repeat customersBringing in new customers is important for your restaurant, but equally as important is making sure you get first time visitors to come back again. Do you remember the last time you walked into a new business and something compelled you to return? What did the business do to make you feel that way? Building a loyal customer base for your restaurant business is mostly about stepping into your customer’s shoes. Here are five ways you can encourage your customers to keep coming back for more of your delicious food!

1. Loyalty Program: A must-have. 

A loyalty program is a great way to keep customers coming back to your establishment—and more often, too. Consider the statistics: According to Loyalogy, a provider of loyalty systems data, such a program can increase the frequency of customers’ visits by 35 percent. And leveraging loyalty programs has become easier, too: Software for executing these programs is now integrated with many POS systems or can be seamlessly interfaced with existing POS applications.

A restaurant loyalty program that offers discounts and free-add ons is an effective way to show your appreciation for repeat visitors.

2. Make a personal connection. 

Keep track of important dates in your customers lives and reach out to mark each occasion. Send automatic emails, whether it’s to wish them a happy birthday, congratulate an anniversary or simply thank them for their loyalty. This keeps your company in the customers’ minds in a positive way. Everyone wants to feel special, people have a basic human need to be acknowledged and recognized, these specific types of personalized emails show customers you care — even when you’re not trying to sell them something.

3. Increase your restaurant’s exposure.

With so many restaurants open seemingly everywhere—and others in the works—frequent exposure even to existing customers is a must to keep customers coming back to your establishment instead of someone else’s. Advertising is great, but it’s expensive—and even if you can afford it, it may not be enough to truly keep your restaurant in the forefront of consumers’ minds. So if you have a customer database in your POS system—and you should—use it as a source and send customers mailers with information about new menu items, promotions, or special themed events.

4. Service, Service, Service.

This is one of the most important item on this list. There’s a famous quote that says “people will forget what you said, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.” This is especially true in the restaurant industry. Customers have hundreds of options when deciding where they should eat and while perks such as loyalty programs and affordable prices will get them through the door, bad service is sure to make them turn back around. Fast, friendly and emphatic service is key to building a loyal customer base who will spread the good news about your tasty establishment.

5. Respond to Your Customers!

Responding to comments or questions is an easy way to establish a relationship with your customers. It is also one of the most important things you can do for your business. Your customers want to be heard loud and clear! Even a simple retweet or “Thank You” message can make your customers smile. Most comments are not responded to by companies on social media. Would you want the host or waitress in your restaurant to ignore customers there? Probably not. (Hopefully.) It’s the same for social media. Your customers want to be acknowledged and know that there is someone on the other side of that Twitter or Yelp account handle who is listening to them.

Keeping customers coming back to your restaurant may not always be an easy task, but it can be done. These five ideas are just a start; the more initiatives you undertake, the greater your chance for success.