Posts Tagged ‘Loyalty’

Why Restaurants Need Insanely Loyal Fans (7 Ideas)

June 10th, 2016

Your restaurant needs insanely loyal fans.

Restaurants are fighting harder (maybe dirtier) for customers than ever.

And it’s not getting any easier.

Unless you have a really, really, really unique concept, you’ve got lots of competitors before you even open your doors.

Loyal fans making the heart symbol with their hands above the crowd.

Chick’s Waffles Suffers from a Lack of Insanely Loyal Fans

Let’s take the pressure off you for now and talk about a hypothetical concept called, “Chick’s Waffles.”

Even if Chick’s has the best chicken and waffles north of the Mason-Dixon, their success isn’t guaranteed.

Chick’s Waffles gets off to a good start. It has a large network of friends and family that help spread the good word.

Their grand opening is everything they hoped for and the future is all rainbows double-rainbows and unicorns.

About nine months after opening, however, they notice that their regulars aren’t so regular anymore.

Frank, who used to come in every Tuesday morning for his Chick’s Waffles eXtreme, hasn’t been seen in weeks.

Chick’s vendors are wondering about the drop in their weekly order quantities… sometimes out loud.

What went wrong? Everyone loved them when they opened? They were the talk of the town. Now they’re wondering if that was just a fluke.

Again, being a niche concept is not enough to be a successful restaurant.


Because competition in the restaurant industry is like 1988’s Bloodsport with Jean-Claude Van Damme… it’s brutal.

Odds are Chick’s competition has been around longer, has a bigger customer base, and more name recognition than them.

So how does a new or even old restaurant win such a battle? How do they survive?

Satisficing vs Maximizing

When we’re satisficing we say things like this:

What am I hungry for right now? What’s the easiest way I can satisfy my hunger, I’ll do that!

That’s about it. Not too complex but extremely common.

When we’re maximizing we think:

Where can I get the best chicken and waffles (or whatever) in this city? I’ll go there.

Maximizers work a lot harder. They know they’ll regret not spending more time making a decision it if they find a better option later. So they do everything they can to make the best decision now.

If, like Chick’s, you have the best chicken and waffles in town, you hope people will be maximizers. You want them to do whatever it takes to buy from you because you’re the best.

But most people don’t behave that way.

Most consumers aren’t looking for the best, they’re looking for something good enough.

They’re satisficing instead of maximizing.

When you launch your restaurant you’re asking people to take a chance. People don’t like to take chances.

Our brains are wired to be lazy.

We would much rather stick to what we already know that try something new or different.

New vs Returning Customers

Do you know how hard it is to win a brand new customer?

Did you know that existing customers are a much more reliable source of revenue than new customers?

Here are some bullet points from Invesp about the difference between new vs repeat customers:

  • It’s five times harder to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one.
  • The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60–70% but only 5–20% for a new prospect.
  • Existing customers are 50% more likely to try a new product and spend 31% more than new customers.
  • Increasing customer retention budgets by 5% can increase profitability by 25–95%.

If you had any doubt about the value of existing customers these stats should put those doubts to rest.

The Myth of Being Good Enough

Chick’s Waffles can’t depend on being as good as the other waffle places in town.

Despite the way it sounds, being good enough is not actually good enough.

Have you ever been an insanely loyal fan of something that was just “good enough”?

Let’s leave fan of the Chicago Cubs out of this discussion shall we? (shots fired!)

Because of all their personal connections, Chick’s was able to cash in their chips to make their grand opening a success.

But those chips are gone and things are back to normal.

So how does Chick’s go about turning customers into insanely loyal fans?

Tell Your Customers You Love Them (Idea #1)

No, really. Who doesn’t like hearing, “We love you!” When they place an order, pick up an order, go through a drive-thru?

People always love being told they’re loved.

We all like being loved, feeling like we belong, and getting an emotional pick-me-up.

Do you think people will tell their friend about the restaurant that says, “We love you!” to every customer? You better believe it.

This strategy is a bit risky. If you get a snarky (or creepy) employe telling customers that they love them… well, it could backfire.

So make sure you train your employees to be sincere and 100% non-creepy.

Give Something Away for Free (Idea #2)

One of my favorite restaurants is one that gives away soda water to anyone who asks.

I’ve tweeted about how much I love this place, and every time I leave I ring the bell by the door to show my appreciation.

I will drive farther than I have to because I appreciate that they give away something everyone else charges for. And, they don’t make me feel like a free loader. In fact, when I ask for water, they tell me to, “go to town” while handing me my cup.

The cafes inside Barnes and Noble stores make ice cold water available for free. Does this cut into their sales? Maybe.

But which book store are you more likely to go do, the one with a tepid water fountain hidden in back?

Or the one with a glistening pitcher of ice cold H2O and complimentary cups?

Enough said.

Use Your Customers’ Names (Idea #3)

Have you ever noticed that servers introduce themselves by name? They may also wear a name tag.

Why is their name so important? Am I really going to yell to them across the restaurant?

How many servers have asked for your name?

None, huh… sounds like an area where you could stand out from the crowd.

People love… no, they really love hearing their own name.

Some places do a decent job using names but I’ve never seen one do a great job.

So how do do a great job with customer names?

Instead of yelling, “Order for Fred!” say, “Where’s fantastic Fred… his order of awesome is ready!”

Think he’ll come back just to hear someone call him fantastic Fred? You best believe it.

How about amazing Adele, or supreme Suzy?

Easy to implement?

Oh yea.

Bonus Tip: One activity I really don’t get is when a restaurant asks for your name and then calls out your order by that little number on you receipt. Yea, you remember that number without having to pull it out again. What? You don’t? Well that’s obviously your fault.

Promote Your Customers (Idea #4)

With the advent of Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Whatsapp, everyone has become a food critic.

And that’s a good thing.

You want customers to be posting about you on social media and sharing the good time they’re having with all their friends.

But what are you doing to promote your customers?

What if you had an employee take a selfie with customers and post them to your corporate accounts with messages like:

  • Our new favorite!
  • It was love at first sight!
  • Who has two thumbs and looks amazing today?
  • #BestCustomerEver
  • @Customer knows delicious food when they see it.

These are just a few quick examples.

Put your unique spin on them and don’t be afraid of letting employees come up with their own.

Of course you don’t want to force customers to take picture with you.

But these days that part of the population is vanishingly small.

Loyalty Program on the Cheap (Idea #5)

When I was on college there was a sub cart in the cafeteria. They gave away punch cards. Yep, you heard right, punch cards.

For every six-inches of sub, you’d get one punch. So a footlong got you two punches.

Once you’d accumulated 10 punches you got a free six-inch sub.

It worked like a charm.

Since you got a card with at least one hole already punched, the sandwich man already had you invested in coming back until you got your free sandwich.

Loyalty programs like this are super cheap.

I would suggest that you make it a big deal every time someone gets a punch. Don’t let it get routine. Don’t let your staff punch cards with an annoyed or exasperated attitude.

Also, make sure you get a unique punch tool and change it our every once in awhile for another unique punch.

This will keep those few unscrupulous customers from going home and punching out their own card.

Entertain In a Unique Way (Idea #6)

So this is going to be a bit of a shameless plug.

FHG is in the business of helping folks in the hospitality industry entertain their guests.

Sounds expensive right?

Actually, you can entertain guests for less than a dime a piece.

I want to highlight one particular product, our triangular crayons.

Our CrayAngles (see what we did there?) are high-quality, colored, and paper-wrapped crayons that won’t roll off your tables.

Customers love them because they’re unique.

Staff love them because they don’t make a mess (did I mention they don’t roll off tables).

And when you get them branded with your logo you get a double whammy of value because know your customers have a branded reminder to take home.

There are all sorts of triangular crayons including double-ended and multi-colored options. You can see them all by clicking here.

Keep Those Catalysts (Idea #7)

I’m talking about your employees here not customers.

Happy employees make happy customers.

Happy customers are loyal customers. And eventually they turn into loyal fans.

There’s a restaurant I frequent for their free wifi (maybe that should be idea #8?) and I’ve noticed a little old lady working there.

She doesn’t act like a little old lady.

She act’s like a little old lady who loves everyone she works with. And they know it. They tell each other that she does and when someone looks skeptical they insist on it.

Who doesn’t want to work alongside people like this?

You might think this is idea is a copy of idea #1 but it isn’t.

This is about keeping those employees who help the rest of your employees play their best game.

In sports there are players who aren’t individual superstars but who are just as valuable because they make everyone else play better. They’re catalysts.

If you’re lucky enough to hire one of these people do whatever you have to do to keep them. They’ll keep your team happy and motivated and customers will notice… I did.


How can you turn your customers into insanely loyal fans?

We’ve looked at seven ideas but there are probably hundreds of ways this could be done.

Are you currently doing something to increase customer loyalty?

Leave me a comment and tell me how it’s working out for you.

Or ask me a question. I’ll do my best to answer quickly.