In this article: How to encourage customers to become regulars in six simple steps. Owners, managers, wait staff, baristas, and bar staff can all benefit from this advice.
Building and maintaining strong relationships with your customers is one of the keys to running a successful restaurant, cafe, or bar. In fact, many of the world’s oldest, most successful establishments have achieved legendary status by forming powerful, empathic relationships with the people who love their business.
Regulars signify loyalty to your restaurant. It tells you that people enjoy the food, quality, and service of your business so much that they are willing to return again and again for more. In the long run, it’s customers like these who will carry you through tough times and elevate your business to new heights.
If you want your restaurant to withstand the test of time, building strong relationships with regulars should be your main priority! Let’s talk about some strategies for achieving this.
Let’s take a moment to reflect on what makes the “regular” such an important role player in any restaurant. For starters, they bring stability, consistency, and loyalty to your business. But they also contribute to a more profitable and functional restaurant environment.
Regulars are to restaurants what butterflies and bees are to a healthy garden. By creating an environment that attracts regular customers, you can foster abundance and sustainability in your restaurant business.
Building strong relationships with regulars is a bit like the process of making friends. It requires empathy, attention to detail, communication, and great listening skills. But it also requires a keen understanding of customer needs and a desire to deliver the best possible customer experience.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at six strategies any restaurant or cafe can implement to deepen the relationship with regulars and encourage more repeat business.
One of the simplest and most effective ways to connect with customers is to engage with them in earnest conversation. Of course, you should always respect the privacy and boundaries of customers. But learning people’s names, asking them how they’re doing, and remembering small details about their interests is a great way to strike up meaningful connections with people.
Consider setting up a loyalty program for regular customers. This can not only serve as a great incentive for repeat business but also draw people in to become regulars in a more natural, effortless way.
Asking for feedback is a good sign in any hospitality environment. It’s natural to receive a complaint or suggestion now and then, and the key is to see them as opportunities for improvement rather than causes for self-doubt.
Be open to customer feedback, and when you receive it, do what you can to take it on board. Customers love to see that their favorite restaurant cares about their opinions and will do what it takes to make their dining experience more positive and memorable.
The social atmosphere of a restaurant plays a powerful role in how likely customers are to return after their first visit. Consider the finer details of how both customers and employees engage with each other and what areas can be improved for a more comfortable and enjoyable atmosphere.
Are the staff often bickering with each other? Is there a sense of burnout or tension in the air? Does the restaurant get too noisy?
Taking note of subtle social dynamics like these can inform you about what needs to change to create a functional, happy, and reasonably relaxed (it is a restaurant, after all) environment.
Great service is crucial for building strong relationships with regulars and driving repeat business. You can be the friendliest restaurant in the world, but without quality food and service, you can’t expect people to come back for more.
Go above and beyond to accommodate customer needs, and find ways to personalize them when you can. For instance, if you notice that one customer always tweaks their order in a particular way, consider putting it on the menu in their honor (if this is practical). This can help customers to feel like a part of your restaurant community and enhance their connection to it.
Staff behavior sets the tone for any hospitality business. If you want to build strong relationships with your customers, start with a good onboarding program and proper staff training. You can do in-house skills training or send them on a server, barista, or bartending course to ensure they have the relevant skills.
But staff training doesn't just stop at being able to take an order correctly or make a great coffee or cocktail. Employees need to learn all about the best ways to engage with and serve customers for maximum satisfaction and familiarity.
Soft skills like open conversation, active listening, and communication are essential in the hospitality industry. When it comes to building strong relationships, a lot of those dynamics come to the forefront, and staff that master these skills will encourage repeat business.
Regulars are essential for running a happy, healthy, and sustainable restaurant business. They are the lifeblood of many hospitality-related businesses—from bars to cafes to fine dining restaurants.
By building strong relationships with your regulars, you can promote brand loyalty, increase profits, and curate an environment that is comfortable and satisfying for both your customers and your employees. With these strategies, any establishment and those who work within it can build and maintain stronger relationships with regulars.