5 Customer Retention Strategies Your Restaurant & Bar Needs To Try

Loyal guests drive traffic to your restaurant and bar and build your brand name. These are the 5 customer retention strategies you need to try!

Optimizing Your Bar & Restaurant
Server handing two beers to laughing guests

You serve incredible products in a swoon-worthy space, and customers are gobbling it all up. But staying top of mind and getting them to come back requires strategizing. 

Did you know that acquiring a new customer is significantly more expensive than retaining an existing customer? Educating new guests on your brand is of course important, but spending the marketing dollars to get them in your door adds up. Instead, spend some of that money and elbow grease on re-engaging existing customers again and again!

Loyal guests drive traffic to your restaurant and bar and build your brand name, setting your small business up for long-term growth. Here are 5 customer retention strategies you need to try:

1. A Rewards-Based Loyalty Program Builds Community & Your Bottom Line

A loyalty program may be the most obvious customer relationship strategy. But, according to data, they’re also the key differentiator for top-performing restaurants. That’s because loyalty programs reward guests for doing exactly what you want them to do: spending money. It’s a win-win for both parties!

There are 3 types of rewards programs that see the most success with customer retention:

  • Point-based: Dollars spent equate to points earned. Then, points can be redeemed for products!
  • Item-based: Similarly, these programs set item purchase goals and reward them with something free. Think of it as a digital punch card: Buy 9, get the 10th free!
  • Promotion-based: Whether it’s access to exclusive discounts, events, or products, promotion-based programs reward guests for simply being a member! A Mug Club at a brewery is the perfect example.

All of these program types encourage return visits and brand loyalty, which is of course good for business. Implementing a rewards program is simple with the right software. 

Arryved Insider is renowned for helping the country’s best food and beverage spots with easy-to-use tools that make guest engagement easy. Because Arryved Insider is fully integrated with the POS system, communication, customization, and tracking rewards redeemed is easy

Here’s a good place to start: Collect email addresses. With Arryved, businesses implement an Opt In option at checkout where guests can enter their email and sign up for the rewards program. Then there’s an accessible list of loyal guests to contact! 

Speaking of email… 

2. Email Marketing Drives Traffic & Investment In Your Brand

How you collect email addresses is up to your and your POS system, but once you have ‘em, use ‘em! 

Email marketing has the highest ROI of all forms of marketing, averaging a $36 return on every dollar spent. In this digital age, people are constantly checking their inbox. Hitting them at the right time with the right message can lead to an instant sale (especially if you offer off-premise ordering) and encourage guests to come back. 

And while you want to send sales-focused emails promoting new merchandise, discounts, or event invites, email is also used simply as a guest engagement tool to stay top of mind for guests. 

Spark interest in your brand by sharing business updates, stories from beloved staff, or a look inside how you make your products. Being human and genuine in your communications can only lead to higher guest engagement and therefore customer retention. 

Sing Sing Kill Brewery, for example, has found tremendous success in sending a weekly email newsletter. They update guests on the happenings in their taproom, promote sustainability, and share what’s new on the menu. Guests have become invested in their brand, and a mouthwatering new menu item always inspires a visit!

Goofy Foot Taproom server finding merch

3. Send Guests Home With A Reason To Come Back

Encouraging guests to come back to your restaurant and bar should take place immediately upon their departure. You want them to come again, so why waste time letting them know?

This can either be a promotional email triggered as soon as they enter their address at checkout into your POS system, or it can be something physical from staff. Here are some ideas:

  • Event invite: Keep a stack of postcards behind the bar detailing an upcoming event, and hand them out to guests at the end of their meal. Perhaps staff can even personalize it with a short message!
  • Drink token: A paper coupon for a free drink definitely won’t be discarded, but it may get lost. Wooden drink tokens are common at places with robust beverage programs, and something similar is both memorable and repeat-business-worthy!

Pssssst! It’s important to put an expiration date on anything you hand out. You want them to redeem these goodies within a certain period of time so they don’t forget about you.

Regardless of what you gift departing first-timers, make sure it’s personalized, branded, and encourages them to visit again—and soon!

4. Collecting Feedback Shows Guests You Care & Improves Future Experiences

As an owner or manager, there’s only so much you see for yourself on the floor. Eliciting feedback directly from guests not only makes them feel heard, it identifies where processes can be improved for future guests.

Here are a few different ways to collect feedback:

  • Comment cards: A comment card that comes with the check is a low-effort way to hear from guests. Simply ask what they loved and leave room for any constructive feedback.
  • Online surveys: Be it in an email or on social media—don’t knock the effectiveness of an Instagram poll before you try it—surveying folks online collects candid feedback fast. 
  • Third party reviews: Yelp or Google reviews aren’t always the most fun to look at, but once you weed out the trolls, you’re bound to find valuable suggestions for improvement. Leave a reply and see how you can make it up to them next time.

In fact, every feedback collection avenue provides an opportunity to make an offer for “next time”. If the comment card mentions they loved their cocktail, for example, offer a drink token then!

5. Top Notch Service Will Always Encourage Repeat Business

Your restaurant and bar can do all of the above, but the ultimate customer retention strategy is this: Make sure the service is exceptional. Outstanding service is made up of the following:

Ordering Is Easy & Fast Thanks To The Right Technology

Guests are less inclined to visit a restaurant and bar again if service is slow. In order to guarantee great guest experiences every time, your small business needs the technology that makes collecting orders and delivering items fast

Mobile, cloud-based devices make it fast and easy for servers to start tabs and collect orders. Smartphones and tablets travel anywhere, which empowers servers to help any guest that needs something.

Plus, cloud-based devices speed up communication between the front and back of house, and mobile POS accepts a wide variety of payment methods so checkout is a breeze

Contactless ordering is another technology that speeds up ordering time and enhances the guest experience. Allowing guests to add to and pay tabs themselves makes the entire process quicker—and it’s also proven to increase tab and tip size!

The faster the service, the more satisfied guests leave. Then they can’t wait to come back!

Staff Have What They Need To Be Happy & Successful

It’s no secret in the industry that staffing resources are limited. But hiring the right people and ensuring they’re satisfied is incredibly important, and translates directly into the service they provide. 

Equipping staff with the appropriate tools (such as mobile POS devices!), ensuring staff are paid well, and respecting time off and mental health are all aspects of creating a happy, high-performing team

For industry-informed tips on all things hiring, training, compensation, and more, get the free download of the Smart Staffing Guide.

Detailed Reports Inform Your Menu Selections & Staffing Needs

Yes, guest feedback is extremely helpful in identifying where your small business can improve. But automated, detailed data gives real-time insights into what’s working and what’s not, which is extremely important when curating the perfect menu to accompany exceptional service. 

These specific reports from Arryved POS help build profitable menus and efficient teams:

Sales By Category Report: Get a summary of sales broken down by category, item type, quantity, and size. If inventory is moving, guests want to see more of it on the menu. 

Arryved even filters by item size and uses ounce-level tracking so small businesses can determine which beverages are the best sellers, down to the drop!

Average Tab Size Report: See how long a party stayed, if they ate, and how many people were there. Now you have the insights necessary to inspire longer stays and bigger tabs!

Hour By Hour Report: Track the rate of orders coming in by the hour, so you can determine when your small business is the busiest. That way, you ensure you have the right amount of workers, so staff aren’t overwhelmed and guests are taken care of.

Ready to get your guests engaged and inspire more return visits? Get ideas from how Arryved Insider is being used in the wild!

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