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In a perfect world, every new customer would become a regular. In the real world, customers churn all the time for many reasons — service being one of them. However, you can significantly improve your customer retention rate by taking a few steps to encourage loyalty and guarantee a great restaurant customer experience. Here are eight ways to earn repeat customers.

Make a Good Impression

The customer experience begins with patrons’ first interaction with your business, whether that’s visiting your website, walking past your storefront, or listening to a friend’s review. So it’s important to present your restaurant in a welcoming, professional way. Set the tone with a polished, easy-to-use website and great entryway decor that makes customers want to get to know you better.

Focus on Service

When you’re experiencing a lot of customer churn, it can be tempting to skimp on labor or ingredient quality to make up for lost revenue. But these measures may backfire if your restaurant’s customer experience dips as a result. Instead, make service a priority in your eatery. Decide what the ideal experience at your restaurant looks like and encourage employees to strive for it.

Thank Employees for Good Work

If employees feel ambivalent about their workplace, they aren’t going to go above and beyond for customers. Employee surveys reveal that a quick “thank you” has a big impact on employee productivity. In fact, feeling appreciated is more important to team members than salary or benefits. Fight indifference by showing your appreciation for a job well done, and give your employees the incentive they need to deliver great service.

Train Employees Thoroughly

When team members seem inexperienced, unknowledgeable, or confused, your restaurant customer experience suffers. Give new employees thorough onboarding training, allowing them to shadow experienced servers, cooks, and runners for as long as it takes. Keep the process going with training refreshers throughout the employee life cycle.

Emphasize Team Communication

A good deal of bad customer service stems from miscommunication. If team members don’t have an agreed-upon workflow, the whole process breaks down. Enforce communication protocols so that orders are relayed and prepared the same way every time.

Make It Easy for Team Members to Correct Problems

Regardless of how much time you spend training, mistakes are unavoidable. Your restaurant can recover from these small oversights by making it up to the affected customers. Remove any limiting bureaucracy that makes it difficult for employees to offer an item on the house to help smooth over mistakes. Freebies go a long way with customers!

Offer Loyalty-Based Incentives

If you want customers to return to your business, you need to make it worth the trip. Offer coupons, free food, and other incentives that encourage customers to come back often. A simple way to do this is to invest in marketing technology that ties customer loyalty programs to each patron’s credit card. Essentially, these tools work like a digital punch card: every time a customer visits your establishment, they move one step closer to a free meal, merchandise, or other perks.

Reduce Customer Wait Times

Nobody likes to wait in line. Hungry, eager customers want to be seated and served as quickly as possible. If wait times are too long, they may turn to other eateries that can get food on the table faster. Use technology to reduce queue times: enabling mobile reservations, for instance, allows patrons to get on the list instantly. For quick service restaurants, giving staff a tablet to take orders in line will help ease customer impatience and get tickets started faster.

It may take some time before you see results, but these measures can have a significant impact on customer loyalty if you stick with them. Soon you’ll be churning out only meals, not customers. 

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