July 04, 2012
Blog by Petra Clayton, Managing Director of Custard Communications
As I write this article, I’ve received 18 emails providing me with alluring offers to dine this week. I’d love to say they are personal invitations from the chef, but they are cold, hard sales pitches to my discount appetite. Most of them are duly related to Father’s Day, but there are still the same repetitive voucher drivers, such as lunch for £5.
My reluctance to open all these emails probably says I’m receiving too many, yet I can’t be bothered to unsubscribe. So is the restaurateur fooled into thinking I’ve clicked, therefore I’m interested, or that I’m engaged because I didn’t unsubscribe? Measuring by these statistics alone can be misleading and what we should really be asking is ‘what happens next?’
Despite most offers including a direct call to action enabling the restaurant to track the success or popularity of the promotion, there is limited knowledge or tracking of what happens after that initial response. The savvy customer has been known to unsubscribe and re-subscribe to get the best deals sent to them, or to remain low and inactive to persuade the restaurant they need to be sold to harder with bigger and better offers. The new diner has emerged and the marketing channels just can’t keep up.
So what should we be doing once we’ve hooked the diner with the right promotion? The answer is to keep them for as long as possible. You’ve invested money in capturing the diner, luring them in with voucher bait and diluting your profit margins in the process, but how do you make this investment work long-term? We have some simple suggestions to convert your savvy voucher vampire into a loyal and valuable diner.
Dilute your product – just because you’ve discounted by 50% doesn’t mean you should halve the portions. If you’ve opted to market through discounting and got people through the door, don’t turn them off by presenting smaller portions to break even. This is your one opportunity to really showcase your restaurant. Make it count. Give them good sized portions, outstanding ingredients and dishes that will keep them coming back for more or, even better, spread the word.
Sacrifice service – the same applies to service as it does to food. Don’t try to balance the books by reducing the number of staff or by cutting back on training. The service delivery is vital to get people to return. There should be no difference between a voucher client or a full paying diner. Both should be treated to exceptional service. I recently took advantage of an outstanding hotel offer and was amazed that not only was I made to feel so welcome on arrival but I was also upgraded. I have since been back to the hotel and recommended it on TripAdvisor, to friends and colleagues and will no doubt return again next year. In the eyes of the hotelier, that was a worthy investment, executed perfectly.
Mention the voucher – this is a strange one but it’s becoming more familiar. Not everyone dines out on a voucher, so don’t assume that the only people in your restaurant are there because they downloaded a discount. So many restaurants open their friendly patter with, ‘Do you have a voucher’. Imagine diners who haven’t got one – it’s bad for relationship building with existing clients who are happy to return and pay full price and it doesn’t convey the right message when you assume everyone dines at your restaurant because of the deals.
Capture your diners’ details – if you haven’t already captured them through the voucher, make sure you ask your diner to complete their details at the table. An email address, birth month and name are vital to collect. Don’t expect people to give their details for nothing; provide an incentive or reward by entering them into a monthly draw. Don’t give them a further discount.
Encourage them to return – what can you do to get them to return without providing a voucher? Providing table talkers or posters in the restaurant promoting up-and-coming events, launches of special menus or themes, food or drink promotions, are key to encouraging diners to think about revisiting. Give people a reason to return.
Make it an amazing experience – make it impossible for the diner not to want to return. Explain the menus, the wine, the seasonal produce, whatever your restaurant’s selling points are. Make sure you shout about them and quickly.
Keep in touch – thank diners for visiting, invite them to review their experience and provide a touch point for dialogue. Ensure they know your website details, Twitter page, Facebook page and how to get in touch. Encourage them to become a fan, follower or subscriber at the end of the meal using a data capture card, bill or the menu. They should be aware of how to keep in touch with you and the channels for engagement.
Reward loyalty – make them feel valued. Sign diners up to become automatic loyal members of your restaurant dining club and explain they will receive previews of themed events or evenings, special invitations to menu or wine tastings. Provide a plastic or card loyalty pass with all your contact details, in return for their details.