The restaurant business is cutthroat, and we’re not talking about in the kitchen. Restaurants are one of the most highly competitive businesses out there and have some of the worst mortality rates.
Some restaurants close just months after opening; others cling on for a year or two before succumbing to heavy competition and low profits. Then, new restaurants pop up just as fast as the old ones close their doors.
If you want to stay open and whether the competitive battlefield of the restaurant business, you need to know how to stand out and beat the competition. In this discussion, we’ll look at some critical steps your restaurant should take to secure loyal, happy customers that drive profits and keep its head above the crowd of other eateries in your neighborhood.
Know And Focus On Your Customer
A lot of restaurant owners feel it’s their food, atmosphere or prices that make or break the success of the restaurant. These are parts of the equation, but your real success driver comes from the customer. Your Chinese Orange Skirt Steak entree may be the best in the world, but that won’t keep you afloat unless there are people there to eat it.
Thanks to your data and tools like a mobile POS system that lets you see customer reports, learning their behaviors and how to attract their hungry stomachs isn’t as difficult as you may think. It’s all about asking the right questions.
For example, if you track individual customer purchase histories, you can see how people pair your food together. Then, use this information to make more enticing menu options. Alternatively, if you find a segment of customers that enjoy your happy hour, you can direct emails and other marketing messages towards them when you introduce new drink specials.
It’s all about personalizing the experience for the unique individual and approaching them with the most relevant deals and information that you can. The better you can target diners when they aren’t in their restaurant, the more likely they’ll consistently return to eat. Surveys, whether handed out in person or posted in an email newsletter or on social media are also a great way to help learn and connect with customers.
People like to feel like they belong, even at their favorite restaurant. Connecting with them while they are in the building makes them much simpler to engage when they are home, hungry and thinking about where to eat. They also like to feel involved.
When you ask them questions about their meal or how they like the restaurant, truly listen, respond and, if you make changes based on their opinions, acknowledge that by letting them know.
Do More Than The Competition
Forging connections with your customers and learning their behaviors is a great start towards gaining an edge over your competition, but many of the other restaurants on your block are doing the same thing. They have their regulars and their personal touch for the customer experience.
One of the best ways to draw that extra attention to your restaurant is to offer a more valuable experience to diners than any of your competitors. Value is what drives people to say, “Hey, have you heard of this new restaurant?” Remember, value is the memorable something that compliments the food and overall dining experience.
How do you create a more valuable dining experience than your competition? Value can be created through any number of promotional campaigns, or by highlighting the unique selling point that your restaurant has to offer.
For example, eating contests have become popularized by Food Network shows like Man Vs. Food and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives because they are fun and entertaining. These absurd food challenges also add a ton of value to a restaurant’s offering.
It gives your restaurant a talking point that people will bring up with their friends. Winners of these challenges typically get a t-shirt, which transforms them into a walking advertisement for your establishment whenever they wear it.
There’s a lot you can do to add value. Often, it requires some creative thinking about how you can put a new spin on typical strategies to make them seem new and exciting.
Offer A Loyalty/Reward Program To Encourage Return Visits And Customer Referrals
Loyalty programs, even in the restaurant industry, are not a new tactic. Diners and other eating establishments have long leaned on the old stamp card loyalty system, where guests get a new stamp each visit until ultimately satisfying the required stamps to get a reward.
Thanks to today’s technology, like new restaurant POS systems that are packaged with lots of tools and features, eateries can upgrade their existing loyalty program and bring it into the Digital Age.
The reward programs that promise the best, most valuable returns achieve two key goals. First, a significant reward program is engaging to the customers. People need to want to participate in the program, whether because participation promises a fun experience or the rewards you’re offering are worth their time commitment.
Secondly, the program should be built to encourage referrals. Loyalty programs constructed around referrals help draw new customers in, while simultaneously rewarding those that are already loyal.
Connect With Customers Through Receipts
Every dining experience at your restaurant ends with the same thing: a receipt. Many restaurants miss out on a tremendous opportunity to connect with customers because they use a standard, simple receipt. Often, this isn’t because they are lazy or not good at promoting their restaurant, but instead, they lack the right restaurant POS package that allows for custom receipt messages to be made.
If you process payments with a top mobile POS system, on the other hand, you can quickly create custom receipts. These customized memos can share details about upcoming promotions, provide a redeemable code for loyalty reward points, a link to an online survey or any number of other tactics. Again, this creates the opportunity to connect and re-engage with customers after they’ve left your restaurant.
Speed Up Sales With Mobile POS Optimized For NFC Payments
Time is money, for both you and your diners. As a restaurant, it’s your mission to get people inside, fed, paid and out the door as quickly as possible. Table turnover times helps eliminate queues and delivers an overall more fluid dining experience that will enchant eaters to return.
A mobile POS system is practically designed with speedy sales in mind. If you’re still using a traditional POS system, you’re committing your diners to longer waits and your business to fewer sales.
A mobile POS has two significant advantages, regarding speeding up sales. First, there isn’t a fixed cash register and computer. Mobile POS systems process payments through a tablet or other mobile device. This means your diners can pay directly at their table, with no running the bill and receipt back and forth between a fixed POS machine.
A mobile restaurant POS also helps guarantee your ability to accept NFC and mobile wallet payments, which is increasingly becoming a desire of consumers, especially millennials.
NFC stands for near field communication and allows customers to pay with their mobile smartphone or another device through an app. There’s no swiping a card or physical cash being exchanged; they just hold their device to your mobile POS computer and the technology does the rest.
Not only are mobile payments becoming an expected part of what consumers expect from businesses, but it also speeds up transaction times. For a restaurant, encouraging NFC payments can help flip tables faster and keep lines shorter.
Ensure You Always Have Inventory And In-Demand Items Available
Nothing can hurt a diner’s experience in your restaurant more than not getting the meal they want, especially if they came to your restaurant specifically for that item. This makes inventory and ingredient management so important for restaurants, especially on the highest selling, most popular items.
Today’s mobile POS software includes inventory management. A restaurant POS package like eHopper’s allows you to take it a step further and track individual ingredients, even entering how much is used in different menu items.
By being able to track and see your ingredient stock in real time, it is easier to anticipate when you’re low in stock and order new ingredients with ample time. Thus, you’ll almost never have to tell a customer that their favorite dish is unavailable. And, if you do, you can quickly look and see when those ingredients will arrive by incorporating vendor information into the same POS report.
This mobile POS feature can also be leveraged by restaurants to order their ingredients smarter, especially to help reduce waste product.
Connect With Customers Online
Thanks to emailed newsletters, social media interactions, blogging and other channels, customers and brands can connect with one another more than they ever could before. These interactions are critical for creating strong, long-lasting relationships with diners and keeping your food in their mind when they aren’t already in your dining room.
A well run social media platform or weekly specials newsletter can engage customers again and again. And, given the incredibly shareable nature of social media posts especially, the reach of these marketing messages can extend to non-customers and potentially drive these new eaters into your restaurant.
The drawback of connecting with users online is its hard. You’re competing with tons of different messages and distractions that can draw attention away from your messages. There’s plenty of social media campaigns and efforts that never get the traction they deserve.
However, failing to be present on these channels means ignoring a favorite meeting place of your customers and thereby making them more susceptible to defecting to the competitors that are present and using these platforms. In other words, there’s no guarantee that you’ll see significant success from your online efforts, but it is becoming an essential part of running a restaurant and maintaining customer loyalty.
Offer Online Ordering
Another expected service for today’s restaurants is online ordering. Once reserved for Chinese takeout and pizza deliveries, online ordering is becoming more and more popular.
Arguably, this is thanks in large part to services like GrubHub, UberEats, and others that deliver food from many different restaurants that wouldn’t typically offer such a service. This has caused other dining establishments to adapt and begin offering mobile, online ordering for their menu items.
To deal with online orders, your business needs a restaurant POS system that can handle these types of transactions and keep them separate from the diners inside the restaurant, to reduce confusion.
Dominating the competition in the restaurant business is tough. There are many different ways that you can try and gain an advantage in your market, whether it’s by creating hilarious social media posts, creating a massive burger eating challenge, rewarding customer referrals or something more.
It’s an ongoing process that requires you to study and learn about customers to extract new ideas and ways to provide value and allow your restaurant to engage and entice eaters when they are thinking of where to eat. A mobile POS system is a robust toolkit of features that can be leveraged to allow a restaurant to process payments, learn about customers and provide more value to those eaters.