Words fail me to emphasize the importance of customer loyalty to any business operation that you start. This factor has its particularly tangible weight in the restaurant business, where the chance of failure stands at no less than sixty percent.
Why Is Customer Loyalty Important to Your Restaurant?
Loyal clientele can keep your operation afloat in the offseason months, which is preferable to temporary shutdown.
Customer loyalty can also help your restaurant sail through a period of stagnation, when purveyors frown at the perspective of allowing you more than a week of credit, while at the same time money is barely trickling in.
Even if happy customers never return to your place – they may have moved to another city of country – each of them can recommend your place to dozens, why not hundreds of people from around the world.
A Bunch of Loyal Customers Can Save The Offseason.
If you are planning to open a small restaurant in a fishermen’s town at the seaside, chances are that your Rock-and-Roll time will be May to September, or mid-October, if the summer is especially warm.
If, however, you are a local and you are planning to have your operation open year-round, then you’ve got to think fast of how you can get a bunch of locals hooked to your place.
Saving the offseason by building up loyal clientele is largely in the hands of your line cooks, not your chef or sous-chef.
The latter guys are in charge of composing your menu and overseeing the working process in the kitchen as a whole.
But if you are famous for your pork-chops or your broiled sea bass filets, the only people who can make your customers come back begging for more is your broiler man and your relentless army of line cooks.
On busy evenings these may have to bang out hundreds of portions of equal quality and texture of the meat or the fish.
This is why, when you hire a line cook, you do not want him or her to a creative artist. Rather, you want your line cooks to be skilled craftsmen working with mechanical precision.
Loyal Clientele Can Carry Your Restaurant Through a Slow Period
In the weeks or months after the opening of your restaurant, customers will be coming in out of curiosity more than anything else.
You are, after all, “the new place in town” and they will be flocking in with palates eager to experience an explosion of tastes and flavors that will stay with them for life.
They will also expect to feast their eyes on a dazzling mixture of colors and different textures, as food has long ceased to be just a life-sustaining stomach-filler.
At this critically important point in the development of your restaurant you, my friend, are entirely in the hands of your chef and his right-hand-man, the sous-chef.
It is the job of these two guys to create dishes that blow the mind of your customers and fill their souls with joy and comfort unexperienced before.
Make Your Customers Feel at Home and Give Them Good Stuff for Their Money
Apart from food quality and presentation, there are, undoubtedly, a number of other factors that come into play when one decides if they should frequent a food place or not. The two that immediately pop up in my mind are price and proximity.
Nothing hooks customers stronger than giving them good stuff for their money, coupled with the right attitude, of course.
On the same note, with few exceptions, the majority of your loyal customers will consist mostly of local guys, who live within a walking distance from your restaurant.
Speaking of the interior design of your place, the options are practically endless. Common sense dictates that you should, pick up ones that make your customers feel relaxed and at home.
If you’ve figured everything right, your loyal clientele should be able to carry you through a couple of slow months without a problem.
Loyal Clientele Is Not a Fixture
Nothing is permanent in the restaurant business, and your group of loyal customers makes no exception to this rule.
The great and, sadly, late Anthony Bourdain advises against finetuning your menu according to the tastes of a handful of celebrities who’ve visited your place a few times.
Wise restauranteurs know that maintaining and expanding your loyal clientele is a 24/7 job. You may lose some of your frequent customers not because your line cook has messed up their favorite dish, but because they’ve moved place, went to work abroad, or simply died.
A Loyal Customer’s Return Is a Momentous Event
Save for the ones who leave us for good, the rest of your ex-customers are likely to recommend your place to their new colleagues or friends, thus spreading the word about your restaurant around the globe.
They will go online and blog about it sharing with genuine excitement how happy and pleased they’ve been there.
When they come back, and believe me that sooner or later they will, they will expect to feel the same way and taste the same things they tasted when they first dropped by.
And provided that you stay in the business long enough to welcome them back, putting in a little extra effort to accommodate them and make them feel fantastic is the least you can do.
Few things can give you greater satisfaction than seeing a long-gone loyal customer return to your restaurant after a long absence.
Chances are that they’ll be with a company, or accompanied by someone special they’re trying to impress.
If your waiting staff and your line cooks do their job as they should, you can end up having your restaurant fully booked for their wedding party.
This is so, because most of us are sentimental, to a greater or lesser extent, and we do a lot of things out of habit, including restaurant-going.