Now that we’ve passed the one-year mark of the global pandemic, supporting the economy is top-of-mind for a lot of people. Undoubtedly, the restaurant sector has been hit especially hard during this challenging time. As such, we are seeing the general population rallying to support their favorite establishments.
Now, a question for you: if a customer wants to support a local restaurant, why should they choose yours? Please know I’m not asking with any type of judgmental tone—my question is merely meant to spotlight what your establishment brings to the mix, that others may not.
Here is a great way to first look at the market and state of the industry: how many “logos” do people see everyday.?And out of those logos, how many are restaurants? Boiling it down from there, how many restaurants fall into your sub-category as it relates to food type, dining style, location(s), and so on? At each distillation stage, it’s clear that there are still a lot of restaurants to choose from. Therefore, your restaurant still needs to stand out.
As an example, there are at least 25 Italian restaurants in my vicinity—and for argument’s sake, that’s maybe a 10 km / 6 mile radius. Of those 25 restaurants, half of them are fine dining, while the other half are a split between “family-style” and quasi-takeout. Therefore, if we only look at Italian fine dining, I still have about a dozen restaurants to choose from. Layer on top of that another 30+ fine dining restaurants of all different cuisines in my vicinity, and my number of choices just went up considerably.
This is the market in which you play: your style of cuisine and your dining style experience, vying for attention amongst all the rest. So again I ask, why should anyone choose yours? The good news is that the answer is easier than one might think. And it comes down to the experience the customer receives from your establishment—a stellar experience over and above all others.
So how do you accomplish that? For the sake of this blog, let’s first set a level playing field and say that all food served at all restaurants within your category are equal in terms of items and deliciousness. Let’s also say that the environment is the same—the decor, ambience, style, and so on. Lastly, let’s pretend that the service as far as staff and pricing are the same, all across the board.
So, if ALL THINGS are equal, how do you score higher with potential customers? Going back to the experience factor, there is a lot that can be accomplished outside of the aforementioned equalized criteria. For instance, the way you communicate with your customers before, during and after a visit can make or break their experience. Did you invite potential customers to your establishment is a personalized way? This can be done through an app, using email addresses captured from your website, or even at payment. Whatever the channel, did you make the customer feel special, and entice them to come to your place over all others?
Next, how did you interact with them when they were at your restaurant? Yes, your servers are polite and attentive. That’s a given (at least, we hope it is). But what more can be done? Again, treat your customers like you know them. By collecting data on their favorite drinks, meals, desserts and so on—every time they come in, you can offer them something special that only they want. As examples, this could be a special menu item or a discount based on customer frequency. Regardless, make them feel special. And in the times of COVID, offering them something as simple as a contactless payment option via an easy-to-use mobile app—one that also doubles as a customer-data-capture tool—is a much-appreciated addition to the customer experience (plus, it benefits your business because you’re learning more and more about your customer preferences and needs).
Lastly, after they left, did you thank your customer remotely? A simple message saying “Thank you so much for your business; we loved having you here” goes further than you might think. Deliver that through a mobile app—along with a special offer or even just a generic “We can hardly wait to see you again”—and you’ve taken the customer experience from on-par to spectacular.
Ultimately, people want to support their favorite restaurants. That said, there will always be a hierarchy in customers’ minds of which “favorite” to visit next. Working your way to the top of that list through proactive and intelligent engagement—at every phase of the relationship—makes you stand out, and your competition pale in comparison.
Chief Customer Officer
Andrew Armstrong is the Chief Customer Officer at omNovos – working globally with customers to design world-class customer engagement programs. He’s a prolific writer and speaker on topics including customer loyalty, personalization, and retail marketing technologies. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter - his open approach to all topics usually leads to a fun discussion and a few laughs.