4 Ways to Quickly Grow Your Restaurant Regulars

In case you have been living under a bridge in the center of the Earth, I’m sure that you’re aware by now that it is five times more expensive to market to new customers than to get repeat customers to come in to your restaurant. Because of this remarkable stat, without question your #1 restaurant marketing plan should be building repeat customers because they will come in whether you market to them or not.

Yes, I’m speaking to you, restaurant owners and managers who want help with how to run a better restaurant and want to improve their business now. So in this article I’m going to show you how to quickly grow your repeat customer base so that you can build an army of regulars and raving fans. Seriously, start taking notes.

 In case you weren’t paying attention and zoned out like a four-year-old watching cartoons, let’s review what we’ve gone through so far: growing a customer base of raving fans is the #1 marketing strategy you should be implementing. There, now you can’t say I didn’t put in a 110% effort.

Not convinced yet? Well check this out. This stat will blow your mind. If you increase your customer loyalty by just 5%, it can increase your profits by 80 – 90%. Read that again, because that is insane. In addition, at least 35% of your total revenue is provided to you from your regulars. But I’m going to show you how to increase that number even more.

As the title of this episode indicates, I’m going to provide you with four strategies to grow your regulars. But what goes without saying, that I’m not going to cover in this article, is that your bar and restaurant always needs: 1) good quality food, 2) good quality drinks, and 3) great customer service. That goes without saying so I’m not focusing on those today. I’m going to assume you have that you have all of your ducks in a row in this area, because if your food and drinks and service sucks, then these strategies are a moot point because nobody is coming back to your restaurant anyway.

Ok, off we go then..

Four Powerful Strategies For Growing Your Customer Base

Here are the four magic strategies for growing your customer base into a massive group of happy people who fall in love with your place and continue to come back again and again. The truth is, people are creatures of habit, so if we can just get them to come back to your place just three times, they have a 77% chance of becoming a regular. 77 PERCENT. So that’s the magic number here, and you will not have a problem hitting that number if you follow these strategies I’m about to give you.

Are you taking notes yet, or are you just sitting there drooling on your keyboard?

Strategy #1 – The Taffer Method

 I’ve talk about this in my restaurant management masterclass. It’s a highly effective method that when executed correctly gets your guests to come in that targeted three times.

With modern marketing there’s even a better way to execute the Taffer Method that I’ll talk about in just a minute, but here’s the basics of how it works. We all know Jon Taffer, right? He’s the overheated tyrant on Bar Rescue that looks like a giant sculpin and screams at bar owners like a drill sergeant and tells them what pathetic excuses of human beings they are. It’s all for the drama of course, but he really does know his stuff, and this little gem works like magic.

Basically what you do is create cards, about the size of business cards, that have “one free appetizer” printed on the card. These are to be handed out to strangers who have never been to your restaurant. This means you need to either hand them out yourself, or recruit your staff out to hand them out. You can even create a contest and whoever gets the most people to come in and use their card wins a prize. Works great.

That means when a new guest comes in, everyone on staff knows that this is their first time there because they have this special card. At that time, they go inform the manager. The manager then comes by and tells them how great it is to have them in. They chat them up, get them their free appetizer, and then once the appetizer is finished, the manager drops by again and asks how it was.

The people will most likely be polite and say they liked it (hopefully they do like it or they aren’t coming back, as we spoke about earlier). Then the manager says, “Great, well if you liked that, you’re going to love our (insert home run dish here)”. He pulls out his own business card and writes on the back 50% off (name of home run dish) and signs his name and says, “Come back and try this out, you’ll love it.”

The Hook Has Been Set

Yes, the magic has now been released into the marketing universe. With the 50% discount on the home run dish, we’ve now got them back a 2nd time because who doesn’t want 50% off a great meal? At this time, the process is repeated one more time. The guest presents the 50% off card to the server. Server gets the manager. They serve the home run dish, and when they are finished, the manager stops by and says “Hey, I hope you liked (home run dish). But I gotta tell ya, next time you come in, you’ve got to try our chocolate volcano brownie.” He then pulls out another card with his signature for the free dessert and asks them to come back and try that. Now we’ve got them back that magical three times and they are locked in.

I know I sort of rushed through that strategy, but I didn’t want to insult your intelligence because we can all see the pattern there. Plus, I can tell right through the screen you are reading this from that you are a super smarty. And yes, the old Taffer method still works, or something similar to that method which you come up with that gets people to come in three times. However, nowadays there are methods that employ the same fundamental strategy as the Taffer method, but they are far more effective because of modern technology.

Let’s find out what that might be (insert suspenseful music here)…

Restaurant Marketing Strategy #2 – Dominate With Email Marketing

email marketing for restaurants

When it comes to modern technology and marketing in the restaurant, he first one to consider is email marketing. And before you get all turned off because you don’t know anything about email marketing or you don’t believe in it, you need to take a minute and open your mind to new possibilities. This is what rich people do. They consider all angles. It’s the people who get stuck in traditional methods and don’t try new strategies who go extinct. So don’t be the dodo bird of the restaurant world. Open your mind and thrive.

Email marketing can and will increase your customers and your sales by a HUGE margin. When we get to strategy #3 next, there is an even more powerful method. Like Gandalf powerful.

Now, with email marketing, you first need to offer your guests an incentive to give up their email, because people’s email is more valuable to them than their third child. This means they aren’t giving it out unless you provide a free appetizer or 50% off their meal or something that gets them excited. Then, once you have their email, you can market to these people for FREE.

The only thing you might want to invest in is an email service provider which allows you to send out emails to all of your database whenever you want, as well as create an automated follow-up series that goes out to all of your subscribers once they sign up. You can space the emails out however you want. Once per day, once per week, once per month. Whatever. It’s amazing. For instance, I use Aweber. It’s free for your first 500 subscribers, and then for like $29 bucks per month you can have up to 2,500 subscribers. It is worth it in a big way.

What Do I Send Them?

So, with that said, you might be asking, “Ok, smarty-pants Dave, what exactly do I send to these subscribers once they sign-up to my list.”

Well, I’m glad you asked, because there are an unlimited number of ideas for what to send your email subscribers that go way beyond just sending them coupons and discounts. People like discounts, but if that’s all you ever send, they’re going to stop opening your emails, and even if they do, all you’re ever getting are cheap people coming into your restaurant expecting free stuff.

Instead, we want to create a relationship with them. We want them to get to know our staff and our culture and our menu and our weekly and monthly events, and you can do all of this through email for free. In fact, to help you out, if you click here you can go download my email marketing domination templates for free. It’s 25 sample emails that you can steal from me. You just copy/paste and customize them to make them your own.

In other words, I’m going to tell you exactly what to say to your customers who are signed up to your list to get them to come in at least three times to make them a regular so they will spend obscene amounts of money with you. Because creating this big lis–this big database of customers–is the ultimate goal. As the saying goes in business, “the money is in the list”, which means the bigger your database of contacts, the more money you will make. Of course I go over email marketing in more depth in my Restaurant Management Masterclass.

There’s no hidden secret here. It is a clear-cut path of certainty to the promised land if you grow your list. If you go get the email domination templates and get on MY email list (see how that works?), I will talk to you more about how to grow your list and kill it with email marketing in those emails I send to you. So I’ll expand more on how to market in those email lessons. Ok?

Restaurant Marketing Strategy #3 – Text Message Marketing

text marketing for restaurants

This is similar to email marketing in that you need to provide an incentive in order to get your customers’ phone numbers now instead of emails. And if you’re squeamish about text marketing, you need to un-squeam yourself right now. As I mentioned, text message marketing is even more effective than email marketing, and that’s because 98% of people open text messages.

Not to mention that 90% of people who subscribe to a text message list for restaurants are still subscribed two years later, because this is the way people want to communicate. So this works very similar to email marketing in that you schedule messages to send out to the people on your list to get them to come in. Where it’s different than email marketing is that text messages are shorter and text marketing is actually easier to do than email marketing.

If you’re asking, the service I recommend using here for text marketing is Text2VIP. And if you enter “barman” in the promo code when you go to sign-up, they will give you 1,000 free text messages to send out so you can try it out. They normally only give 50 free texts. But since you and I are pals, you get an extra 950 text messages to play with to see if it’s effective for you. Plus, they will set your account up for free and they will show you how everything works. Easy-peasy. And again, you’re using text marketing to get them to come in at least three times, which of means that there is then that 77% chance they will become a regular. It’s the Taffer Method on steroids. And crack. And molly. Whatever that is.

The last one on the list for growing your regulars, is:

Restaurant Marketing Strategy #4 – Loyalty Program

restaurant loyalty program

I know that some of you don’t feel like summoning the energy to run a loyalty program, but it really is a powerful way to build a huge following of regulars. I mean think about it. When you belong to a place that gives you rewards and discounts, and everyone knows you because you come in all the time, where are you going to go every time?

For instance, I belong to a movie club through Cinemark theaters because my wife and I love the movies. And it’s like $10 per month, but I get a free ticket every month, which is like $16 now, and I get 25% off all my popcorn and candy and drinks and stuff. And because I belong to that club, I don’t go see movies anywhere else. I have a movie theater less than a mile from my house, but I go to the one 6 miles away because I belong to that club and I want my discounts. The same goes for you. If they belong to your loyalty program and you’re giving similar rewards, they will choose your place every time.

Lucky for you, many POS systems these days have rewards programs built in. Or you can go through a 3 rd party like 5-Stars or Incentivo. Totally worth it. I’m not going to go deep into how to start a loyalty program. However, I do have a video on it that you can watch here if you want.

So there’s your restaurant marketing training session for the day on how to grow your regulars like crazy and thus grow your sales. When it comes to marketing, I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it, your #1 goal needs to be how to create a method or strategy to build repeat customers. It’s going to save you money and increase your money at the same time. It’s just going to take some action on your end to make it happen. Nothing happens without action.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you learned something. Check out my blog for other great articles on how to run a better business or my videos on my YouTube channel.