A restaurant is only as good as the team behind the scenes. As an owner or manager, you’re already well aware that your team and your customers are the lifeblood of your enterprise. Considering your customers as part of your team may be an even more constructive approach.
Just like your team, you need to engage with your customers. Businesses that can’t comprehend the importance of customer engagement view their customers as nothing more than, well… customers. They bombard them with aggressive sales pitches and impersonal marketing campaigns, often driving away their best supporters altogether.
Many successful brands take a different approach. They take the time to engage with their customers and take their opinions and suggestions on board. Plus, they understand that their customers want to interact with them and learn valuable information about the businesses they choose to support. Thankfully, it’s never been easier to provide your customers with an engaging and educational dining experience than it is today, thanks to modern technology.
Here are a few reasons why you should consider your customers to be part of your team. We’ve also included tips on how to keep them involved in your operational processes to improve their experience and keep them coming back for more.
1. Build a Community for Your Brand
Virtual forums and communities allow businesses to engage directly with their customers by holding industry-relevant discussions with them, answering their questions in detail, updating them on important developments, and sharing other relevant information. For restaurants, this information could range from cooking, dining, and food preparation tips to local ingredient sourcing guides.
Major social media networks like Google+ Communities, Facebook, and LinkedIn all give you the ability to create communities for your business. Conduct some research into which channels your customers are most active on before you start building your community.
2. Create Emotional Bonds
Research from Harvard Business Review and other trusted institutions have all documented the importance of developing strong emotional bonds with your customers.
An in-depth market analysis will allow you to learn how to connect with your target audience in order to boost consumer loyalty and develop an effective pricing strategy. Moreover, one of the most proven methods of building emotional connections with customers involves ensuring that they know they’re dealing with actual people and not simply masked corporations.
You can make your customers part of the team by introducing yourself and your own team in person, on social media, or even via email. Use images of your team members on your forums and social pages, and have your team reply to customers’ questions in person for an added personal touch.
If your restaurant has a blog, consider adding author bios to your blog posts. This gives your customers a chance to get to know you and your team, and begin bonding with you within a virtual space.
3. Include Your Customers in Your Celebrations
Your customers, just like your staff members, want to feel included. Thankfully, modern technology provides countless ways to make this happen.
If one of your regular customers starts a new business or releases an exciting new product, they’ll certainly appreciate you promoting them on your social media pages. You could highlight one of your most loyal customers every month with a social media shout out, and perhaps offer a meal voucher as well.
Is your restaurant celebrating a milestone, like an anniversary or a reopening after a revamp? You can rope your customers in to celebrate with you by offering them discounts or entry into exclusive celebratory events. This will make them feel like they’re part of your team. Rewarding them for their loyalty will encourage it in the future. You could even host competitions asking them to design new logos, come up with new dish ideas, or engage with your business on another, more personal level.
4. Host Competitions and Contests
Hosting real-world social events may be tricky during a time of social distancing, but there are other ways to keep your customers involved. You can design and hold online competitions and contests to attract your clients’ attention and reward them for their continued support.
Your business could, for example, ask your customers to share their favorite home-style recipes on social media and tag your restaurant in the posts. You could select a winning recipe from these posts, as voted for by your community, and offer the winner a meal voucher or a hamper of luxury goodies as a prize. Encourage participants to tag their friends in their posts, too—it’s a great and cost-effective way of boosting your brand’s exposure.
5. Harness the Power of Technology
A solid understanding of tech has never been more integral to a restaurant’s ability to function, and it’s also a vital way of engaging with customers. Many companies use social media and online platforms to answer customer queries and share business-related content. Yet, there are so many other ways to use virtual tools to your advantage. Thousands of restaurants and other businesses are now using social media-based technology to increase their understanding of what their customers want.
Your business can facilitate meaningful discussions with your customers on social media to gauge which trendy new ingredients and dishes they might like to see on your menu. You can ask your followers their thoughts on contactless delivery, check if they feel your sanitation standards are up to scratch, and ask for their suggestions on how you can improve your enterprise at various levels. Doing so will make them feel that their input is important, and can give you valuable insights into their desires and demands as well.
If you want to ensure your customers’ loyalty and keep them coming back to your establishment, it’s time to start viewing them as part of your team. It’s never been easier or more cost effective to engage with your customers meaningfully on online forums and social media, or to tailor your offerings towards their specific needs and demands by asking for their opinions and perspectives.
Simply put, your customers want to feel like they’re a part of your business’s proverbial family, and you have the power to make it happen. Make the effort to engage with your patrons and they’ll make the effort to support you in return.