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Loyal customers are a critical part of improving your restaurant as a whole. Repeat business--especially frequent business--offers a number of key benefits to your restaurant. Loyal customers, in general, are worth around ten times as much as the amount of their first purchase over time--and that number may be even higher in the restaurant industry. Just five percent more customer retention can increase your sales numbers by as much as 75%. Not only that, acquiring new customers for your restaurant costs around five times more than keeping the customers you already have. Clearly, the benefits of customer loyalty are extraordinary--and knowing how to create that sense of loyalty is critical for your restaurant. 

Strategy #1: Offer Exceptional Customer Service

Chances are, your restaurant offers the same types of food your customers can find in half a dozen others within a close radius. What sets your restaurant apart, therefore, is the service you provide for your customers. That starts even before they walk in the door, with social media interactions and trustworthy marketing content that your customers know they can count on. Once they're in the restaurant, your customers should be able to expect smiling servers who know exactly how to provide for their needs. While problems in the restaurant industry are somewhat unavoidable, knowing how to correct them efficiently will help ensure customer loyalty.

Strategy #2: Make It Fun

When customers come to your restaurant, it's not just for the food. They're looking for a great atmosphere. Offering something special or unique--a fun theme; games at the tables; something special for customers to watch or enjoy while they eat their meals--can transform the dining experience and make customers happier with your restaurant as a whole. 

Strategy #3: Know Your Customers

The more data you can collect about your customers, the better you can get to know them--and the better you can provide them with exactly what they expect from your restaurant. From knowing what rewards will most appeal to your customers to understanding how they prefer to interact with your restaurant or what particular items they'd like to see on your menu, the more you know, the better you can do. Collecting as much data as possible from your customers will increase your knowledge of them and their requirements. 

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Strategy #4: Create a Great Loyalty Program

Customers are more likely to be loyal when their loyalty is rewarded! Creating an exceptional customer loyalty program will help encourage customers to go the extra mile with your business. Give them the opportunity to earn percentage or dollar amounts off, get free goodies at the table, and more based on their visits, and watch customers visit more often as they get close to those important rewards. Opting to use an app, rather than a card, can help increase customer awareness of the program. 

Strategy #5: Build a Heart Connection

There are several ways to create a heart connection with your customers, gaining their loyalty by appealing to their emotional sides. Consider choosing a charity or finding a local way to give back: customers who are passionate about those same concerns will be more likely to visit your business. Creating an iconic character or characters can also lead to increased interest from your customers. 

With all the benefits of customer loyalty, it's critical that your restaurant take steps to improve your connection to your customers, get to learn more about them, and keep bringing them back to see what you have to offer. One bad experience can sour any customer's favorite restaurant, but a consistent connection will have them hurrying back to your restaurant for their regular meals out, allowing you to experience all of those benefits.

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