You’ve done everything; hired the best staff you could find, developed a modern, well-costed menu and implemented an awesome online restaurant booking system.

So, why aren’t diners returning after their first visit?

With the summer well under way, you may already have a bountiful booking diary, but what about later in the year? How can you convince the people that are dining with you now to return when the nights draw in and the lure of the television becomes increasingly magnet-like?

Here’s six simple ways to ensure your diners come back for more – again and again.

1. Treat them as extended members of the team

Diners have ideas; they leave restaurants asking questions. Why wasn’t there a better vegetarian option on the specials? What was the reason behind the main course taking so long? Why was there no invitation to have a drink while waiting for the table?

Let your customers have their say. If you give them the chance to have input on the way your restaurant us run, they’ll see that you care – and that will almost definitely bring them back.

2. Remind them they can book online

We’ll assume you’ve already found a great restaurant booking system, but are you using it to lure diners back?

A great way to do this is to attach a card to the bill that clearly highlights the existence of your online booking system. They may have no idea it exists, and if they spot that there’s a far easier way to book than picking up the phone, they’ll probably do so.

Make it even more tempting by offering an online-only discount or free starter. Consider the time saved in processing the booking manually a repayment for the incentive you’re giving away.

3. Give them a fantastic greeting

Very few diners will expect (or want) a giant hug when they enter your restaurant, but if you can make the initial “hello” one that raises a smile, they’re unlikely to forget it.

This can start before they even enter the restaurant, too. A couple of days before, use your restaurant booking system to send out an automated SMS message that expresses your appreciation for their booking and notes that you’re looking forward to welcoming them.

When they arrive, make sure all waiting staff are prepped with their brightest smile and warmest greeting – it makes a massive difference.

4. Say “hello” – randomly

Imagine receiving a completely random email or text message from the restaurant you visited and enjoyed six months ago but have since forgotten.

If that “hello” included an incentive to return, you’d give it some thought, wouldn’t you?

Conducting out-of-the-blue campaigns like this is remarkably simple these days, and they’re highly effective. We all like a nice surprise, and with life as busy as it is, a reminder of the good times we’ve had previously never goes amiss.

5. Start collecting email addresses

Email marketing is a great tool for restauranteurs, but to make the most of it, you need some email addresses (‘obvs’, as the kids would say).

To build a list of email contacts to whom you can send special offers, start asking diners if they’d like to sign-up to your newsletter. Give them reassurance they won’t be bombarded with messages but will get the chance to grab some very special deals, and you’ll be surprised by how many happily hand over their email address.

6. Try an Instagram campaign

This is great fun, and might just spark a wave of social media promotion for your restaurant – and plenty of return diners.

Ask your customers to take Instagram snaps of themselves at your restaurant and use a hashtag devised by you (ideally, one that includes the name of your establishment). Promise that the best will be ‘liked’ by you and receive a 10% discount on their next meal as a result.

A brilliant way to kill two birds with one stone!

Wrapping up

Have we missed something? Add your diner-magnet tips to the comments section, below!

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