The restaurant business is notoriously difficult to succeed in. Margins are low, labor costs are high, and customers are fickle. Restaurateurs looking for the right answers have plenty of things to look at. In the end however, success generally comes down to guest experience. That means customer service matters a great deal.
Telling a business owner that he needs to offer excellent customer service is like telling him he needs to make money. The need for excellent customer service is self-evident. But what makes for excellent customer service is not that simple. There are many, many layers in the customer service cake. You cannot ignore any one layer and still expect things to turn out okay.
In light of all of that, there is one customer service secret every restaurateur should know. Get a handle on it and the chances of long-term success go way up. What is that secret? According to Bar Rescue’s Jon Taffer, it is making sure customers visit three times.
The First Visit is Necessary
It goes without saying that a guest’s first visit is absolutely necessary. After all, you cannot build loyalty in a customer who has never visited your restaurant. So restaurateurs focus on strong marketing efforts and word-of-mouth to get people in the door for the first time. What happens next matters.
According to Taffer, statistics suggest that a customer who enjoys a positive experience during that first visit is 40% more likely to visit a second time. That means the restaurant and its staff must do everything they can to create a positive experience. They need to provide prompt service. Food quality has to be top notch. Everyone from servers to hosts must be super friendly and accommodating.
A Second Visit is Better
Assuming a restaurant is successful in getting that guest to return the second time, that is not the end of it. Why? Because the goal is to build such loyalty that he or she comes back dozens of times, if not hundreds. A second visit presents the opportunity to reinforce what was experienced during the first visit.
At Taqueria27 in Utah, this is something they take very seriously. Taqueria27 is known for having the best traditional Mexican food in Salt Lake City. But their focus goes beyond their food. Ownership and staff are committed to creating a positive experience reinforced by a neighborhood atmosphere.
Getting back to Taffer’s advice, he says that a customer who enjoys a positive experience during a second visit is 42% more likely to visit a third time. Not much of an up-tick, but an up-tick, nonetheless.
The Third Visit is the Kicker
You have a customer who has visited your restaurant twice. Both experiences were incredibly positive. Now you are banking on the third visit. If you get it, you have an opportunity to seal the deal. Taffer says a positive third experience increases the likelihood of a fourth by 70%. That’s big.
Once you reach those kinds of numbers, you are well on your way to establishing a loyal customer. But again, it all hinges on that positive experience. Your customer has to at least enjoy the same kind of experience in all three visits. If you can make it better with each successive visit, your chances of winning a long-term customer are even higher.
It takes that first visit to get a new customer in the door. Then it takes two more visits to turn him or her into a loyal guest. As Taqueria27 can tell you, it’s all about creating a positive customer experience.