When you run a restaurant or hospitality business, it can feel like you’re being asked to do something new every week. Add delivery options. Get on this new social network. Well, in today’s post, we’re taking a different tack. Let’s focus on the value of retaining customers, instead of chasing after whatever’s new. Let’s focus on customer loyalty.

We’ve collected 5 facts that you should know about customer loyalty in restaurant marketing. Here’s why customer loyalty is so important – and how to make it work for your business.

1. Loyal customers are cheaper than new leads

It’s much more cost-efficient to retain customers than find new people. What’s more, according to Small Biz Trends, 80% of your future revenue will come from just 20% of your customers.

Those are some pretty clear statistics – so you’ll need to factor them into your decisions about restaurant marketing. While spending on ad campaigns and social media might seem like an easy fix, some of your best return on investment will come from building a relationship with faithful customers.

In the next few sections, we’ll look at some powerful strategies to keep customers coming back.


2. Customer reviews can impact search engine rankings

Every restaurant owner knows that customer reviews are important. So their customer experience must be at the highest level in order for them to be encouraged to place a review. Today, we’re going to look at them from two perspectives: new customers, and existing customers.

For new customers, reviews are a helpful signal that your restaurant is a good place to be. Before they visit your location, many people will run a quick search for reviews on Facebook, Google, or Yelp. What’s more, reviews can help push your restaurant further up the search engine rankings.


So reviews can help you get new customers in through the door. But what about your customer loyalty campaigns? Here are just a few ways to improve customer retention with online reviews:

  • Respond. Keep an eye on your restaurant’s profile on all the different review sites. When someone leaves a positive review, make a point of replying personally.
  • Follow up at the restaurant. If you recognize a customer who’s previously left a positive review, this is your chance to follow up. Say hi and offer them a free dessert or drink.
  • Encourage positive reviews. Make it easy for customers to review your business. Place links on your website and put signs up in your restaurant. One especially effective tactic is to add a link to reviews in your email newsletters. If you’ve just sent someone an exciting offer or a tasty new menu, they may be reminded to write a good review.

3. Social proof helps diners decide

Social proof is how marketers describe comments, photos and posts about your restaurant on social media. When someone shares a Story about the amazing meal they had, they’re giving social proof to all their friends that your restaurant is good. It’s a kind of informal review.

So you can respond to social proof in the same way that you respond to conventional restaurant reviews – just like we discussed in the previous section.

However, because it’s social media, there is even more you can do.

Try to encourage social proof posts by establishing your own hashtag for social media. Put the hashtag in your own profile, and let your followers know that you will retweet or repost your favorite photos from them.

You can even add posts with your hashtag to your restaurant website, with a dedicated page for customers’ photos and comments. This strategy of recycling user-generated content was pioneered by the beauty industry – which, just like restaurant marketing, depends on word of mouth references and customer loyalty.


4. Email marketing still rules

Let’s take a second to focus on email marketing. Sure, social media and reviews are important – but 80% of small business owners rely on email marketing for customer retention.

And there’s a good reason for that percentage: email marketing works.


Email is different because it has such high response and engagement rates. Not everyone is a social media junkie – but we all check our email, every day. So to start with, email marketing is a great way to keep reminding customers that you’re there.

Use email marketing to send irresistible offers to your customers. Set up your email subscription form to find out key information about your contacts, so that you can send them personalized messages.

For example, someone who says they’re interested in delivery options and signed up because of your NFL promotions will be a prime target for sports-themed promotions and delivery offers.

Speaking of which…

5. Online doesn’t mean impersonal

It’s easy to think that digital restaurant marketing is impersonal. Especially when you’re using a mass medium, such as email marketing. But in 2019, the personal touch makes all the difference to customer loyalty.

Use all the tools at your disposal to get to know your customers. Keep track of information with a CRM system, and learn more about their tastes with a survey. Connect your review profiles and social media with the CRM, too, so that you have 360-degree profile of your customers.

If you can show that you care about your customers, and really get to know them, then customer loyalty will be a synch.