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Restaurant Customer Retention In NYC: What No One Tells You About Scoring More Regulars

by | Jul 26, 2019

Imagine walking into your favorite restaurant. The waiter catches your eye almost immediately, and you’re ushered to your favorite table. He seats you while another brings you a bread bowl. The butter is unsalted, just the way you like it. It spreads beautifully on the freshly baked bread. Next, someone (presumably another waiter) pours you a glass of your favorite Pinot Grigio. You can’t be sure who it is because you’re nose-deep in your Android phone. No matter. This restaurant leverages hyper-personalization to the hilt and delivers quality customer service to secure your loyalty. All things considered, restaurant customer retention in NYC is no walk in the park.

To be sure, you want new diners. They are, after all, the lifeblood of your restaurant. Acquiring new faces can help keep your cash registers filled and your staff paid.

Here’s the thing: New customers are fantastic. However, did you know that the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70%, while that of selling to a new prospect is 5-20%?

Yes, You Can Get Your Customers To Eat Pizza More Than Once A Week

Did you know that 80% of your future profits will come from just 20% of your diners? Restaurants rely on regulars to stay viable in an increasingly competitive restaurant space.

All in all, “getting” regulars isn’t as hard as it sounds. Sure, you may not get Beyonce or Jay-Z in your restaurant 5 times a day. Perhaps, not even the cast of Seinfeld. That’s ok. However, retaining loyal customers and building real, tangible relationships with new ones needn’t be a chore. Ideally, you want to gain new diners in order to convert them into regulars.

A loyal customer is worth much more than a new one. Not only does it cost 5x more to convert a new diner, but a 5% increase in customer retention can boost profits by up to 95%! Now that’s some serious dough!

All things considered, your regular customers spend more money (33% more on average) and forge better relationships with your staff. Additionally (and this is the gold standard), they’re natural brand ambassadors. They love your food and your restaurant. Naturally, they’re going to tell their friends about it. But, how can you get to this enviable stage?

The Secrets To Restaurant Customer Retention In NYC

Word-of-mouth (WOM) is more powerful than you may think. 90% of people trust food recommendations from their family and friends. Plus, 74% of customers say that WOM was the key determiner in their purchasing decision.

So, while grabbing those new customers is always nice, keeping the ones you have should be your primary goal. They spend more, talk more, and eat more.

The question is — how do you get them? You want better customer retention, but you don’t see how your existing assets can help you boost your retention numbers.

There are three primary ways to increase customer retention.

  1. Make sure your customers are happy.
  2. Leverage your brand to create an emotional connection with your customers.
  3. Ensure that ordering from your restaurant is stress-free.

How do you accomplish these three things? Below, we discuss 3 strategies to keep your customers coming back again and again.

1. Wanna “Taco” Bout Customer Service?

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” — Bill Gates

Customer service and customer retention are inextricably linked. The idea that food quality alone will capture loyalty remains pervasive in the restaurant industry.

Undoubtedly, culinary quality is important. However, the way you treat customers and handle their concerns can separate you from the pack. Many restaurants serve great food but outstanding customer service isn’t always a given.

To be clear, this applies to both dine-in and digital customers. Your online customers have needs, questions, and concerns as well.

Additionally, seeing as how 59% of restaurant food that Millennials consume is ordered online, catering to this customer base should be a top priority.

Killer Tips To Boost Your Customer Service Mojo

  • Respond to negativity. You may think every dish your restaurant serves is a masterpiece. However, you’re still going to get complaints. Don’t ignore those criticisms. 82% of U.S. consumers have completely stopped doing business with a brand due to one negative experience. So, when you see that compliant, respond to it! Send an email, message the customer on social media, or craft a genuine reply on Yelp.


  • Make them feel special. Did you know that 68% of diners will stop eating at your restaurant if they perceive indifference from you? Making customers feel appreciated is crucial. Train your wait staff to memorize customer names, provide diners with free desserts on their birthdays, or thank a mother for her well-behaved children. It’ll pay off in the long run.


  • Power up your mobile marketing campaigns. Did you know that, unlike 57% of Boomers, 91% of millennials feel they have a healthy relationship with tech? That’s not all. Millennials check their phones an average of 150 times a day! Bottom line: you can’t afford to ignore mobile communications.


  • Talk to your customers. Get to know the people who come into your restaurant. If they have complaints, face them head-on. Do they dislike the long wait-times for food delivery? Tell them about the changes you’ll make. What if they’re wrong? Surprisingly, 60 – 70% of customers will continue to do business with you if you deal with them fairly, even if the results don’t favor them. They want their concerns to be treated with the respect they deserve. Undeniably, there’ll always be a few customers trying to score freebies. However, the majority of your diners just want to be heard.

2. “Lettuce” Talk About Branding

Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” – Jeff Bezos

Branding is about more than ROI. In fact, using consistent branding across all channels (online, in-store, and mobile) can boost profits by 23%. However, the real value in branding is the way it forms connections.

Don’t underestimate the power of branding in your customer’s mind. Consider this: when was the last time an event, thing, or place reminded you of a particular brand? Coca Cola has leveraged the power of branding to perfection. In March 2019, it introduced its newest flavor, orange vanilla to the masses. Many people say the flavor reminds them of creamsicles from their carefree childhood summers. That’s the power of branding.

Walker predicts that your brand will overtake both product and price as the single most important customer acquisition and retention tool by 2020.

Why do people buy Downy instead of Tide detergent? Or Bounce instead of Gain dryer sheets? Undeniably, there are minor differences. Your choices, however, result from your connection to the brand. You’re not alone in your estimation. 59% of consumers prefer to purchase from a brand they’re familiar with.

Surprisingly, all four of those brands mentioned above are owned by the same company!

There’s incredible power in branding. With the right strategies, you can use branding as a pillar of customer retention. The possibilities are limitless. Be explicitly bold: Coca-Cola managed to connect its brand to Christmas by placing Santa in Coke ads from 1920 onwards. In 2001, the iconic company introduced the all-new animated Coca Cola Santa. The rest, as they say, is history.

Miracle Branding Strategies To Help You Capture Regular Diners

  • Keep everything consistent. If there’s one thing your customers expect from you, it’s consistency. Food quality needs to be consistent — that’s a given. However, your in-store and digital presence also need to be consistent. Does your website match the same aesthetic as your brick and mortar restaurant? Do online images capture the real quality of your cuisine?


  • Color matters! Too often, restaurants ignore the psychology of colors. Did you know that red can increase your table turnover rate? Avoid using cut-and-paste templates. Having a signature color ALONE can improve your brand recognition by 80%. And 56% of marketers agree that personalized content is the key to creating an engaging brand.


  • Reinvent that logo. Does your restaurant have a unique logo? Your customers will form an impression of your logo within 10 seconds. Make sure you spend time and resources designing it.


  • Maximize the branding elements on your online portal. Your online portal needs to be branded. In the final analysis, consistency and presentation take precedence. From the sit-down experience to “order-from-your-living-room convenience,” your customers should feel like they’re ordering from YOU — not just a generic restaurant.

3. Technology is a Big “Dill”

Any sufficiently advanced technology is equivalent to magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke

Want to know one of the easiest ways to keep customers returning? Give them the ability to actually come back!

73% of diners think that restaurant tech improves their experience. And 95% of restaurant owners agree with them! Using technology isn’t an option anymore.

You must have a digital presence you can leverage to score both new and return customers.

Customers want to order food at their convenience. We can talk about the fact that 60% of diners go out-to-eat at least once a week or that 34% will order over $50 worth of food online.

However, that’s just one piece of the marketing paradigm. Consumers want efficient tech-based solutions: The National Restaurant Association report that customer-facing service-based technologies (such as online ordering and mobile payment platforms) are set to skyrocket into 2020.

They Used To Laugh When I Said Digital Ordering Would Soon Make Or Break A Brand 

No one’s laughing anymore. To be sure, modern digital ordering isn’t your grandfather’s marketing platform. So, what’s a business to do?

  • You need your own portal. Did you know that 70% of customers prefer to order directly from your website, not 3rd party apps? Sure, 3rd party platforms have deployed full-scale marketing campaigns against restaurants. GrubHub, UberEats, and PostMates currently dominate online ordering. However, they also take huge profits from restaurants. The average cost of doing business with one of them is 25% of the meal price. Meanwhile, the average restaurant profit margin is only 5%! Last, but not least, customers don’t get to know you. They associate positive experiences with 3rd party platforms. Bottom line? You need your own ordering portal.


  • It’s time to leverage 3rd party platforms to your advantage. These platforms can actually be great for your business. The trick is to leverage their massive user base to convert their customers into your regulars. Try this on for size: Send every order that’s placed through a 3rd party platform a flyer with your website link. Tell customers who like your food that they can order directly from you. List the benefits: address the “what’s-in-it-for-me” angle. This is a great way to convert customers over to your hyper-personalized, brand-focused online ordering system.


  • Track your customers. You’ll want to track customer satisfaction, so you can identify what you’re doing right. A great tool for this is the Net Promoter Score (NPS) system. It’s free and helps you identify promoters (your core loyalists) and detractors (unhappy customers who can destroy your brand through negative reviews). Subtract the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters and you arrive at your Net Promoter Score. Caveat: If you use any NPS trademarks on your website, remember to include the following attribution: “Net Promoter, Net Promoter System, Net Promoter Score, NPS, and the NPS-related emoticons are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Fred Reichheld and Satmetrix Systems, Inc.”


How 9Fold Can Help You Score More Regulars

Picture this — an online portal that perfectly captures your brand. It uses a gorgeous, customized template. In addition, your restaurant logo perfectly complements beautiful, mouthwatering images of food.

Now, imagine that it comes with the ability to send out branded feedback emails to all of your customers, particularly those who have issues with their online experience.

Let’s not stop there. You also get email marketing capabilities you can use to spread the good word about your restaurant. Best of all, it only costs a fraction of what 3rd party delivery apps charge.

Still think you’re dreaming?

Think again. We have branding, customer service, and technology packed into one beautifully low priced package. 9Fold creates fluid, powerful, and fast portals your customers can use to order food online. Each of our portals is custom branded, filled with rich features, and include handy tools like email marketing and automatic, branded response emails.

Want to learn more? Contact us to schedule a personalized review of our online portal today!

Own a restaurant? Let’s chat.

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