Attracting New Customers vs. Nurturing Loyalty
Once your restaurant is up and running – after the first marketing push, through the launch, and on into steady business – the focus of your advertising should constantly be changing. Whereas once every customer was a new customer, now you are welcoming regulars: repeat customers for whom your restaurant is a home away from home. The question is, at this enviable point, do you continue to invest in trying to attract new customers, or do you focus on maintaining your loyal diners. Or both.
New Customers First
According to LoyalMarketing.com, in an article entitled, “Customer Acquisition vs Customer Retention,” it costs six to seven times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one, yet customer acquisition is still the primary focus of most businesses in general, and restaurants in particular. Loyal customers, and their repeat business, are the cornerstone+ of long-term success because it is so expensive to find new customers. Nonetheless, if expansion and growth are a goal – and of course they are – new business must be a top priority. To continue to grow your business you’re going to need more people frequenting your restaurant – and lots of them. Although you want to maintain a relationship with your existing customers, it will always be important to bring in fresh business in the form of new customers.
Continue reading How to Balance Customer Retention with Customer Loyalty
How to Choose Restaurant Seating
Although you may think that it’s your food that keeps customers in their seats, it’s not just that. Sometimes, it really is the seats! Many factors have to combine to create a restaurant that diners find appealing and that they keep returning to. And while your chairs, barstools, sofas or other seating options may not be your #1 priority, it can make or break your customers’ dining experience. Seating is worth a second look.
Things to Consider When Choose Seating
Planning the layout and seating capacity of a restaurant dining room involves more than just setting some tables and chairs out in a room. To start with, for safety reasons, you must comply with occupancy limits set by state or local fire codes. In addition, you want to make your restaurant’s patrons comfortable.
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Restaurant Health Department Inspections
Restaurant owners generally view a visit from the health inspector as an inconvenience – or worse – as opposed to an opportunity to learn. Most restaurant owners dread health inspections; however, as we previously discussed, preparing for these inspections means that there is no reason to fear the inspector’s visit. Proper food storage, careful personal hygiene, meticulous attention to cleanliness, ongoing training, and self-inspections are all part of the “before.” Now, we’ll talk about how you should act during, and after, the health-inspection process.
Frequency of Health Inspections
The more complex the food-service operation, the more often the health department will visit. A restaurant where meat and fish are prepared and served could be visited two or three times a year, whereas a coffee house or a small bakery will require inspections just once annually. However, other factors can affect the frequency of an inspector’s visit. If, for instance, you regularly receive low inspection scores, you can expect to be inspected up to four times a year. Similarly, if someone reports your establishment for a foodborne illness, or for substandard operating procedures, the health department is authorized to come out and inspect based on that complaint.
Continue reading Know How to Handle Restaurant Health Inspections
How to Work with Health Inspectors
How you interact with health inspectors can go a long way to securing the health of your customers and the reliability of your license to do business. If, as a restaurant owner or caterer, you view your local health inspector as a nemesis, the time has come for you to rethink this position. Health inspectors are not your enemy; if anything, they are your partners, and the goal is to work together to prevent foodborne illness and ensure your customers’ wellbeing.
Why Restaurant Inspections Are Important
Health inspections are not designed to cause stress to restaurant owners and caterers; rather, their goal is to ensure safety for your customers. According to Food Services of America, more than half of all foodborne illnesses are acquired from eating at restaurants. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that half of all produce has chemical contamination. Faced with these challenges, it makes sense that the food in restaurants and catering facilities should be stored, thawed, and cooked according to strict regulations, and that the kitchen, freezers, and storage areas kept sanitary and sterile.
Continue reading Train Staff to Always be Ready for a Health Inspection
What to Do if You Recognize a Food Critic
Even in this era of online reviews written by faceless patrons and amateur foodies, a real, live food critic can cause a restaurant owner’s knees to shake. The most confident restaurateurs will still get nervous when they see a well-known food journalist cross the threshold. This seemingly anonymous character is actually loaded with the ability to make or break a restaurant. Plenty of articles have been written about how to recognize a food critic; his signature behavior, which usually includes questions galore and a highly focused attention to detail, will alert staff to his presence. However, in this post, we’re going to focus on what to do when you recognize a food critic. (Also in this post, we’re going to refer to a food critic as “he.”)
Continue reading Be Prepared When a Food Critic Walks Through Your Restaurant Door
Controlling Noise Levels in Your Restaurant
When you are deep in the process of creating the perfect restaurant – one that will draw a multitude of repeat customers – you will no doubt place an emphasis on ambience. A restaurant’s ambience can be created through lighting, music, décor, and spacing; but no less important is the noise level. Controlling the noise level in your restaurant is a critical ingredient in your restaurant’s success, no less than the freshness of the fish in your Bouillabaisse or the quality of the cheese in your Eggplant Parmesan. Noise can affect everyone in the restaurant – customers and staff alike – so keeping it under control is a top priority, especially when your restaurant is in the planning stages.
Noise as a Health Hazard
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines noise as a serious health hazard; it can lead to “cardiovascular and psychophysiological effects, reduce performance, and provoke … changes in social behavior.” What you’ll be trying to avoid when you are planning your restaurant’s décor are surfaces and spaces that make sounds bounce and echo, and that cause you and your restaurants guests to have to shout to be heard. Noise pollution in general, and noise levels in restaurants in particular, has become such a major issue that Continue reading How to Regulate and Control Noise Levels in Your Restaurant
Handling Customer Complaints
Just about everyone working in the food service industry – restaurant owners, caterers, chefs – will at some point have to deal with unhappy customers. Customer complaints are an inevitable part of running a food-related business and the quicker you learn how to handle them, the better off you will be. Complaints are a double-edged sword: They are hard to hear (often downright painful, depending on the tone and attitude), but they can be instructive and helpful if addressed the right way. The way you relate to both the complainer and the complaint can make a big difference moving forward – for you and your business.
Customer complaints are a common thorn in the side of many business people (not just restaurateurs), as Forbes discusses in its article, “7 Steps For Dealing With Angry Customers.” But, although this type of guide can be helpful, we want to deal specifically with the food industry because the issues are unique. The National Restaurant Association addresses the sensitive subject at length, and all restaurant owners and professional caterers will benefit from checking out their advice.
Continue reading Follow these Steps to Handle Customer Complaints Productively and Effectively