3 Ways to Build Long-lasting Relationships at Your Restaurant

At Tuee, we work with restaurateurs on a daily basis. Many of our conversations go like this. “I don’t get it – how do I bring my customers back in more often? We have great food and great service. Everytime I ask a guest, they say “loved the food”. Yet I seem to find myself month after month struggling to improve profits. The big question is: What can I do to get my guests back in more often?

The answer: build long lasting relationships with your guests.  Long lasting relationships are like best friends – they take investments of time, attitude, and sincerness to build. Everyone wants to feel like a VIP when they walk into their favorite restaurant – guests who feel valued are more likely to return, spend more, and tell their friends.

There is no shortcut to building long lasting relationships. However, there are steps you can take to start the process. Below are a couple of great ways for you to start building these relationships with each of your guests:

1. Collect Guest Data

Step 1 to understanding what your guests wants and needs are is simply getting the information. By collecting guest data, you can start the process of understanding what your guests like, what makes them happy, and why they come to your restaurant.

There are a variety of ways to collect guest data including:

  • Taking notes when reservations are made
  • Using paper or digital comment cards
  • Old fashion table visit from the manager/owner

All of these strategies have their own pros and cons, however all of them are better than not collecting any guest data. Remember you can’t create long-lasting relationships without having information on who these people are. It would be like trying to communicate with your friends without having their number, email, or any other way to contact them!

2. Make your guests feel special

As you collect data, you can start to make real differences in your guests’ experiences. There are many simple easy things you can do to make a guest feel special such as:

  • Addressing them by their first name
  • Looking up what they got on their last visit and suggesting it again or something similar that they might enjoy
  • Having the chef personally come by to thank them for coming in

As we all know, everyone wants to feel like a VIP everywhere they go. Making sure that you take those extra small steps to make your guests remember how appreciated they are at your restaurant is the difference between a good and phenomenal experience.

3. Follow up with guests regularly

A guest’s relationship with your restaurant needs to extend beyond their dining experience. Guests are actively looking to build a relationship with your restaurant. However, right now, it is very difficult for them to do so. Most guests receive monthly newsletters which are generic and impersonal. This is largely ineffective and often causes guests to have a negative connotation of your restaurants. Ex “Why do they keep sending me their steak specials? I am a vegetarian!”

Here are a couple of ways to engage your guests in more personal way again making sure they feel like a VIP:

  • Thank guests for dining with you – Send out a thank you message a day or two after guests dine with you. Personalize the message so that the guest knows you were happy they came in and appreciated their business.
  • Let guests know you miss them! – Reach out to guests if they haven’t come in this month/season. Often times life gets in the way, and a simple “we miss you” message will jog a guests memory of their amazing experience at your restaurant.
  • Engage with the guests who post about you on social media – Good or bad, make sure to respond politely, and thank guests for taking the time and effort to reach out to you.

Regardless of how you engage your guests, one thing has become clear: a restaurant experience is not just about the food. It is about a combination of food, atmosphere, and service. All of these things extend well-beyond the 4 walls of the restaurant. By building long lasting relationships, you can improve your chances of building lifelong fans of your restaurant.

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