Long gone are the days when a family would visit their ‘local’ restaurant every time they want to eat out. Today's diner first decides 'what' they want to eat which then dictates 'where' they will eat. So you need to be smarter in the way you keep customer's loyalty.

They key thing for your restaurant is to be the ‘where’ that someone thinks of when they want to eat your type of speciality food.

My Pizza Obsession

For example, I love pizza! So when I can’t decide what restaurant to eat at pizza is the first food I fall back on. Now the restaurant that has positioned itself for pizza in my mind is Pizza Hut, though I must confess that the roquito peppers at Pizza Express are slowly converting me.

Pizza Hut is a massive chain with a large marketing budget, so you may not have the same resources but you can still compete.

Compete on areas of customer service, quality of food, atmosphere and convenience.

As here’s my little secret – I don’t always buy pizza from Pizza Hut (or Pizza Express). Up the road from my house is a pizza takeaway, their pizzas are half the price of Pizza Hut and they taste great. When I want to eat takeout pizza they’re the people I call.

However, there is more this pizza place could do taken even more of my business:

Build a community

Build a community and not just online. If you’re a local restaurant situated in a residential area then you have a massive advantage over the large chains. You have community roots. You know the area and with time you can get to know the people.

Put on an event

Hire the local village hall to put on a community event and then serve your best food. Ask the local council and shops to advertise the event for you and lead the flyers with a title such as:

“Community Curry Night” or “Free Pizza Tasting”

Invite prominent organisations or community members to come and share in the event.

You’ll probably find that unless there is already a strong community spirit or your advertising is very good then the first event doesn’t attract many people. However, if you run the events over a number of occasions then you’ll start to see interaction grow.

Talk to your customers

Find out what matters to people in your local area by asking them questions. Why do they choose to come to your shop? If they could improve or change something about the local area what would it be?

Then print off and post up the results in your shop, anonymously of course unless people give you permission to quote them or post their answers.

Make Ordering Easy

Websites such as Just-Eat and Hungry House are making it easier for small takeaways to attract new and repeat customers through online ordering. However in this day and age websites are not expensive to build or maintain and you can easily set up an online ordering service that feeds orders through to your kitchen.

If you already operate an EPoS system to manage your sales and stock control then it could also be used to manage orders from your website. If you need help with this then contact RCS.

Also the advantage of running your own website is you can use it to promote all of the local events you’re hosting. This all builds customer loyalty with your regular customers.

Before you know it your restaurant will be positioned as THE place to visit in your local area.

I wish you all the best and don’t forget to tell us a little more about yourself and your restaurant in the comments below. I’d love to know what things you’re doing to build customer loyalty and repeat business in your community. Please share.

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