Building Customer Loyalty in your Restaurant

Restaurant Best Practices Feb 22, 2024

Ever wondered why customers keep coming back to their favorite restaurants? It's all about building customer loyalty—the not-so-secret ingredient for any restaurant's success. But what is customer loyalty, and why is it a big deal? In this blog, we dive deep into all things customer loyalty and why putting in the effort to build loyalty isn't just good for business, it makes the dining experience better for everyone. 

But first, let’s cover the basics.

What is Customer Loyalty & Why is it Important?

Customer loyalty is that strong bond a guest forms with a restaurant, choosing to keep coming back and telling their pals about it. It's not just about satisfying customers, it's about creating a personal connection that makes them feel valued and appreciated.

So, why is customer loyalty important? Building loyalty is the key to guests coming back, spending a bit more each time, and turning into brand advocates for your restaurant. Loyal customers don't just eat, they become your biggest fans. They spread the word about you and bring in new faces. Plus building customer loyalty helps restaurants create a sense of community and build long-term relationships with their guests.

Ready to discover some tips and strategies to boost customer loyalty and bring more diners through your restaurant doors? Let's go!

Tip 1: Be Mindful of Customer Reviews

Reviews are one of the easiest ways to boost restaurant customer loyalty. Responding to reviews shows that your restaurant values and prioritizes guest feedback. When you respond to reviews, you're telling your customers that their thoughts really matter. This not only builds trust, but it also works wonders in keeping folks coming back. Here's how:

Building Trust

Whether the review is a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down, responding shows you care. When customers see that you’re thankful for positive feedback and are willing to fix issues mentioned in negative reviews, it increases trust in your brand.

Addressing Concerns

Negative reviews? No problem. They're actually a chance to turn things around. When you tackle guest feedback head-on, it sends a clear message: you're serious about making things better. That can turn unhappy customers into your biggest fans.

Personalizing Interaction

Great review responses aren’t just about replying. It’s about making it personal. Use names, and address specific points – show them you're not a robot, but a team that cares about each customer's unique experience. If you want to take a deeper dive into review management and writing amazing review responses, check out our blog post on the Anatomy of a Review Response

Let’s take a look at how to personalize and respond to negative feedback:

Frank doesn't just respond; he makes it personal. Calling customers by name and diving into their concerns, he shows that he values customer feedback and goes above and beyond to deliver excellent customer service. 

Encouraging Positive Word of Mouth

On the other hand, responses to positive reviews can encourage customers to share their experiences with others. This can lead to positive word-of-mouth marketing, attracting new customers, and… you guessed it, increased customer loyalty.

You can apply the same strategies to a positive review response. It all comes down to personalization and actively listening to your customers. 

Frank keeps it short, sweet, and personal. By giving a nod to the specific dishes customers love and taking the time to respond, he is on his way to building a loyal customer base and turning one-time guests like Brian into regulars. 

Explore our blog titled Anatomy of a Review Response: A Step-by-Step Guide to Managing Guest Reviews & Feedback for more review management tips.

Improving Brand Image

Reviews, whether positive or negative, help shape your brand image. A brand that is responsive and attentive to customer feedback is often seen more positively than one that does not engage with its customers. When customers see that their feedback is recognized and addressed, they are more likely to feel a sense of loyalty to your brand. This sense of connection can lead to repeat business and long-term customer loyalty.

This is just the beginning. Let’s move on to more strategies that you can use to build customer loyalty. 

Tip 2: Use Social Media to Build Customer Loyalty

Social media is a powerful marketing strategy to engage with your customers. It creates a two-way street where you can create a bond with your customers. Let’s dive into the ways you can unleash the power of social media to begin building a loyal customer base.

Know your guests (and let them know you)

Your brand has a personality, and it's time to let it shine. Create content that speaks to your customers and show them why they should care about your brand. Use high-quality images and showcase the variety of your menu, the atmosphere of your restaurant, and the uniqueness of your brand. If you really want to get personal, give your audience a glimpse behind the scenes. Share stories about your chefs, staff, or the secret ingredient to your pizza sauce. This makes your brand relatable and gives customers more reasons to cheer for your restaurant.

Remember, great content isn’t just relatable. It should also be informative. Think of your social channels as a cool corner of the internet dedicated to your brand. Make it a mini website for customers – hours, locations, and even a quick way to order should be at their fingertips! Thanks to social media, you can drop direct links to everything they need. Customers love simplicity. Making it easy for them to find and order from you is a key step in turning repeat customers into loyal ones.

Engage customers on social media

Think of your social channels as a digital customer experience. Just like reviews, keep an eye on comments, messages, and feedback. Quick, professional responses to both the highs and lows show you're engaged and serious about keeping guests happy.

Don't shy away from adding a dash of humor and creativity to your content. Share a meme, throw in a surprise promo, or spill the tea on special deals. Your social channels should be where loyal customers feel like insiders, getting the scoop before everyone else. 

Summit Pizza Co and Gregory’s Coffee apply these strategies frequently to engage with their loyal customers on social media:

Customer love deserves recognition! When they comment, share stories, or hit that follow button, show some love back and make sure they know you’re grateful for their support. Want to take customer loyalty to the next level? Turn the tables. Follow and engage with their content. Who wouldn’t love to get a like or a comment from their favorite brunch spot’s Instagram account? This is a simple, powerful way to boost customer engagement and continue building loyalty - it’s a win-win for your restaurant!

Tip 3: Create a customer loyalty program

If you are ready to fully commit to the customer loyalty train, it may be time to create a loyalty program! A restaurant loyalty program can offer several benefits like repeat business, increased customer retention, and higher spend per visit. 

Throw in exclusive deals, discounts, or sneak peeks at promotions to boost your brand loyalty. Your restaurant loyalty program doesn’t have to be fancy either. A punch card or some email magic can kick things off in style.

Feeling extra fancy? Consider the big leagues with loyalty partners and apps. Get quality insights into what your customers love, and let it shape your menu specials, genius marketing moves, and more. If you’re ready to level up your restaurant customer loyalty program, check out our friends at Thanx for the inside scoop on how to know which restaurant loyalty program is right for you

Tip 4: Deliver a Memorable Guest Experience

Now, let’s bring customer loyalty into the four walls of your restaurant. What happens when a guest walks through those doors? That's the stuff they spill in reviews, on social media, in in-app feedback – you name it. It's basically the customer loyalty engine. 

No pressure, right?

We've got your back. Let's dish out some tricks to serve up an experience that'll have customers coming back for more.

Make it Easy for Customers to Find You

Picture this: a potential guest is on the hunt for a spot to satisfy their cravings, maybe stumbling upon you on social media or through a quick Google search. Your goal? Make it a breeze for them to get all of your information.  

Let's be real. Showing up to a restaurant you’re excited to visit only to find it closed is the worst. It's like a trust fall gone wrong. And trust is important when it comes to building customer loyalty. Accurate info on hours, location, and your menu is the first step in creating a seamless and unforgettable experience.

Let’s level up this approach.

Add categories and SEO keywords to make sure you stand out from the competition. Got a pup-friendly patio or cool outdoor seating? Kids' menu? Don't be shy. Include this information in your listings. Not only does it boost your search ranking, but it also turns curious clickers into actual diners.

Imagine being a customer, stumbling upon The Rustic on Google. They are a Houston-based American restaurant serving up delicious food and a great atmosphere. Any customer would know exactly what experience they are in for just by taking a look at their listing.

Spot-on details, no missing pieces, and up-to-date. Every category? Filled to the brim with what this place has to offer, down to what the parking situation looks like. 

This is what we mean when we say make it easy for your customers. Being reliable and informative from the beginning is a great way to build customer loyalty.

Provide Customer Service Worth Talking About

Alright, the stage is set – guests are in your restaurant. Now it is up to you and your team to wow them. Serve up consistent service to lay the groundwork for long-term loyalty from your customers. 

And for those familiar faces who keep coming back for more, get personal. Remember names, know preferences – make them feel like VIPs. It's these little connections that transform a meal into loyal customers.

Great customer service plays the biggest role in building loyalty by creating positive and memorable experiences, building trust, and demonstrating your restaurant’s dedication to go above and beyond.

Tip 5: Invest in Data and Technology

Invest in tools that help you maintain that customer loyalty at the core of your operations. That’s where Marqii comes in. With Marqii, you can manage reviews, update listings, and connect your guest feedback back to your goals. Marqii’s insights give you the data to make informed decisions to improve the customer experience and stay on top of feedback. All of this, in one central hub. 

Feeling overwhelmed? Marqii offers a Managed Review Response service. Merging the magic of AI and HI (Human Intelligence), a team of customer support specialists craft on-brand and timely responses to all of your reviews. So while you are busy serving up greatness, you can rest knowing all of your reviews are taken care of and all of your customers stay loyal. 

Ready to take the first step into building customer loyalty? Learn more about Marqii’s solutions and schedule a demo today!