Oct. 28, 2015
By Leeyen Rogers, vice president of marketing at JotForm
Surprising and delighting your customer base is key to keeping them as guests. Below are three ways restaurant operators can do just that.
Make your online activity work to your advantage
Be sure to interact with your restaurant’s visitors and respond to compliments as well as criticism. This is important both on social media, and also user-generated reviewing websites like Yelp. If you receive a glowing review, take a moment to make your customer feel appreciated and thank them. When customers have suggestions, let them know that you’re taking their feedback into account and of course thank them for the time they spent to help your restaurant improve. Inevitably, you will receive negative feedback as well. Address their concerns and apologize if they had a bad experience, and try to make amends. Look into their situation to try to insure that it doesn’t happen again, and make sure to communicate that you’re investigating what occurred.
You should manage not only what customers are saying about your restaurant, but also their feedback to your internal team. Crafting a useful customer feedback form is important in the customer feedback loop so that you can receive helpful information on a variety of touchpoints, and learn from them. Your customer feedback form should convey that you care about their experience and opinions, and you should ask what your customer thinks about the food quality, food selection, customer service, ambience, and whatever else they’d like to add. You can encourage customers to submit feedback by offering them incentives like a free dessert coupon, a discount on a future meal or a raffle.
It’s important to have a great looking website that is also useful. Perhaps you can allow online reservations and a newsletter sign-up form. You should clearly state hours and contact information. It would be beneficial to have a mobile friendly website as well.
Make your restaurant’s appearance appealing
Everything from your sandwich board and outside seating and decor, to your restaurant’s main sign should be carefully crafted to represent your restaurant properly. Your exterior should represent your interior, so if your establishment is more casual or family friendly, then maybe look toward bright lighting and a bright awning to get that message across. Pedestrians should get a sense of what you’re restaurant is about just with a glance, and hopefully when they enter and check out the restaurant they’re getting what they’re expecting.
A funny quote or an appealing happy-hour deal splashed on an outdoor sandwich board can cause pedestrians to stop and want to duck into your restaurant. It’s been the standard for years that active social media users enjoy taking photos of particularly beautifully arranged or delicious looking food, but they’re also sharing images of funny quotes on sidewalk signs. Be sure to switch up the deals and message, you want to keep it fresh and make sure that people aren’t seeing the same message repeatedly.
Continuously work toward positive change
There are many external factors that can affect how your restaurant does. For example, food trends come and go, and it may be worthwhile to pursue certain changes that go in line with current tastes. Vegetarianism was a sweeping trend, and now many restaurants offer at least one vegetarian option. Gluten-free and peanut-free options are increasing in popularity as awareness for certain allergies grows. If people are demanding it, consider offering it.
Age demographics could change. if you’re area is becoming younger, potential customers may desire restaurants that are more accommodating to larger groups and request trendy food and drink items. Drink specials would probably be more interesting than a buy-one-appetizer-get-one-free deal.
Keeping track of what menu items are popular, struggling and decreasing in popularity can help you make a more informed choice of what options to keep, add and get rid of. Data collected from online forms can be very informative, as the information comes straight from your customers. You can see if there are trends in what your customers think, and you can use the collected information to assign priority levels between customer service, parking, food items, or whatever else you need to work on.
Leeyen Rogers is the vice president of marketing at JotForm, a popular online form-building tool based in San Francisco. JotForm is the tool of choice for many restaurant owners and managers, and is the online solution for online payments, customer feedback forms, lead collection forms, online booking, event registrations, and more.