Serve what you know
Food can be a lot like fashion – trends tend to suddenly sweep in and take the general population’s interest by storm, and then exit the scene just as quickly. When new trends do sweep in, it’s understandably tempting for restaurants to jump onboard and add sriracha, kimchi or unicorn colors to everything. However, it’s easy to become lost in the sea of trendiness, and at the end of the day, customers favor the best possible quality and value of their food.
To focus on quality, some companies are making conscious decisions to step away from the latest food crazes and go back to basics. Chili’s, for example, recently pared down its menu by 40 percent from 125 to 75 items. It eliminated a great deal of its newer offerings to shine the spotlight back on its tried and true items – burgers, fajitas and baby back ribs.
Chili’s President Kelli Valade explained, “No restaurant can be everything to everyone. So, by eliminating 40 percent of our menu, we’ve reinvested in meatier burgers, ribs and fajitas — the items that we’ve always been known for.”
Create #Instaworthy ambiance
In today’s image-obsessed culture, funky chairs and well-placed art can also go a long way in satisfying your customers. Not only does your restaurant’s ambiance improve a guest’s dining experience, but it also does wonders for your social marketing. Customers want to share pretty things, so give them something worthwhile to share.
Some restaurants have gone for a monochrome, pink persuasion. Many others are opting for a fresh, clean vibe with bright colors and modern wood paneling. Whatever one’s style is, the most important thing is to make sure the restaurant stays clean, comfortable and welcoming.
However, there is a time and place for everything. Restaurant redesigns come at no small fee, so it’s important to know when to reassess your current design. Consider whether making design changes will strengthen your brand message, keep customers engaged and create authenticity and individuality for your space. Also pay close attention to details like guest foot traffic patterns and kitchen layout to optimize your space for efficiency.
Although a redesign may be a hefty undertaking, improving your store’s ambiance can have a direct impact on your sales performance, according to research from Guest Intelligence (formerly Guest Intelligence (formerly White Box Social Intelligence))™. During the first quarter of 2017, restaurant brands that received more than 60 percent positive ambiance mentions online reported 1.4 percent higher comp sales and 1.1 percent higher comp traffic than brands with less positive mentions.
Engage with customers on social media
When social media marketing first began to cut its teeth, companies used platforms like Twitter and Facebook to build awareness, engage with fans and prospects, share funny pictures and create an overall positive online presence. Now, social media marketing has become more of a spectator sport; companies continue trying to build an online audience, yet instead of tweeting happy thoughts in return, their customers often post negative comments and reviews for the world to see.
There’s no getting around it – customer service in the modern era takes place on social media, and for good reason. Instagram, Facebook and Twitter make brands accessible and also make it easier for customers to hold them accountable for bad experiences. This can not only threaten a brand’s online reputation but ultimately threaten their viability and success as a company. Therefore, it is extremely important for brands to effectively utilize social media as a customer service tool. Research from social analytics firm J.D Power has also shown that companies that don’t respond to complaints on social media see a 15 percent higher churn rate in their businesses.
“If your customers want service and you’re pushing discount coupons out to them while ignoring their attempts to connect with you, you’re going to end up with dissatisfied customers,” explained Jacqueline Anderson, director of social media and text analytics at J.D. Power.
Service, service, service
In addition to social customer care, exceptional service from your waitstaff is truly the most important thing you can offer in your restaurant. Customers always have high expectations for customer service in their dining experience, and your team should be able to deliver every time. Similar to ambiance, service has also been shown to be a key performance driver for restaurant companies.
The Black Box Intelligence (formerly TDn2K) Scorecard, which examines the various differentiators between top performing and bottom performing restaurants, showed in the second quarter of 2017, top selling restaurants had a 9.9 point lead over bottom performers with their service net sentiment score*.
Good service doesn’t have to be a complicated process. It mainly involves hiring the people who fit well into your brand and your company culture. Give them the resources and respect they need to develop and shine, and your guests will be coming back all the time.
Loved this article? We suggest reading “Value Reigns in the Eyes of Restaurant Consumers” for an in-depth review of food trends, social mentions, and what it means for your restaurant business.
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Black Box Intelligence Leadership Team David Cantu is a 30-year restaurant industry veteran and serves as the President and Chief Executive Officer for Black Box Intelligence™, the premiere performance benchmarking company for the hospitality industry. Prior to...