Trust is the foundation of loyalty. Both are vital ingredients in the restaurant business. Giants of the industry have crumbled in the face of e-coli outbreaks or viral videos revealing malpractice, which fostered a lack of trust. These scandals often times cause irrevocable damage. Preventative measures are more effective than reparative. Invest in the following areas to build trust and loyalty among your clients.
Each member of your staff, from executives to busboys, should be on the same page when it comes to core policies. Everything from customer service to allergen protocols should be clearly understood across the board. Take the latter for example. Food restrictions are a common phenomena. There are few things more unsettling for someone with food allergies or sensitivities than a server who is unsure of the kitchen’s cooking precautions. This is a quick fix but a common problem. Your staff should be aware of the to common allergens and the practices your kitchen uses to meet these restrictions. As it is rare to find a restaurant whose staff competently manages food restrictions, this is a prime opportunity to distinguish your establishment and create loyal patrons.
Society in general has a heightened awareness of properly sourced ingredients. This includes everything from the ethical harvesting to the health concerns involved with GMOs. The only sure ground here is transparency. Offer your guests easy-access to ingredient lists and supply chain details. Often times, your guests won’t invest too much time investigating the information you provide; however, the fact that you provide this information goes a long way towards establishing a sense of trust.
This seems painfully obvious but is rarely practiced: Ask customers what they want. Communication is essential to any relationship, even between service provider and client. Providing your guests with an opportunity to share their feedback not only gives you an excellent opportunity to fine-tune your practices; it is also an opportunity to emphasize the importance you place in your guests, in a personal way. With easy access to automated texting services or even old-school comment cards, you can make great bounds in your ability to establish rapport with your clientele.
Loyalty should be recognized and rewarded. This is true even in transactional relationships. Rewards programs are an effective way to bring customers back for more. The promise of future benefits is a definite allure when it comes to present spending. For example, if you have a rewards program that rewards a guest with a free tenth appetizer, every appetizer purchased in the interim will boost your client’s momentum towards the tenth appetizer. The probability of their patronage goes up. Consider what programs suit your situation and experiment with different creative options. The costs are low and the rewards are potentially long-lasting.
There is no substitute for a quality. No matter how ingenious your business model is in every other aspect, guests are unlikely to be loyal to an experience which failed in the quality department. While someone might go to a subpar restaurant once or twice if it offered a unique experience, you can’t generate a loyal clientele base with an “experience”. Quality control must be a top priority. Every member of your staff should be of the same mind in this regard.
Common sense dictates that relationships are built on trust. This extends to business, particularly the food business. Loyal customers are the mainstay of your success. Investing in their needs and wants is a sure investment in your future success.
Challenge: lay the groundwork for one of these suggestions and build one loyal customer relationship today.
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