How to Retain Your Restaurant Customers in 2024 [GUIDE]

photo of friends at a table cheersing with wine

Updated on May 14, 2024

As the world adapts to post-pandemic realities, the restaurant industry continues to navigate through significant changes and challenges. With many establishments having pivoted to delivery and takeout during the peak of the pandemic, the subsequent reopening of dine-in services marks a new phase of intense competition and opportunity.

For restaurant owners, the focus isn’t just about bouncing back but thriving in this new environment. While attracting new patrons is essential, cultivating loyalty among existing customers offers a more sustainable path to recovery and growth. According to Toptenrated a 5% increase in customer retention can boost profits by up to 95%. This highlights the strategic value of retention efforts over the more costly pursuit of acquiring new customers.

In this evolving landscape, understanding and meeting your customers’ evolving expectations is key to ensuring they return. This means delivering consistently excellent experiences that resonate with their desires for quality, safety, and memorable dining.

By prioritizing customer retention strategies, restaurants not only enhance their financial stability but also strengthen their market position as a preferred choice for dining.

Why Would Customers Avoid Your Restaurant?

Working out why a customer had a bad experience at your restaurant can be tricky. Sometimes it’s very obvious. Just look for the customers that are loudly voicing their concerns – they’re very easy to spot. They may complain in person or leave a bad review online. However, there are some customers that won’t say anything. If they’ve had a bad experience, they will walk out and go somewhere else next time.

Read on to discover some of the most common reasons that customers don’t return to restaurants.

Reason 1: Poor Customer Experience

Delivering a disappointing customer experience that doesn’t match up to their expectations is among the top reasons why a customer won’t return to your restaurant. Currently, service expectations are at an all-time high and it’s important that restaurants deliver the basics well. Your guests want to feel welcome, eat great quality food and be delivered exceptional service. In addition to this, a restaurant should deliver high standards of cleanliness and hygiene. A poor experience will ultimately drive away repeat business and have a negative impact on your bottom line.

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Reason 2: Restaurant Cleanliness

It’s a given that if your restaurant is dirty, you won’t retain patrons. This includes dirty tables, messy floors, bad odours, and grubby kitchens. People expect high standards of cleanliness in a restaurant and if your venue isn’t up to scratch then you may as well hold the door open and wave goodbye to your customers.

Reason 3: Unclean Restrooms

With the pandemic still fresh in everyone’s minds, it’s understandable that people are wary of using public restrooms. In fact, in a recent study conducted by Citron Hygiene with OnePoll, it was discovered that 76% of all adults admitted they will only use a public toilet if it is completely unavoidable. On the contrary, when asked why they would use a toilet in a hospitality setting, 70% of respondents said it would be because of superior cleanliness. It doesn’t matter if your restroom is a beautiful, top of the line facility; if it’s not clean your customers won’t want to risk eating from your kitchen.

Reason 4: Poor Quality Food

From food to wine, your customers expect quality when they walk through your doors. If their food is poor quality, served cold, or just isn’t up to scratch then they won’t return. Similarly, if your menu isn’t doing it for your diners or if they feel they’ve had to wait too long, your restaurant won’t be at the top of their list of ones they want to revisit.

Reason 5: Your Menu is Incomplete

These days, we’re all becoming more selective about what we eat. If your diners feel that you aren’t offering many healthy options, they could see this as a viable reason to not return. In addition, it’s incredibly important to cater to different dietary requirements. To put it into perspective, there are around 2.3 million vegetarians in Canada, as well as 850,000 vegans, so offering a variety of options is essential.

Reason 6: What’s the Incentive?

Are you giving your customers a reason to return? One way to ensure your customers stay loyal is by offering attractive rewards. If you don’t, then another restaurant will be only too happy to lure your customers away. Although rewarding loyalty can come at a price, it’s a good way to ensure higher revenue from repeat business. Rewarding customers can come in many forms, from discounts to exclusive events, or even free refills on drinks.

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Reason 7: Didn’t Meet Expectations

A sure-fire way to get on your customer’s bad side is by not meeting their expectations. Your restaurant needs to provide a consistent experience, no matter what time or day it is. People may come to your restaurant after hearing fabulous things from their families and friends or because they’ve seen the latest picture of the food you’re serving up on social media. However, it’s now vital that what people see or hear translates to the real experience.

Ensuring that your customers return to your restaurant is crucial to the success of your business. Most of your diners probably already love your restaurant, so odds are, you’re doing something right. Discover our top tips and increase repeat customer visits to your restaurant today.

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Offer Infant Care Facilities

Catering to the needs of families will not only increase visits but will have a great effect on your bottom line. After all, diners want to go out to enjoy your restaurant and be able to relax, knowing they have access to everything they need. Managing younger children when in public spaces can be challenging, but if you provide a well-maintained, child-friendly facility, you can make your guests’ lives easier. With the right measures and facilities in place, customers will want to visit more often and feel an increased sense of loyalty to your restaurant.

You should think about providing baby changing stations accessible to all genders, highchairs, child-sized cutlery, colouring books, and bottle warming facilities in addition to providing restroom essentials such as diaper disposal bins and baby changing units.

Offer Convenient Online Booking

The pandemic changed the way people behave and shop with eCommerce sales rising to sky-high numbers. In fact, a recent report found that consumers spent $870.78 billion online with U.S. merchants in 2021 which is an increase of +14.2% vs the previous year. Customers are getting used to doing everything online and this means your restaurant needs to have a digital-first mindset too.

If your restaurant doesn’t offer an online reservation system, it’s something that you may want to seriously consider. Being able to book a table online is much more convenient than phoning a restaurant, not only for the customer but for you, too! Bookings can be made in real-time and can help manage your floor plan. Some online booking systems also offer insights into the customers that came in, from their dining preferences to why they are booking. This will enable you to provide a more personalized experience to your guests.

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Provide Clean & Hygienic Facilities

Clean and well-maintained restrooms are an extremely important part of a dining experience. If your restrooms are unhygienic then it’s unlikely that customers will want to try your food. By ensuring that your restrooms are well-stocked and regularly cleaned you can improve the overall customer experience. To add to this, you may want to consider installing touch-free restroom automation which can help to eliminate the risk of cross-contamination which in turn can minimize customer anxieties around using public restrooms.

Remember Your Loyal Customers

Your loyal customers are partly responsible for the success of your business, if you treat them well, they will be sure to remember it. Your servers can utilize the information recorded by your reservation system to personalize their service to your customers. By going above and beyond, they will have a positive association with your brand. In addition, using loyalty programs can be a good way to communicate with your customers as well as reward them.

Download Our Free Guide & Serve Up Restaurant Success

You only ever get one chance to make a good impression. Your business’ restroom plays a pivotal role in the whole customer experience.

Citron Hygiene are experts in restroom hygiene solutions, and we’ve created a free restaurant hygiene guide to help you serve up success in your restaurant. In this guide, we provide the latest advice on maintaining hygiene and cleanliness, as well as checklists, guidelines, and how your business can create a great experience, both inside the restroom and out.

What’s Included In this Guide?

  • How restaurants can adapt and thrive in the new normal…
  • Easy to use hand-washing guidance​
  • Essential checklists to boost hygiene in your business
  • Guidelines from the Canadian Government
  • Why a focus on hygiene is essential now and in the future
  • Hygiene solutions for restaurants, bars and restrooms
restaurant hygiene standards download image

Find out how we can elevate your washroom experience today.