Customer retention: a how-to guide for your restaurant/cafe

Running your own cafe or restaurant can be fun and rewarding, especially if you are a people person who has a love of food and how it can bring happiness. However, owning a cafe or restaurant is also hard work, and it can be difficult to retain customers; especially if you have competition in the neighbourhood. According to research by Harvard Business School, you can increase profits by as much as 25% if you increase customer retention by 5%.

This is because higher customer retention leads to increased repeat business and can also lead to more word of mouth recommendations for your business. So, how can you make it easier for your cafe or restaurant to retain customers?

Creating the right atmosphere

It’s not just the food that encourages people to return to a dining venue, and to recommend it to friends; atmosphere plays a big part. You need to consider the customer base that you want to attract and create your interior design and atmosphere accordingly. For instance, a romantic dining venue should have dimmed lighting, possibly candlelight, and mood music; whereas you might expect a child-friendly venue to feature bright colours and possibly wipe down tablecloths that kids can draw on.

People need to feel welcome and comfortable at your venue. As venue furniture experts Eclipse Furniture say: “A cosy atmosphere is the result of lots of different elements brought together. It’s important to think about every single element of your venue to ensure you’re enhancing your space properly”.  

There are several elements that you should think about for your business:

  • Do customers have enough space?
  • Is the music suitable for the clientele?
  • What type of lighting should you use?
  • Is the seating comfortable and practical?

Remember, every aspect of the design and atmosphere that you create should be aimed at retaining the customers that you have as well as attracting others.

Creating a value for money experience

It’s very important for customers to feel that they are getting value for money when they visit your restaurant. The first thing that you need to do is carry out some research about price levels in the area; over-charging is not a good way to retain customers. Do not be tempted to offer ridiculously low prices just to attract custom. This may make people wonder why your prices are so low and it’s also not great for your profit margin. Instead, it’s a good idea to offer regular freebies such as a free salad bar, or offer half price desserts, or two for one drinks on certain days of the week.

The quality of the food you serve

People are not going to come back to your venue if the food that you serve is not good. There are several things that you can do to make sure that you cooking facilities and the quality of your food are of a high standard.

  • Hire qualified and experienced chefs.
  • Choose a reputable produce supplier.
  • Support local growers.
  • Maintain clean kitchen standards and obtain a good food hygiene rating.

The more attention you pay to food preparation and quality, the more likely you are to encourage people to return to your venue.

The quality of your front of house staff

Every member of your team can have an effect on customer retention. Venue hosts should make sure that people are spoken to within a short time of arrival and that they are seated straight away if they have a booking, or provided with an accurate wait time if they have not booked and the venue is busy. You should make sure that staff who are waiting on have a good knowledge of the food that you serve and are able to make recommendations.

Staff should be friendly and helpful but they should not be intrusive, depending on the situation. For instance, a couple enjoying a romantic meal for two probably do not want to be interrupted. However, parents out eating with boisterous kids probably value a distraction.

In summary

Customer retention is vital to the ongoing success of your business. You should never concentrate solely on attracting new customers and just assume that the current ones will keep coming back. Your customer experience should be excellent for everyone. Spending time and effort to make sure that it is means that regular customers will keep returning and that they will recommend you to others, increasing your customer base.

By Ella Hendrix

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