A guide to help your restaurant embrace the holiday spirit

Photo Courtsey: Jed Villejo, unsplash

It’s an undeniable fact that festivals are a huge part of the Indian culture. Whether it’s the jolly atmosphere of Christmas, the traditional celebration of Onam, or the bright Diwali lights that illuminate homes, each and every individual in the country partakes in at least one of the festivities that come in quick succession throughout the year.

Festivals are the perfect opportunity to unite and celebrate the love shared between friends and family. It’s the time to let bygones be bygones, and start fresh, it’s the time to splurge a little, and most importantly, it’s the time for food to fill tables. It’s therefore not surprisingly a great time for restaurants to spruce up their marketing by adding a flair of the holiday cheer to their strategies.

It’s no secret that the festive period is hugely profitable for any business, and restaurants are no exception as consumers begin spending a large part of their budget on food and beverage. The most common way that most restaurants attempt to attract customers is by serving a special menu of festive food. But if every restaurant employs this technique, how does one stand apart from its contemporaries?

Photo Courtsey – Gor Davtyan, unsplash

Here’s your short guide to making the most for your restaurant while also keeping the holiday spirit alive:

  1. Don’t shirk on planning your strategy :

“Planning” doesn’t necessarily fit in with the festive period, because you tend to throw caution to the wind and bank on the fact that people will turn up regardless. But an effective plan will help your restaurant make efficient use of your budget, and ensure that your festive strategy is creative but still representative of your restaurant’s image. Moreover, the planning process becomes an exercise of teamwork if you bring all hands-on deck, letting your employees pitch their own ideas.

While the plan can be varied and unique depending on individual establishments, some aspects that can be covered include;

  • YOUR HOLIDAY MENU: If you want to have a success feast of festive food that makes customers roll in, it might be beneficial to pick and decide on the items at least a week or two in advance to debuting it for customers to try.
Photo Courtesy – Alexandra Gornago, unsplash

DÉCOR – No festival is complete without the right décor. So pick the right kind of fairy lights, Christmas trees or diyas. Aside from setting aside the budget for the decorations, consider hiring a professional decorator to spruce up your interiors as perfectly as you possibly can.

Photo Courtesy – Sid Balachandran, unsplash

OFFERS/DISCOUNTS – It’s not a festival if there aren’t special offers and incredible discounts on products and services that leave customers in awe. But it’s such a common occurrence during the holiday that you need to plan out how your restaurant will stand out.

  • BRINGING PEOPLE IN – No menu, décor or offer will bring customers in if they don’t know about. So decide on the best marketing and communication channels to advertise your plans. Whether online or offline mediums, narrow down on your course of action.
  • Make sure you get noticed :

In the age of technology where people make the decision of where to get their daily of caffeine through Google reviews, and finds new places to visit through the windows of their phones, an online presence is essential. Keep your website and social media networks up-to-date, attractive and SEO-friendly to ensure that when someone searches online for a good place to eat, they are immediately drawn to your restaurant (which through the best use of SEO should appear in the first few results) ; have a gallery of colourful images, invite people to the events you’re hosting, and the promotional offers that await them.

  • Run contests and campaign online :

Getting noticed is only the first step to bringing customers in to your restaurant. Customer engagement is key to actually getting them to book a table/call in and try out the festive roster that you prepare for them. An interesting way to get people to interact with your brand is through contests; for Diwali ask people to make a Rangoli out of playing cards or sweets, post the image and tag you on their social media. Similarly for Christmas, you can ask people to make an ornament with wrapping paper.

The contest not only gets the holiday buzz going, but rewarding an image (on categories of your own choice) with a discount voucher or something similarly which will definitely get people talking about your restaurant.

Another great way of catching the attention of potential customers is through promotional SMS or e-vites that ask people to come try your food before and during the festive period; make sure to send all promotional material at the right time. For example, an hour before lunch or dinner so that the name of your establishment stays fresh in the mind of a hungry food-seeker.

  • Try video marketing

Use the power of visual media to entice potential customers. Upload a video that promotes your chef’s special recipes or make a fun, “home-video” style video that highlights the values of your restaurant. If your budget allows it, go professional and create something that’s high quality and cinematic.

Be creative, do whatever you think suits your brand, and use social media to promote the video and make sure people watch it.

  • Don’t be afraid to surprise your customers

Following a tried-and-tested, planned out strategy that best suits your brand is sure to bring food lovers in. But don’t shy away from being unique or surprising customers with something that’s completely out of left-field!

Is your restaurant known for being classy and quiet? Introduce a karaoke bar during the festive period (and beyond if you enjoy it). Opt for food carts and trucks to bring the taste of your food to the front door of customers. Add a new, unexpected twist to a traditional festival dish and interact with customers both online and offline through a poll to see how different people make the same dish at home.

Photo Courtesy – Forja2, unsplash

The key to successfully and profitably incorporating the festive season into your restaurant business is to tap into the spirit of each individual festival and culture ; be authentic and smart with your strategies , but while you’re at it don’t forget to celebrate the food that brings people together.

Reasons why customers aren’t returning to your restaurant

When you first open a restaurant, your main goal tends to be attracting and bringing in customers. But as your business grows, it would do you good if your goal shifts to customer retention – working on increasing the frequency of customers who come back through your door. 

Returning customers are vital to your business, accounting for 1/3 of your revenue with a recent Harvard study indicating that if you’re able to increase repeat visits by 5 % then you have the potential of increasing profits by 25%. 

However, this is easier said than done. One study found that 70% of restaurant customers never make a return visit. In this post, we’ll explore some of the most common reasons why customers aren’t coming back and also look into what you can do to change that.

Most diners wait 30 minutes and if they aren’t served in that time don’t expect them to return (Image Cr: BusinessInsider) 

Bad or inconsistent customer service

This is one of the major reasons that customers leave your restaurant with no intention of returning. As customers are spoiled for choice in the restaurant sector, they don’t see any reason to tolerate poor customer service. 

Properly training your staff takes time, money and effort – it can be tempting to cut corners, but in the long run this could lead to inconsistent waiting times; the service is quick one day, and slow the next, some dishes on the menu come out faster than some others.

 The end result if you can’t deliver the right food, atmosphere and services within a reasonable amount of time (usually 60 minutes), then the customers are not likely to return. 

So hire more staff, train them to be efficient and polite, going above and beyond to provide a “comfort zone” to your customers. Great customer service is sure to create a bond between diners and the restaurant – and chances are they not only return, but will spread the good word about your establishment, thus bringing in more business. 

A poor review from a miffed customer can lead to loss of business ( Image Credit:pcdn.co)

Negative word of mouth/publicity

While good service leads to good publicity for your restaurant, the butterfly effect of poor service is negative word-of-mouth. When someone leaves your restaurant as an unhappy customer, you’re not only losing them, you are precariously poised to lose many more. 

When a customer is unhappy they talk – to friends and family, to complete strangers on social media- making sure that everyone knows of their bad experience. And the only way to combat this negative advertising is to address the situation and apologize, working to correct the failures as quickly as possible. 

If you as a restaurateur have an official social media account – Twitter, Instagram – this might come in handy to not only forge good relationships with customers, but also can be used to avert such crisis by politely addressing the miffed customer directly (either publicly or privately), accepting the mistake and assuring them and other potential customers that situation is being dealt with.

Customers pay for good quality food, and they won’t return if its not unto their standard ( Image Credit: Thrillist) 

Poor food quality and/or incomplete menu 

When someone pays for a service, they expect a certain level of quality.  Be it the service or the food on offer, if they deem it “not good enough”, they are not returning. If customers don’t find your menu appealing or find the food lacking flavour, again they won’t  be returning. 

Another reason a customer may not return is if they find that your restaurant doesn’t cater to/carry many healthy options – a lack of organic , gluten-free food or food marked with allergen information on your menu, may result in customers not returning out of concern for their health. 

Additionally, a lack of variety when it comes to the food on offer is another reason for reduced customer retention. Consistency is important for a restaurant-particularly in case of customer service, where consistently good service will win over customers – but this shouldn’t mean that you present a menu with no innovation.

Innovation doesn’t have to mean gourmet food; it can be as simple as offering specials. Whether daily, weekly or seasonal, adding a specials menu keeps things fresh giving your customers more incentive to return. 

If the dishes, floors or bathrooms are dirty, people aren’t coming back (Image Credit Daily Meal) 

Untidy restaurant

No one wants to eat surrounded by filth, grime or general untidiness – if your restaurant isn’t clean, then it affects the ambience, and the trust customers have about the quality about the food. 

Leaving their establishment untidy is one of the biggest mistakes a restaurant can make. Keep a close watch on issues like unsanitary bathrooms, dirty kitchens, tables covered in food and unappetising smells. 

Also remember that cleanliness extends beyond the restaurant to the people who work there, so ensure that all your employees look after their personal hygiene as well- presentable, well-dressed (or uniformed) employees make a better impression on customers than sloppy, unkempt employees.

Give customers a reason to return bringing their friends and family along with them (Image Credit : Hongkong Disneyland) 

No incentive for customers

Aside from good food and service, what sets your apart from other restaurants attracting customers to return? Have you given them a reason – different from your competitors- that makes returning worthwhile? 

Once you’ve earned your customer’s loyalty through your food, service and ambience, it’s time to nurture this loyalty. Show customers that you appreciate and value their loyalty – if not chances are they’ll grow tired and begin feeling like they are bringing more business for restaurant without getting anything in return. 

Think of adding a loyalty program – special offers, exclusive perks – that makes them feel valued. There are endless options when it comes to incentives : 

  • Offer a coupon that can be given out to first-time customers.
  • Give customers personal attention. If they have a problem with anything, try and solve it before they leave the restaurant.- not only does this nip the problem of negative publicity in the bud, but it makes customers feel seen and heard.
  • A best customer award is a good way to recognise the understanding, friendly customers who are a pleasure to serve. 
  • Offer a reward for a referral, encourage diners to bring friends, family, colleagues and reward them for it with discounts or offers. 

Incentives such as these are a win-win, as they not only help with customer retention but can also generate a positive buzz about your business, thus bringing in new diners. 

We now live in the age of the customer so if you don’t  take the time and effort to make your restaurant attractive to customers – catering to their different needs – then you won’t  be able to bring them back more than once. So treat them well, give them reasons to come back, and your business is sure to boom for many years to come.