Word-of-mouth: getting the right people through your door
Every restaurateur will have a group of regulars that they love. If you could clone them and fill the restaurant with just them, the servers would be happy, the kitchen would be happy and the accountant would be happy.
As cloning isn't possible, the next best solution is to encourage your regulars to recommend your place to their friends - people who are likely to be in a similar stage in their lives, have a similar amount of monthly discretionary income and dine out regularly. A word-of-mouth recommendation from a trusted source is the most powerful way to attract new guests to your restaurant.
Unless you are the only restaurant in a 3 mile radius, you must be giving your regulars a fantastic experience for them to have become, and continue to be, regulars. If they recommend you, you need to make sure that you give their friends the same great service that they are used to - as that will be the experience they describe and expectations will be set.
While we all strive to give every guest a great experience, knowing who these "warm leads" are so you can quickly identify them and ensure their server knowns they are VIP, can be crucial in converting them from first timers to familiar faces. It's possible they'll mention to their server who sent them in, or include it as a reservation note, so be sure that your servers communicate back to you on tidbits like this, allowing you to act accordingly.
Some of your regulars will want to recommend you to their friends because they love your product and want to help you out but being able to incentivize them and acknowledge when they do refer someone will not only make them feel good, it will help nudge them to make more recommendations.
Putting in place a system that helps you identify someone who is referred, and lets you reward the referrer can be a great way to start seeing your guest base grown with awesome guests. You could keep a spreadsheet and add to it every time someone mentions that they were referred, and then give the referrer a free drink the next time they are in.
Or you could sign up for inKind's credit sharing service that allows your best customers to share credit to your business with their friends. The credit incentivizes them to come in and you are alerted when they do visit and use the credit, so you can ensure they have a great time. You also get their contact information so you can market to them after their experience. With the tap of a button, you can reward the referrer with more credit to thank them for referring - keeping them engaged and always promoting your business.
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