Priority #1: Names. Not Numbers.



The first step in creating successful customer relationships is as simple as getting a name. It’s the part of their journey that says “you’re not just a number to us” and proves it through action. From there, we can build out our guest’s identities based on the willful win-win sharing of contact information, dining preferences, special occasions and other information that comes to us through natural conversations. Without the names of our customers driving the core of our business, we may end up with a business where nobody knows our name.

Turn the generic into the personalized for greater significance

Here’s 6 ways to boost your numbers by making sure each guest feel significant:

  1. Exaggerate your “waiting list”
    A waiting list is a powerful tool with often untapped potential. It’s not a queue where people pass the time until they have a place to sit. It’s an incubator for better service and future business. Don’t be afraid to create that slight wait a little earlier than normal while a “table is prepared” or a special request is “accommodated.” With the right system in place, getting a name and a mobile number is the first step to converting your typical walk-in into a lifelong customer.
  2. Create “free” contentThe Restaurant Industry is it’s own nation of highly creative people and is another often untapped resource when ensuring people feel significant. Turn to your staff to see where their creative passions flow. From bartenders to servers to chefs, it’s likely they’d love the opportunity to show their stuff creatively through photography, videos or blogs.In exchange for their efforts, elevate their sense of significance by treating them to dinner each time they provide.For your guests, create opportunities to share this original content with them by pairing it with their own interests. Your marketing lists can grow through strategic staff creativity while at the same time developing more personalized conversations inside and outside of the restaurant.
  3. Turn “comment card” opportunities into conversationsThe art of feedback cultivation has far outgrown the traditional comment card.  In it’s modern digital form, it’s evolved into an email follow up. For those on the cusp of technology, mobile phone texting is a part of the picture and soon voice automation will flesh the “first response” opportunity. Because of the vast digital territory our customer’s voices can be heard, being able to participate in their social conversations.Make sure you have a tool in place that “listens” for their voice in a way that makes it easy to jump into their conversations. This not only says to them you care, but shows that you’re really paying attention to your brand. As a bonus result, untold numbers of potential new customers will discover your voice, and out of curiosity, naturally come your way to learn more.
  4. Unmask your “walk-ins”Break the mold of how you think about your customers.  Is a party of 4 comprised of 1 recognizable host and 3 “others” that are tag-alongs warming the other seats until the bill is paid? Well who are they? Are they basically at the same entry level status as a generic “walk-in”? What would happen to your business levels if those other 3 (66%) customers became so significant that you knew their names, their phone number and their dining preferences?
  5. Make “Excuses” for something to happenWith national Holiday’s leading the way, to local events, to brand-driven initiatives, there’s an unlimited list of “things-to-do” that should be engineered to get your customer’s attention, and make them special. Things get more powerful each time we introduce a new level of personalization and push away from the predicable or common. Of course New Year’s Eve is a great excuse to go out and spend more money dining out than at any other time of the year. But we can’t always wait for New Year’s Eve to be at full capacity.With a database of personalized information about your guests, programs just as powerful can be meaningful to your guests, and sales goals. Special occasions are great excuses to get out during the week and indulge. But what about interests like a particular wine or fresh catch? Maybe ambiance driven excuses such as a favorite local musician or sunsets? Connect with guests by knowing them as a friend, and they’ll see the dining room as the most natural place to be when they need an excuse to break away.
  6. Don’t forget “old school” tacticsWith the digital realm disrupting all forms of modern communication, the old ways of communicating can now be fresh again. Consider investing in a print run of restaurant branded thank-you cards. Leave a signed card with the guest upon their departure. Let your servers have a business card to include, or at the very least a member of management (for extra credit, find creative ways to get thank you cards to the guest’s actual mail box).Paper gives tangibility to this new bodiless world we all spend so much time in. In the theater of our dining room, which should always be a celebration of our senses, we can create one more opportunity to expose our brand to the power of sight and touch. With a quick hand-written message and signature, we cultivate just one more moment of attention and communication. Handwriting is beautiful. It’s pure human expression, and offers another opportunity to separate the restaurant from the coldness of our digital era.

The more we can personalize our guest’s journey with us, and personalize ourselves with them, the more natural a return visit becomes. And because the desire to return is from the heart, business building efforts won’t need to fall back to more vulnerable cost cutting or financially based incentives. Instead, the emerging brand retains higher value for it’s products and services. With this foothold, you’ll build relationships that inspires a sense of belonging, a return of recognition, and those coveted brand-building recommendations.  Do this, and the numbers will be sure to follow.

Next: Part 4 of 6 – Harness the True Power of Emotion