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Customer Experience

How to Turn a First Time Patron into a Loyal Customer


Jackie Prange

Any restaurant owner knows the importance of attracting new customers, but what separates a good restaurant owner from a great one are those who keep repeat customers top of mind. When over 65% of a company’s business comes from existing customers, it only makes sense to do everything in your power to keep them coming back for more.

To help you capitalize on the often overlooked goldmine that is the regular, we’ve highlighted five ways to turn a first time patron into a loyal repeat customer at your restaurant.

Social Media

Harness the power of social media to increase customer loyalty. These channels equip you with the perfect opportunity to get up close and personal with your customers, by providing them with real time updates and promotions. Incentivize your guests to follow your social media accounts at the end of their visit with the chance to win a free gift card. While also increasing your follower base, you’ll be increasing your repeat customer base as well. Once you’ve acquired a following, make them feel special by providing them with the inside scoop on any upcoming events or promotions. By following you on Instagram or liking your Facebook page, they’ll have unlimited access to your restaurant’s updates, so take full advantage of that visibility and encourage feedback and open conversation.

Email Marketing 

If you’ve provided great service on a patron’s first visit, by using email marketing you can help ensure you’re their first choice when deciding where their next meal out will be. Restaurateurs love email marketing because it’s quick and fairly easy to implement – and most of all – very low cost. Emails not only cost nothing to send, but they’re also one of the least time consuming marketing initiatives – typing and sending out an email shouldn’t take you any longer than ten minutes. And yes, social media may seem like the most obvious way to promote your daily specials, but chances are not all of your customers are active on social. Tons of people are still active on email 24/7, so leverage email marketing to get your message in front of them in a different, more direct way.

Loyalty Programs 

Consumer demands have changed, and so has the approach to loyalty programs. Those run-of-the-mill plastic-card loyalty programs aren’t hitting it off with patrons the way they used to; forgot your card? You’re out of luck. Lost your card? Time to start from scratch. In order to make loyalty less tedious and more convenient for your customers, welcome your loyalty program initiatives into the 21st century by accepting phone numbers, full names, or credit and debit cards as “loyalty cards” that can easily be added to a customer profile in your POS. This way, your customers aren’t burdened into carrying yet another card just to reap the benefits of visiting your restaurant. While the approach to loyalty programs may have changed, the sentiment remains true; rewarding your customers for a visit or purchase will directly increase their chances of coming back.

Discounted Deals

Along with loyalty programs, discounted deals are another great way to increase loyal traffic to your restaurant. The key to success: promote, promote, promote. Whether you’re advertising a buy one get one free promo on your sidewalk sign, or featuring it on the front of your menu, make it obvious and enticing. While discounted deals work well on their own, leveraging social media for these promotions will help increase your reach. For example, you could reward your most connected customers by offering $2 for every friend they refer to your restaurant that checks in on Facebook. Or, if you’re promoting a buy one get one free deal, ask them to tag a friend in a post for the chance to win a free appetizer.

Customer Satisfaction Surveys

Provide your customers with the opportunity to give you honest, unfiltered feedback. By doing so, you’re implying that you value their opinions, and better yet, they help you to monitor quality: a customer might notice a flaw in your restaurant’s experience that never occurred to you. As a bonus you can use these surveys to collect customer information for further marketing promotions. Another benefit of these customer satisfaction surveys is that they can help you avoid negative online reviews. Hopefully the ability to detail a bad experience within your survey would discourage an unsatisfied customer from angrily taking to your business’s Facebook or Yelp page for all of the Internet to see. But it’s not enough to just collect this feedback, take it into consideration as well, and if it affects change within your restaurant, reach out to the customer and invite them back to see their feedback in action. Imagine how great a customer would feel, returning to see their suggestions were not only heard, but catered to. That right there, is a customer for life.

By shifting your focus from solely attracting new customers to retaining your repeat ones, with the help of these five tips and tricks, you’ll be well on your way to building a solid, loyal customer base.

Jackie was a Content Marketing Specialist and Social Media strategist at TouchBistro before moving into business development role. She covered the latest food, dining, and technology trends for the restaurant industry. A lover of all things coffee, Jackie’s hobbies include breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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