Opinion

Bookatable CEO: SMEs can learn from fierce food sector to maintain customer loyalty

6 min read

22 December 2015

The modern UK consumer is inundated with messages from competing brands daily. In this busy environment, it is becoming ever more important for companies to gain a significant share of voice and break through to increasingly savvy consumers who are demanding that brands work harder for their attention.

The key question that businesses across all industries must ask themselves is how do they remain front of mind when consumers are making decisions? How can a business behave to ensure loyalty from customers who have so much choice? 

This is a particularly pertinent question in the restaurant industry where repeat visits is big business. British diners are bombarded by eating options in a crowded and competitive marketplace, where seasonal pop-ups are vying for airtime alongside established chains and Michelin starred restaurants. 

Securing a repeat visit – much like guaranteeing a repeat purchase of a product – can be difficult when there are so many alternatives on offer. 

In addition to more restaurant choice, the rise of premium ready meal offerings, home delivery services and a growing trend for celebrity chefs and YouTube stars to share step-by-step cooking tutorials online, means that it’s never been easier for consumers to eschew eating out entirely and dine at home on restaurant quality foods.

When diners visit a restaurant nowadays, they expect something different and unique, as well as a full brand experience. 

With experience working with restaurants and diners, the team at Bookatable have identified a number of key considerations that businesses should take on board when looking to support and encourage customer loyalty. 

Customer-centric culture 

Developing a company culture where listening and responding to the needs of consumers is critical. From the CEO to front line staff, the customer must always be at the heart of what the company stands for. 

This means that every decision made by the business should come from the position of wanting to help the customer and drive their loyalty. 

Businesses should set out clear internal guidelines, empowering and encouraging employees to represent the brand to the fullest when dealing with customers. Creating consistency and providing a personal experience are easy ways to increase repeat visits across all businesses.

Read more on customer loyalty:

Know your audience 

Understanding who uses your product and knowing the needs of the customer is paramount. From a restaurant point of view, this can be translated into seemingly simple actions which can leave a lasting impression and lead to repeat visits.

Offering parents with a young child dining at your restaurant a highchair before they ask for it, or taking the time to talk through the menu with a diner with special dietary requirements can change a dining experience.

Good customer service leads to good customer loyalty so it’s the little things that go a long way.

Customer engagement 

Put simply, getting the right product to the right customer at the right time will help drive customer loyalty. Within the restaurant industry, many diners decide to eat out – and then decide where they want to eat out – on a spur of the moment basis.

This means that it is important to engage with diners where they are and where it matters to be a part of their spontaneous decisions. Social media gives businesses a perfect medium to make these connections and be an inspirational voice.

Using social platforms to engage with consumers who are nearby is both cost and time effective. 

Product investment and advancement

It is significantly more costly to attract new customers than it is to encourage repeat visitors from existing customers that are familiar with your brand.

Investing in your product and taking on consumer feedback to improve your offering is fundamental to keeping up with your audience. 

First impressions count

The first interaction that users have with your brand is key – the old adage is true, first impressions really do count. From a restaurant point of view, it is important to invest money in websites and menus, often the first port of call for diners.

Providing interesting content and engaging imagery, for example, to capture the interest and imagination of customers is key.

Take the time 

Familiarity is key for many customers so being in a position to connect and engage with consumers to make their experience with your product memorable is critical. In a restaurant, that could mean providing a personalised dish on their birthday or welcoming a regular with a complimentary beverage.

Being social and sociable goes a long way, whether in face to face exchanges or through social channels. This extends into customer care and support services.

Joe Steele is the CEO of Bookatable, Europe’s largest restaurant marketplace

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