Cronies Only,” while inside there is a spacious place with high ceilings, dozens of tables, and two bars in different rooms. In this case, a surprise effect is achieved by contrast, which in itself is a unique feature.
Promote the location in social media
There are many restaurant strategies to attract customers, most tips on the right advertising are reducible to the usual distribution of leaflets in a stupid costume in the street or placing an ad in a local newspaper. It’s simple: hire a promotional designer, order leaflets from a printing bureau, and get out to conquer the surrounding streets every day of the week. Some restaurateurs go further: they add value to these leaflets, by including a small bonus or a one-off discount. Unfortunately, most of these bright pieces of paper end up in a nearby trash can, or even worse—on the pavement right near your location. Certainly, there is a point to this, but only a little, and in the eyes of your TA it could negatively affect your image. The distribution of such leaflets looks extremely aggressive and suggests that the location you are trying to promote is really rather weak.
The same applies to websites with coupons: if you want to promote a new meal or event, you can use their services as a one-off, but otherwise it is not the best option. Crowds of freeloaders, those who love eating and drinking “for zilch”, will show up, but you won’t see them a second time, while you’re stuck with the losses.
How then is it possible to effectively promote your own cafe, restaurant or bar? The fastest way to get more clients is to use the Internet and social media. So first things to do is to figure out how to promote your restaurant on Instagram. Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine someone’s profile on any of the social media without Friday photos from some kind of location. And they put geolocation marks and a whole bunch of hashtags, where the name of the location is likely to be. Encourage your visitors to publish these posts. Do draws for reviews about the location or the signature dish, arrange contests on the shares from your public profile, photo reports from events, etc. You need to have active profiles and groups on social media; we can’t do without them these days! Order search engine advertising to attract new customers. When you launch paid advertising on social media, be sure to consider geotargeting so you don’t wind up showing ads for your restaurant in Chicago to folks in New Jersey. Also, don’t forget to set an age limit for ad displays. For example, if you have a sushi bar, it is logical to limit the audience only to 18 to 35 adults and specify “sushi” etc. among their interests.
“Smilies” by a culinary blogger or surprise reviewer can also be successful. Find such a person in your city and order a review from him. When people see how your location actually works, through their idol praising your concept or cuisine, they will definitely want to visit with you! Browse the culinary channels on YouTube or order an article on the restaurant review websites.
At least you should create your profile on Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor and fill it with restaurant photos, meal descriptions, and other information that might interest your target audience. By the way this is great way to attract tourists to your restaurant.
Create special offers
The main function of sales promotions, special offers, and loyalty programs is to increase sales and the average check, but they also help with traffic as well. By creating interesting promotions to attract customers, you’ll gain yourself an image, but you will incur losses if the promotion is focused only on attracting customers to a restaurant. Approach the preparation and launch of the promotion very cautiously.
It is best to configure promotions using an automation system. For example, it can be conveniently implemented in the management console for managers and owners in POS system software for a restaurant. You can try the program for free for two weeks.
Some other ways to attract customers to restaurant
Remember: if you want to attract guests to a restaurant or cafe, you need a shtick—some exclusivity, a feature that makes you stand out from your competitors. The options for such shticks are infinite. There is no real difficulty of attracting new customers. Having told you about five methods, we can only give you a brief idea of how to start. You can use interior items, a special dish, unusual staff, serving, an event concept, etc.
As a brief reminder, we decided to compile a small list of mandatory techniques that should increase traffic by attracting customers to your restaurant:
- In the morning and at lunch: promotions, special offers, drinks for free, business lunches, etc.
- In the evening: live music, DJs, workshops.
- Create a schedule of events and feasts, fill in holidays in the most profitable way.
- Allow customers to book tables.
- Introduce “live” bonuses with an instant benefit for the visitor. For example, if service takes longer 20 minutes, the order is free.
- If you have a night bar or club, then don’t forget those special offers for girls: free cocktails! The more interest the ladies feel, the more the men will be attracted to you!
- Don’t be in a hurry to lower prices, if you select a wealthy TA. It’s better to increase the portions and to include a meal that no competitors have on their menus. Even if it isn’t high-margin, it will add prestige to your location, after all.
- If you have a small coffee house, place magazines and newspapers, or even books throughout the venue.
- And once more: take photos and post them on social media, promote the location through your own visitors