MISE EN PLACE
Attracting & Keeping Clients and Customers

As a restaurant, catering, or food truck business owner, you know that great food is only one ingredient for a successful business. After all, you have to be able to attract clients and customers in order for them to experience your culinary wizardry!

So while you may be able to create magic in the kitchen, you also have to create a service experience your customers will remember. And that's something you can do before they ever set foot in your bar, fine dining establishment, or bistro.

Let's take a look at some ways you can position your food business to attract your target demographic and keep them coming back for seconds.

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Beyond the Kitchen: 10 Tips for Creating Loyal Customers

Beyond the Kitchen: 10 Tips for Creating Loyal Customers

Here are 10 pointers to help your food business attract customers and clients and win their loyalty.

  1. Make service your top priority. Chances are, you never forget the time you had an incredible meal with exceptional service. You probably even raved to your friends about the place, too. That's because a huge part of dining out is the social experience. Even the best-prepared meals and mouth-watering cocktails can't make up for subpar service. So be sure your staff prioritizes treating patrons as welcomed guests. You'll get more word-of-mouth referrals repeat customers.
  2. Know your location. Usually, you choose a location based on market saturation research and key demographics. So now it's time to make the location work for you! Are you in a tourist-heavy area? Near a local university campus? A shopping mall? You can leverage these high-traffic areas as exposure opportunities for you business through advertising and targeted promotions. Consider reaching out to other (non-competitive) businesses nearby and offer them a one-time lunchtime discount. This gives them incentive to drop by, which can lead to future visits. (For more marketing and promotional ideas, read our article, "Using Technology as a Food Services Business Owner.")
  3. Keep up appearances. Your shop, establishment, or food truck should look as sleek as the day it first opened. What your store and your products look like will determine how others interpret your brand and how they feel about your business. And as always, keep your premises and furnishings (and restrooms!) clean. The last thing you want your clients to wonder about while they're eating is how clean your floors are.
  4. Be consistent. Building a recognizable brand requires consistency. For instance, consider how politicians use talking points over and over again. They do this to connect their image with a particular message. That's because repetition helps us retain information. Similarly, you want to create a certain level of reliability when it comes to your business. This may mean creating standard practice for preparing your signature dishes or sandwiches, or that you always introduce new menu items or specials on certain days. And speaking of specials…
  5. Pay attention to prices. How you price your products also contributes to your establishment's overall image. In turn, this dictates how well your business resonates with your target market. For example, if you own an upscale restaurant, your clientele will expect to spend a little extra when they make their reservations.
  6. Make sure your staff understands what you sell. In the food services business, it's essential that people know what they're eating. Training your staff to thoroughly understand your products can help reduce customer confusion and ensure they don't accidentally order items they might be allergic to. After all, a patron could sue your establishment for medical expenses associated with food poisoning and allergic reactions. (To learn more about the small business insurance coverages that can protect your business from these claims, read up on General Liability Insurance for Food Services Businesses.)
  7. Listen to what your customers have to say. Customers and clients like to feel understood. So offer your clientele the opportunity to share their experiences at your dining establishment or tavern. Social media is a great way to interact with your patrons and start a conversation about your business. If someone offers a critical remark, strive to understand their concerns and offer a solution.
  8. Offer loyalty rewards. If this fits with your food business's image, why not offer perks for returning customers? It gives them an incentive to drop by regularly.
  9. Create referral programs. This is especially handy if you specialize in services such as catering, since these businesses often thrive on word-of-mouth recommendations. You can even purchase software to automate these responses so you don't waste valuable time chasing down clients to ask for a referral.
  10. Don't underestimate your advertising needs. Advertising in the digital age can be relatively inexpensive. For instance, you can use social media platforms to promote your business, offer deals, and increase exposure. But you can also advertise in old-world media such as local newspapers, magazines, and even signs out front. Just remember to keep the conversation going so your business stays at the forefront of your market's mind.
Additional Marketing Resources for Food Services Business Owners

Additional Marketing Resources for Food Services Business Owners

Check out these additional resources for more tips on marketing your small food business:

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