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6 New Ways To Increase Your Restaurant Footfall In 2017

11:38 am

Potential customers masquerading as pedestrians

As we arrive at the end of January, and your customers pledge to shed sedentary lifestyles and cut calories, it's the perfect time to appeal to their New Year's resolutions. So, in the spirit of turning over a healthy new leaf, lets count down six of the best ways to drive new business through your doors, from social media and technological advances to forgotten marketing tricks of the trade.

Appeasing your clients with an appetite for healthier food doesn't mean your menu needs a complete reboot. Keeping your regulars coming back is vital to your success, so how can you achieve this whilst attracting fresh, health-conscious diners at the same time?

1. Appeal to your customers' desires

Jogging in the rain

Though 2017 is already well underway, remember that your patrons are still preoccupied with keeping their New Years resolutions. The telegraph recently published a top ten list of these according to a ComRes poll, in which the top 4 are related to health and diet. So how does that help you?

Empathise with your customers. They have survived 'blue Monday' and kept to rigorous exercise regimes as they aspire to a healthier lifestyle. Help them realise their goals by offering a healthy, tasty option on the menu and never be shy about promoting it whether its via hashtags or signboards. Keep your classic cuts to order too, like burgers, onion rings and chips. Let some of your diners indulge a little if they fancy breaking a few rules, they'll express their gratitude via repeat bookings and positive feedback. Your tactile approach will keep your locals coming and win over new clients at the same time.

2. Stay bang up to date with technology

Smart watch payments

We predicted a rise in delivery smart services and customer-facing technology for 2016, but that was before Pokemon GO arrived on the scene. Who could have predicted that this GPS-based game, having no affiliation with food could boost restaurant profits by 30%? Clearly it pays to be aware of tech fads as much as the latest superfood.

In 2017 mobile payment technology is set to extend to Android Wear, and Juniper Research recently announced that mobile and wearable payments will reach the $100 billion mark by 2018. What this means is that your customers may soon be waving their Smart Watch or jacket sleeve over your PDQ machine when they come to pay for their meal, so don't be alarmed by this behaviour!

'Chatbots', the automated text and voice scripting programs that we've seen and heard for years on support web pages and automated voice calls, are heading for the restaurant industry. They allow businesses to save money by cutting back on customer service and online ordering staff, as well as performing some general admin tasks like sending offers and promotions via SMS. In 2016 Amazon's Alexa released superior voice recognition technology into the open world. How is it superior? Progressing far beyond the voice commands that frustrated us on early mobile phones, this applied science has finally become reliable to the point it can solve customer queries, provide nutritional information and respond to questions about allergies and other preferences. In the near future this is set to become a feature of interactive menus and restaurant tables. Watch this space.

3. 'Old fashioned' marketing tools

Sometimes a more traditional approach is required, flyers and business cards still have some advantages over digital promotions. For a start there's no analogue equivalent of ad blockers or spam filters, so printed circulars have a bigger potential reach. Attend food markets and trade shows if you don't already. Through networking at these events, established local businesses may send you useful email contacts which have the power to reach out to large customer bases, so attracting even a small share of these can translate into big returns.

A successful email marketing campaign builds customer trust, brand awareness and increases your credibility; just ensure that your website is ready for the new surge of traffic as customers are far more likely to hit your website than pick up the phone these days. As practically all consumers research a website online before ordering, its vital to keep your details up to date. This includes basic information such as your address, opening hours, contact details and menu, but if you can go one step further by displaying nutritional data, local food events and any affiliate partners then you'll be applying some decent SEO practice too. Also, don't forget to track your efforts to discover what works, what doesn't, and of course get your money's worth.

4. Bring your first time customers back

Queuing customers

Cementing that crucial return booking is vital to the success of your restaurant. A Harvard study of the restaurant industry revealed that if you can increase the number of your repeat customers by just 5%, you can increase your profits by 25% to 125%. So how is it done?

  • Offer an incentive - encourage customers to leave their email addresses in return for a coupon to use next time they visit, or referral reward for bringing a friend.
  • Create a competition that drives social media presence, such as 'share your plate' via Instagram for a chance to win a free dessert.
  • Let guests control the soundtrack. The Smoke Haus even shows recently played songs online, for example. 
  • Provide a calorie count on the menu and food miles for each choice to increase appeal for Gen Zers and millennials. 
  • Promote online 'tagging', of your food and happy diners.
  • #Weekly Specials - allow returning customers to try something new.
  • Send a personalised email offering a free drink or side to customers on their Birthday.

5. Keep in touch with the hottest food trends

We are considered to be a fickle nation, and the way you can benefit from this is via recognition of food trends. It can undoubtedly convert potential clients, especially those looking to try something new and exciting. By drawing influence from trending cuisine it shows your customers that you are well-informed, and is essential if you want to attract those fresh trend-conscious clients. Before your menu becomes too busy though, you can always relieve pressure in the kitchen by stripping it down to the most popular items now and again. Adding the 'flavour of the month' can certainly help to drive sales but your head chef might not be too happy with the constant changes! Striking a balance between old and new should keep all parties satisfied.

Sometimes it's not all about the menu either, highlighting the services that you offer goes a long way to enticing window-shoppers to dine: this can be as simple as free Wifi or activities for children. Be sure to let passing pedestrians know how accommodating you are through posters and signage, not forgetting to highlight these features on your website too.

6. Take advantage of Social Media

There are huge benefits to be had when using social media to drive footfall, and this is particularly effective when targeting your local customers. Geo-targeting bases your social media posts on location, which you can do for free via Instagram and Facebook to test your audience. You can then consider promoted tweets for a fee, which allow you to target very specific locations. The ultimate goal is to encourage users to use hashtags such as #business name, #location, #weekly promotion to really ramp up followers. Alternatively, if you are promoting exclusively through Facebook, the more consistent and regular your own posts are, the more likely they are to show up in your customers' feeds.

Monitoring your social media presence is also very important as a way of sharing discounts, photos and information. There are even free management tools available online which can create custom streams, schedule posts and share articles across your networks - ideal for when you're working flat-out or don't want to be seen constantly fiddling with your phone in front of customers. Whenever you get a mention in a relevant publication, show it to your customers and let them like, spread or share the word. When trusted sources are celebrating your restaurant, it encourages newcomers to pay you a visit. A simple way to track publicity is to set up Google Alerts, which can notify you whenever your business name or any desired keyword appears in fresh web content.

Responding to online reviews is another great way to increase your social media presence. People love to post reviews, but love to read them even more. Response time is a factor though, so replying within 24-48 hours is highly recommended. Creating discussions and engaging with customers can also boost your online image. Any restaurant has the potential for an 'off-day', but why not turn this to your advantage? Save customers by admitting fault and attempting to resolve the situation, there's really no harm in showing a little humility every now and again, and it reflects well on your business.

Which of these methods have produced the best results for you? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.


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