Building Customer Loyalty

On March 6, B’s Cracklin’ in Atlanta burned to the ground. This restaurant had been opened just three years ago by Bryan Furman, a one-time welder, and his wife, Nikki, who started their first restaurant in 2010. The remarkable part of this story is the following that they amassed in those three years. When his loyal customers found out about the tragedy, they started a GoFundMe page in order to help raise $50,000. In just two days, over $10,000 has been funded. Now that’s loyalty.

So, what can you do to promote this type of community support? One thing B’s Cracklin’ has done is become a solid part of the community. According to Eater, they serve as a neighborhood gathering spot, promote fundraisers, and open their doors for community meetings. They also pride themselves on serving up some of the best barbecue in the South, winning the 2017 Eater’s award for Restaurant of the Year. This year, Bryan Furman was named a James Beard Awards semifinalist for Best Chef in the Southeast.

The Importance of Building Loyalty

Anyone in the business knows the competitive nature of being a restaurateur. From the neighborhood eatery down the street to the new hot destination restaurant that just opened miles away, your potential guests have a myriad of choices when it comes to eating out.

Some marketing strategies are targeted at first-time guests—getting those that have never dined at your restaurant to walk in those welcoming doors. But is that the right approach? When you consider that the cost of acquisition is five times higher than the cost of retention, we’d have to answer that with a resounding “No!” Of course, it’s important to consider both in a comprehensive business plan. As the song goes, “Make new friends, but keep the old…one is silver and the other gold.”

Surprisingly, it is estimated that 44 percent of companies have a greater focus on customer acquisition and only 18 percent concentrate on retention. And yet, increasing your customer retention rates by just 5 percent can increase your profits by anywhere from 25 to 95 percent!

Keeping Customers Coming Back

According to Yotpo’s 2018 national survey on customer loyalty, over 55 percent of consumers are brand loyal because they love the product. As with B’s Cracklin’, serving great food on a consistent basis is the bottom line to creating lifelong, loyal fans. The second most important factor turns out to be service. Over 23 percent said that poor service would drive them away from even their favorite brands.

Another interesting statistic uncovered in their survey was the fact that almost 40 percent of consumers felt it took five or more purchases before they considered themselves “brand loyal.” Your goal, then, is to get that one-time customer to walk back into your establishment at least four more times—only then can you count them as one of your loyal customers.

Besides great food and service, just how do you keep guests coming back for more?

Surveys suggest new menu items, competitive pricing, a loyalty program, and a guest’s experience are key factors in retaining customers.

Oracle Hospitality found that 50 percent of customers felt new and exciting menu items were an important element in their decision to return. Almost 60 percent responded that they choose a restaurant based on competitive pricing or a promotion. And close to 90 percent found redeeming loyalty points on new food recommendations based on past purchases was appealing. According to Invesp, 89 percent of companies see customer experience as a key factor in building loyalty.

Sometimes, it’s the simple acts of kindness that make your guests feel appreciated. This may be as simple as a handwritten note (yes, businesses still find these effective) that says “thank you” to training staff to learn and use your guest’s first names.

Nothing says thank you for being a loyal customer better than a coupon or bonus points in your loyalty program based on purchasing history. Of course, you can always do this the old-fashioned way and surprise them with an appetizer, drink, or dessert on the house. 

Stay engaged in your social media accounts and, if someone follows you on Instagram or Twitter, follow them back. Over 70 percent of consumers who experienced a quick response via social media said they were likely to recommend that brand to others.

If the thought of keeping up and responding to tweets, pictures, and posts sends shivers down your spine, designate this important business aspect to one of your staff members. I guarantee you have a social media wiz somewhere in your talent pool.

As far as marketing, Invesp found that the four most effective digital marketing tools for customer retention are email, social media, content, and referral marketing.


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