How to become – and remain – your guest’s favourite restaurant

Creating brand love: How to become – and remain – your guest’s favourite restaurantBy Denis HancockDecember 9, 2014
Creating brand love: How to become – and remain – your guest’s favourite restaurant

Loyal guests not only come to your restaurant more often than others; they are the top source of “word-of-mouth” recommendations that are consistently the most effective and affordable way to attract new guests to your restaurant. When it comes to creating this kind of “brand love,” it makes sense that keeping these loyal customers happy should be a top priority.

What follows is a way to think about becoming (and staying) your guest’s favourite restaurant – if not overall, at least for the type of occasion that your restaurant specializes in. It’s a bit like building a strong marriage.

Set the stage: Build (and deliver) excitement

The early days of any budding relationship should be filled with excitement – true for personal relationships, and true with restaurants. For a new restaurant, this excitement tends to be a combination of an opportunity to try something a little bit unknown and different, but enticing enough that you want to try it (which is where marketing is most important). From there, it is up to the restaurant to deliver on that excitement or be doomed to the all-too-common fate of no second-date visit.

Make sure you’re a good catch: Offer great value

Consumers love getting great value, and BrandSpark shopper studies have consistently shown that Canadians seek out great value more than anything else. In fact, it often comes up as a point of pride Canadians brag about and helps explain everything from why many relatively wealthy consumers spend a lot of time parsing through flyers for great deals, to why they haggle beach vendors in far-off countries down to the cheapest price possible while on a luxury vacation. Offering great value puts your restaurant in the running for an ongoing relationship with the guest.

But there are two key considerations when thinking about value:

  1. Value isn’t just about the price you pay – it’s what you get for the money you spend. Too often people see the word value and immediately flip into pricing and discount promotion discussions. While these can sometimes help, some of the brands we’ve seen hardly play this game at all; instead, they focus on delivering great experiences while being reasonably cost competitive.
  2. Value alone rarely creates a truly loyal guest. If your restaurant has high value scores, but little else going for it, it’s unlikely guests are truly loyal. Instead, they are just sticking with you until something better comes along.

Keep it consistent and responsive: Build brand trust

The next stage of building the relationship comes down to establishing trust. While marketing can play a role, this is where operations does most of the heavy lifting – making sure the guest can expect and rely on a consistently great experience when they visit, and that they feel the restaurant cares enough to deal with any issues that may come up. Again, think of it like an evolving relationship. Trust takes time to build, and it’s not uncommon to find the person you thought you knew was actually someone quite different once they let their guard down (and perhaps stopped trying so hard). Can you deliver consistently over time?

Tie it all together: Create brand love

If your guests are excited to come to your restaurant, believe that you offer great value, and trust that you will deliver on their expectations, then you’ve set the foundation for creating “brand love” – a base from which you are well positioned to become their favourite restaurant. While a restaurant obviously has to be firing on all cylinders to achieve brand love, marketing plays a crucial role to create that emotional connection with guests. And, as in any strong relationship, it’s important to keep the marketing messages and similar lines of communication open.

Sustain it: Keep the spark alive

Marriages fail all the time. In some cases, it’s a quick and dramatic breach of trust – perhaps akin to having a surly server bring out cold food late to a loyal guest’s birthday party. But a more interesting analogy is when they fizzle out over time, because couples stop making the extra effort. And this can happen with restaurants. They become established, take their guests for granted, and might stop trying to “wow” them. That’s why it’s so critical to spice it up a little sometimes – whether it be an exciting new menu item, or a server doing that extra special thing to remind the guest why they fell in love with you in the first place.

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About the author

Denis Hancock is Director of Consumer Insights at BrandSpark International, a leading brand, marketing, and product innovation research company with over 10 years experience in the restaurant industry.

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