Why Aren’t Customers Returning to Your Restaurant?
It’s expensive to get people in the door for the first time. If your restaurant relies entirely on these visitors, it’s going to be hard to turn a profit.
Why people don’t return to your restaurant can be hard to figure out. But if you don’t have a regular customer base, it would be reasonable to assume a few things about people who don’t return. For instance:
- They don’t eat out frequently
- They want to try a variety of restaurants
- Their first meal at your restaurant was not enjoyable
These are important, but there’s still one more hurdle that can make the difference between having every seat in your restaurant filled or tumbleweeds blowing through the rows of empty tables on Friday nights.
A Lasting Impression
Consider this fictional story. A new, promising restaurant has arrived in town, and you’ve read mixed reviews in the newspaper. Unfazed, you try it out with your spouse, who would jump on any opportunity to avoid dish duty. You have no expectations. You’d just like to try the place out.
Once you arrive, you’re seated with warm, fresh bread brought promptly to the table, and you have an interesting conversation with John, your waiter, about the origins of the unusual name of the restaurant while you wait (only a short while) for your food.
You thought you were a good cook, but your basic spaghetti and meatballs is hard to remember when you’re eating the Penne all’Arrabbiata brought to you. John tells you it was culled from recipes passed down through generations of the chef’s family.
Four courses and a cappuccino later – you weren’t rushed – you leave with a friendly goodbye from the hostess, as she hands you your coats. It was a sensational experience all-around.
A Squandered Opportunity
Remembering that night as your old friend and her husband come to town, you suggest a return to the restaurant. On the way over, you rave about every little detail of your last visit, even the Italian dark chocolates they left with the check, in place of the standard mints you’re used to.
Well, things are a bit different this time around. You wait 10 minutes to sit, despite the fact that you can clearly see several tables available.
When you finally get to your table, there’s bread waiting, but its hard, cold, and there’s a butter packet in the basket that was clearly already used by someone else.
Your waitress has no idea what’s in the Penne dish you ordered last time, or whether the special of the day has shellfish in it (your friend is deathly allergic to shellfish). Your food is tasty, but it has clearly been sitting under a plate warmer for at least 20 of the 30 minutes you waited for it.
Suddenly an intimate meal at home with your spaghetti seems like it would have been a better idea, and you find yourself apologizing to your friends the whole way home after being rushed out of the restaurant by your server, who quickly clears the table and sits another party as you dig hopelessly through the closet for your coats.
Consistency is Key
Which of the two experiences is going to sit more firmly in your memory? How likely are you to return to that restaurant? Would you be willing to stand by a recommendation to this place anymore?
I certainly wouldn’t.
First impressions only take you so far. Certainly, when your customers first dine with you, its important to leave with them memories of an outstanding experience.
But that experience sets expectations in their minds, and if they aren’t consistently met, you’re losing people who otherwise would come back again and again, and they may avoid recommending you to others.
Next Time …
Overcoming this hurdle can require some hard work, and you’ll need to set expectations of your own with your staff. An effective email campaign can help you accomplish this.
In my next article, I’ll give you some ideas on how you can set a plan to achieve consistent success with customers so that they, and their friends, come back again and again.Print This Post
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