Maintaining contact with customers offers the highest return on investment beating out promotional strategies or advertising campaigns that target new customers. Regular contact promotes the restaurant’s brand and establishes strong value in the minds of customers.

Keeping steady contact is key to the word of mouth marketing. Of course, word of mouth motivates repeat customers to talk to new customers about your restaurant. Nothing is more effective that a real world recommendation and nearly all restaurant marketing is meant to support word of mouth marketing.

Strategies for staying connected include archiving personal information about customers and bringing up key facts when people dine in the restaurant.

You can also recognize birthdays, store information about a customer’s preferred foods and menu specials and highlights of coming events and attractions. Acting on this information encourages customers to dine out with friends and families at your restaurant. Email campaigns, social media and rewards programs make staying digitally connected easy without generating major expenses.

Personal Contact with Restaurant Customers

Maintaining communications with customers requires both active and proactive strategies that capitalize on opportunities and create them.

Start in your restaurant.  Not all restaurateurs and managers have excellent social skills,. Restaurant managers who recognize their limitations in this area can delegate making personal contact to an assistant, host or maître d’ with great people skills.

Take advantage of in-person contact to find out key information on each visit. Additionally, record the significant issues, guest preferences and personal details promptly where staff members can use the information.

Technologies with Top ROI

Beyond personal contact, technology helps to keep communications open.

The best strategies for maintaining contact through off-site communications include the following five steps listed in order of their return on investment:

  1. Email Newsletters
    Inexpensive, informative and proactive, email newsletters let customers know what’s happening at the restaurant, reminds them of specials, provides information on sustainable suppliers and target customers demographically for customized versions.
  2. Rewards Programs
    Rewards or loyalty programs offer signature benefits for keeping customers returning regularly and finding and recording detailed information about their ordering histories. Restaurateurs don’t need to devalue their products but can offer benefits based on customers recommending the restaurant, placing larger orders, ordering more expensive menu items or rewarding them for long-term loyalty.
  3. Social Media
    Restaurant marketing today begins with social media. Owners and managers can connect with customers in real-time, engage them in constructive dialogues and test-market new menu items, restaurant initiatives and charitable support for local and national causes. Giving out incentives may be key to encourage customers to first tune into social media. It is just as important to maintain a high level of content and value on social media.
  4. Mobile Communications
    Mobile marketing offers low costs and easy ways to track results, but designing a mobile-friendly website is just one element of defining a mobile strategy. Connect with customers with text campaigns with links to advertising to prevent intrusive advertising. Be sure that customers sign up knowing that they will receive messages (unlike emails people read texts as they come in and not at their leisure).Most people do read their texts, and a restaurant’s customers will almost always check the messages and advertising from their favorite eateries. Restaurateurs can use mobile marketing to reach established customers and target prospective diners based on their online searching habits, location and other criteria.
  5. Fliers
    Fliers have generated extraordinary business for neighborhood operations, but printing and distributing costs can be expensive. Of course, customers can get flyers at the restaurant, but this doesn’t help when people haven’t visited recently. The method is considerably cheaper than many forms of media advertising, however, and fliers are essential for any restaurant that has a substantial delivery service.

Don’t Focus on New Customers at the Expense of Regulars

Many restaurateurs spend far too much time chasing new business instead of building loyalty with established customers. Regular patrons are the chief source of new business for restaurants except for operations that cater to transients and tourists.

But tourists are also affected by your most loyal customers. Easy communications through mobile devices makes even the tourist trade subject to recommendations from previous visitors. Make all customers feel warm and appreciated regardless of whether their orders are small or if they’re just visiting the area.

Visiting a restaurant is a social activity, and few people rely on restaurants for basic sustenance. Maintaining a congenial relationship with customers not only helps to ensure loyalty but also serves as the raison d’être of restaurant promotions: getting new customers in the door.

Satisfied and appreciated customers bring friends, families and business associates to restaurants, engage facilities for parties, celebrations and catering, recommend their favorite dining venues to casual acquaintances and post favorable comments in online forums. Restaurateurs can’t buy cheaper or more convincing endorsements than enlisting customers to promote their operations.