How To Encourage Customer Loyalty in the Fast-Casual Restaurant Industry

Customer loyalty is an integral building block to any successful brand, but especially for brands in the fast-casual space. Consumer preferences have shifted, and as a result there is a whole new set of standards that can determine your team’s ability to attract and retain customers, ideally converting them into brand ambassadors. Collecting customer feedback, analyzing this data and adjusting your brand experience to provide a value that matches these desires can help encourage customers to continue returning to your brand. Organizations that have an intriguing menu that continues to add attractive new items, a consistently executed brand experience and a high-performance customer loyalty program will find that more customers will be willing to return and recommend your brand to their own personal networks.

Give your customers the reason to come back more often

One of the best ways to keep customers returning to your restaurant is to consistently roll-out interesting and delicious new menu items. Not every item will wind up staying on your menu, but ultimately, customers are looking for an experience when they leave the house to spend their money, and novel food choices can be exactly that. Whether you are a pizza, burger, burrito or sub shop, rolling out new food products and marketing them effectively can sway customers to return to your brand so they can be the judge of this new experiment. One great example of this is Buffalo Wild Wings, which rolls out two new wing flavors each month via their “Flavor Lab.” Their most dedicated ambassadors will return at least once-a-month to try the new sauce and add it to their personal rankings.

Remember — every individual interaction count

However, even with fascinating menu additions and timely marketing campaigns, once a poor taste has been left in the customer’s mouth it is very challenging to convince them to return, which could then trickle down into them dissuading their friends and family from coming as well. Thus, it is supremely important that your team members are striving to optimize each individual interaction so that every customer will walk out of your restaurant, leave your website or completes a delivery transaction with a smile on their face. To reach this level of performance requires constant measuring and tinkering to ensure that you understand what customers want and your effectiveness at delivering that value. Additionally, in cases where negative feedback does occur, training employees to appropriately and quickly close the loop with these individuals via social media or some sort of coupon-offer can serve as an effective method to get another chance to make a great impression.

The power of loyalty programs

Finally, a popular way to ensure a long-term relationship with your customers is to implement a loyalty program. Typically, these take shape in the form of offering discounts or free items via a punch-card system. This will embolden the communication within the brand-to-consumer-relationship and incentivize customers to continue returning to your brand. One successful example of these types of programs is Chili’s Grill & Bar, which has recently started offering free chips and salsa or a non-alcoholic drink to members of their loyalty program every time they visit the restaurant. After announcing this program, the brand has tripled its in-restaurant membership sign-ups. This offering provides a great value to customers and can convince them to choose your restaurant more often than the competition, which is more than worth the cost of a plate of chips and salsa.

Encouraging customer loyalty is an essential pillar for the success of brands in any industry but can be especially influential for fast-casual restaurants. Consumers tend to fall into patterns with the restaurants they visit and establishing your brand as one of their common places can yield life-long customer relationships.


Daniel Bakst

Daniel Bakst is the Social & Digital Marketing Associate for Second To None, a leading Customer Experience research firm that empowers customer-centric brands to deliver consistent, intentional and authentic consumer experiences. We adeptly design and manage mystery shopping, compliance, engagement and voice of customer solutions grounded in strategic relevance, program integrity, and actionable insights. Our solutions are developed on the basis of solid research and statistical science. We achieve success through a relentless focus on quality and innovation, consultative relationships and a talented team of professional associates.

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