September 10 2014 – Robert Fiumara
Generating repeat business and encouraging customer loyalty is always a challenge for restaurateurs, but there are ways that you can improve your restaurant’s layout and service to better engage customers and be more inviting to first-time visitors while also being welcoming to repeat guests. During a given customer’s visit, you will have approximately five opportunities to engage them and drive sales.
You Will Have Many Opportunities For Customer Engagement
The first is at their arrival. First impressions are always important, and what a customer is greeted with initially will determine the tone of the visit. Your exterior and signage, good or bad, is your initial impression. It sets the expectations for their visit. Showing customers what brands you carry, and what quality of food and service they’ll receive is highly important. Things such as window clings, sidewalk menu boards, and letter boards all shape this initial interaction.
Once inside, the first thing the customer will take in will be their surroundings; the appearance of your interior needs to cultivate a positive atmosphere if you want to successfully engage your guest. According to market research, cleanliness was the highest concern for guests eating out.
Following that, guests reported that menu variety and a sense of choice were important in their dining experience. Central to this is presentation. Presenting the multitude of choices that a guest may have during their visit is important to cultivating that aforementioned sense of choice. By presenting choices in a clean and organized format, such as signage, window clings, menus, table top stands and menu boards, you are able to better engage your guest with your menu. Likewise, offering combination meals or options (Think soup or salad, choice of side, etc.) provides added enjoyment to the dining experience.
This next step of engagement will seem obvious, but now that your customer has made their choice, it’s time to eat. The presentation of the food, along with its ease of use and portability are key factors in food engagement. Reinforce the quality of your products with simple additions like attractive presentation, wrappers, table tents, and sandwich picks. Using branded dispensers and racks for beverages and condiments are also a good decision if applicable to your restaurant style, and demonstrate further the quality of your ingredients and service throughout the meal.
Finally, you’ll reach checkout. Your final contact with the customer should encourage another visit. This last step can only be detailed in terms of interaction. Having a friendly staff and providing branded leftover containers, bags, or other accessories to guests as they head out your door is a good way to not only make them feel particularly treated, but to spread your branding. A thoughtful interaction with these things, that is mindful of where the guest may be headed or what time of day it is will top the visit off with a non-superficial exchange.
Utilizing Them Effectively is Central to Cultivating Good Business
By implementing this simple front of house interaction style and branding, you’ll improve your guest experience and ultimately cultivate a better business.