In yesterday’s Chicago Tribune, Christopher Borrelli wrote an insightful piece of how the art of being a regular, or developing them, has become a software tracking procedure that offers more information than any regular would care to have known.
The true art, the old fashioned way to establish a regular clientele begins with the one thing computers will never offer: passion and emotion. In the game feelings for your customer, your business and your profession will separate the caring restaurateur from the marketing, canned, pre prepped and portioned restaurant owner who has a very respectable operation, but doesn’t boast any regular, regulars unless they are virtual.
When all is said and done, and everything shakes out, chefs, waiters, owners, and managers will remember the intricacies and eccentricities of their customers because they are the foundation of profit, success, and growth. Not because a software company has developed a program to make someone mayor.
There are hundreds of tips, strategies and techniques to attract customers and keep them. From the music you play, to the wording on a menu to the description of the specials and the personality of your staff all contribute to the attraction of your restaurant. But let’s start with the ten tips on making someone feel important, like a regular should.
1). A friendly staff that greets and meets customers as soon as they walk in the door does more to develop a regular clientele than anything else. The greeting has to be sincere. It can’t be a packaged, scripted greeting. Make sure the owner, the chef and the manager are known to the customers. And, available to speak to both new and regular diners.
2). Consistency in product, quality, atmosphere and cleanliness all make the dining experience something customers want to experience again. Create a feeling of style that is unique.
3). Complimentary drinks, appetizers, desserts or special chef creations on a sporadic basis make customers feel special. These are all “gifs of the house”. They work well to entice customers back and also make people feel as though they are family.
4). Begin to develop the community mentality. Don’t hesitate to introduce one customer to another if they have something in common if the opportunity comes up. Don’t force it, but if a customer interrupts while you are speaking to another customer, introduce them to each other.
5). Make a point of inviting regulars – or those customers you want to develop into regulars – to special events before they are advertised or made public.
6). Attempt to accommodate the special requests everyone eventually asks for. This will go a long way with clientele.
7). Remember the likes and dislikes of your customers. Train your staff – your waiters, chefs, hosts and bussers to remember the needs of your customers. If one customer likes spicy pasta and another likes it mild, make sure your chef remembers that.
8). Do not get a computerized tracking system to assist in the recall of a customer’s needs.
9). Pour good drinks. Don’t hash the booze. Don’t use a shot glass or a measured pourer on your bottle.
10). Make sure you let every customer that leaves your restaurant know that you look forward to seeing them again. Soon.