We dine out frequently. Two to three times each week, for years and years. Want to know how many times restaurants have reached out to us with an invitation to return in the last several decades?
Zero. Nope, not once. As a career marketer, I find the passive hope-they-come-back attitude of restaurateurs quite stunning. In my world, failing to keep regular contact with your existing customers is a form of marketing malpractice. So much effort and money dedicated to generating that first visit and then doing nothing more to getting that same customer to return is poor follow-through at best.
I suppose the restaurateurs are all just hoping that the customers will like the food and return for another visit. The problem with that is: hope is not a strategy. The restaurant industry is fiercely competitive. Diners have virtually unlimited choices. Food offers hit them every day if not every hour. So my question is; “Why aren’t you making sure that your offers are placed in front of your customers too?”
“If they like my food they’ll come back.”
That’s what one restaurateur told me when I asked him why he did nothing to market to his existing customers. The truth is, that almost everybody who manages to survive in the restaurant business makes good food, has good service and a pleasant atmosphere. Otherwise, they go out of business quite rapidly.
In the case of this particular restaurant, I like his food and the service and the atmosphere – and we do return quite often. However, when we are hungry and trying to decide where to eat, the decision to visit this restaurant is not automatic. We often dine at other restaurants. If he tried a little harder, he could’ve convinced us to visit again instead of looking elsewhere. To convince us to dine there once a week instead of twice a month. I bet if he could convince other customers to do likewise, it would have a dramatic impact on his bottom line.
It’s a smart strategy to make sure your restaurant is front and center in the customers’ mind at the beginning of the dining decision-making process. Remember that your competitors are blasting advertising and offers on a regular basis. Remember that they too make good food. Be smart and make sure you are the first choice when the customer first thinks about where to eat.
So here’s a specific strategy for to remind your customers to choose you:
- Start a permission-based text messaging program.
- Contact your opt-in list once a week, every week, all year long.
- Send fully photographic text messages showing your food. A picture is indeed worth a thousand words.
- Make sure your offering is attractive enough that your customers will choose your restaurant over another.
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