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Restaurant Marketing, Customer Acquisition, Automation

9 Ways For Your Restaurant to Better Engage Customers

Every restaurant’s biggest challenge is to engage customers. And keep them coming back, again and again. It’s easier said than done.

With a myriad of choices in terms of restaurants, competition is stiff while customers are becoming more critical and discerning. Get one thing wrong and they’ll be out the door forever.

The key is to engage customers on a more personal level. so that they feel an emotional connection to your restaurant.

Here are nine awesome ways to help boost your engagement with customers.

1) Engage Customers using Emotional connections – That’s what will keep them coming back

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Many may assume a restaurant’s success is all about the quality of their food. But it really isn’t. You could have the most magnificent chef in the world, cooking up fantastic food. If your customers don’t feel a sense of emotional engagement, it will be hard to win their loyalty.

Loyalty is an emotional commitment, so don’t count on your food doing all the heavy lifting to make this connection happen. Introduce yourself, be friendly. Make sure people are aware that there is a person behind the business.

This doesn’t mean just you as the business owner, but your staff as well. Use team member images on social media and forums, and consider having a “brand ambassador”. You could use this platform to introduce your staff to your guests and make the whole dining experience more personal.

 2) Technology – Use it to maximise engagement!

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Social media is essential for customer engagement but that’s a no brainer. Sure, sharing content or answering customer inquiries/comments is super important – but you can actually use social media to find out what your customers want!

Social media gives you a sneak peek into your customers’ wants, needs and likes/dislikes – that’s a powerful tool.

Another awesome way to use technology is rather new – something called “chatbots.” Chatbots are robots that can talk to you like a human being, i.e. artificial intelligence (AI) that helps you search for information.

Chatbots are accessible via your customers’ existing chat apps such as Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp, so it won’t even require any additional downloads! It’s like having a very informative friend who knows everything about a restaurant you’re planning to visit – awesome! Chatobook is one such application on Facebook Messenger. 

3) Start a restaurant/food forum or community

They’ve been around for ages so you might think communities or forums are a bit passé – think again. Sure, they’ve been around for a long time but there is a reason for that – people do seek these communities and forums for advice and recommendations.

The great thing about online communities and forums is the direct access to potential customers. Be diligent in answering questions, sharing information and having meaningful discussions – it’ll do wonders for your restaurant PR.

Social media networks such as Facebook Groups, Google+ Communities and LinkedIn Groups make it so much easier to create communities, so give it a go – you won’t regret it!

4)Engage Customers using Contests – Done to death? Think again.

Restaurant owners may be reluctant about holding contests because so many restaurants seem to hold them, all the time.

The reason for that is, they work. We all enjoy winning and getting free stuff, be it a coffee or an appetiser. Try to think of a fun, quirky idea for a contest though – not something mundane and your neighbouring restaurant has just done.

If you feel like you’re not up for a contest, then consider a small memento or gift at the end of a meal. A piece of chocolate or candy will surprise your clients and make them feel like they’ve made an emotional engagement at your place. Everyone loves a token of gratitude, especially when it’s unexpected!

5) Celebrate with your customers

Consider including your customers in your celebrations or milestones in your business. If your restaurant has an anniversary coming up, offer your diners a discount or coupon – or better yet, invite them to your anniversary party!

This personal gesture will make your customers feel like they’re part of the team and will go a long way toward winning their loyalty.

If you have party to celebrate with your customers, make sure you use social media strategically to highlight your appreciation and gratitude. Don’t forget hashtags – they’re just another way to increase your visibility!

6) Back-stage passes and tours

No one can say no to a back-stage pass. It makes you feel special and part of an exclusive community. That’s what engagement is – making your customers feel that they are part of something unique.

Everyone wonders what goes on behind restaurant kitchen doors – give your loyal customers a peek! And remember to post highlights on your social media to get the most out of this experience.

It’s a great way to showcase your dishes and also feature your chef. Your customers will be excited but this will also have an added bonus of making your staff feel appreciated.

7) Suggestion boxes – Offline and online

We’ve all seen those little brown boxes that gather dust on the walls of restaurants everywhere. Suggestion boxes are a great idea but there’s not enough incentive for customers to take the time to actually put suggestions in.

The onus is on you to entice your customers to give meaningful suggestions. Not only will they likely help move your business forward, this is also a good way to engage customers.

But the key here is that it can’t just be an ugly little brown box on the wall. It should be bright, fun and, most importantly, stand out.  Consider using table tents, which really catch people’s eyes. Remember, you have to convince people to spend time to give you important feedback so consider giving something back in return for their time and effort.

8) Newsletters to engage customers – Share recipes, offers and other exclusive content

Restaurant newsletters usually end up in the email bin or junk box unless you have something interesting to offer.

You might be tempted to load up your newsletter with stories about your establishment and staff. But remember to think about your readers. If you send what they consider “junk,” that’s where your newsletter will end up.

A great way to keep readers engaged is to share simplified recipes of house favorites or a case study about food/health (which, of course, will have to be subtly self-serving).

A 10% off coupon for being subscribers to your newsletters might also be a neat little trick to keep your restaurant in the front of the minds.

9) Last but not least – loyalty programmes

The best time to invite guests to join your restaurant’s loyalty programme is when they’ve just had a great experience there.

At the end of the meal, encourage guests to join your restaurant’s loyalty programme while the experience is still very fresh in their minds. While the payment process is underway, train your staff to encourage guests to join your loyalty programme so they can cash in on enticing benefits and special deals.

A nice touch might be giving them a little token of appreciation for joining the programme, like a small discount on their next meal to help get them back through the door.


Digital marketing strategist and co-founder of Chatobook. He consults client in digital marketing and business strategies. A poker expert if he can maintain his poker face.

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