New order tickets inside a restaurant kitchen

The step-by-step guide to getting new customers coming into your restaurant

There are only 2 ways to increase your restaurant’s sales: 

Get your regulars to spend / visit more

Or…

Get new customers and turn them into regulars

What if you could do both?   

Before we begin, there are a few things that you need to have for this to work really well.

  1. You need to offer a great customer experience.  If you don’t, stop marketing your restaurant and work on the guest experience.  Your time will be better spent creating a great customer experience instead of encouraging new customers to have a mediocre experience.  At minimum, the food should be decent and your staff should know what is excepted in how they take care of your customers.
  2. A Facebook page with followers.  Although this isn’t necessary, it will be very beneficial when it comes time to start attracting new customers.

Here we go…

Step 1: Building a customer database

I recommend that you start a text-message (SMS) database and I think slicktext.com is one of the best, I’ve been using them for over 8 years. (If you happen to use them by clicking this link, I may receive a commission).

After you sign up, you’ll need to choose a keyword that represents your brand, I would choose the name of your business if it’s short, or something that you are known for like bestburgers.  Two things to keep in mind, sometimes a keyword is taken and you’ll have to come up with a different keyword and before picking a keyword, type it into your phone and make sure the auto correct function doesn’t change the word.  If it does, pick a different one.

Next you’ll need to pick a usage (marketing) and choose how frequently you will send messages.  I like 6 as it gives you a little wiggle room to send more than one message per week.

After that, you need to create a signup offer.  Now, this offer if going to be the reason your current customers join your VIP text list.  Usually an offer like a free drink, half off an appetizer or dessert or some other offer similar to those works well.  Remember, this offer is going to current customers who have purchased from you before.

Next you want to turn on 2 factor authentication to keep your list very clean.  I would also select one per person so that someone can’t unsubscribe from your list and then resubscribe again to get the initial offer.

The final setting I turn on is the birthday feature.  I love sending out special offers when one of my customers has a birthday.  Setting this up and filling out the necessary automated messages is an easy way to keep your restaurant top-of-mind when their special day comes around.

Lastly, you need to market your new VIP group.  There are an infinite ways to do this, but I will talk about 3 in this guide.  Note: make sure you include the disclaimer information on every piece of marketing that you use to promote your list.

  1. Table tents.  Creating table tents is the best method to encourage patrons to join your list. 
  2. Flyers.  I print little 4×6 flyers to put into every togo bag.  This allows people who aren’t dining in to be aware of your VIP group.
  3. Online.  Create an image with the necessary text promoting your new VIP group and post it on your social media networks.  You can also create a signup on your website.

That’s the end of step 1.  Now, what you want to do is remember to send them relevant messages every so often to keep your customers engaged and keep your brand top-of-mind.

Step 2: Create a new customer funnel

PS. We will be discussing your Facebook ad in this step, but we don’t actually create the ad till step 3.  

First, you need to think of three offers you can present to a new customers.  Attracting and retaining new customers involves two things: attention and value.  You need to create 3 offers called “Get them in the door” offers #1, #2, #3.  Offer #1 should provide the most value and will be the offer that get’s them to click your Facebook ad and get them into your restaurant for the first time.  Offer #2 will offer less value but enough to get them in the door a second time.  Offer #3 will offer the least amount of value but still enough to get them in the door a third time.  

Statistically speaking, it takes 3 visits for a new customer to visit a fourth time.  Our purpose is to get them into your restaurant 3 times with this system.

Next we will create the chat bots.  I can’t go into complete detail of all of the nuances of creating a chat bot in this guide, but I will point you where you need to go.  

First, signup with a chatbot maker like Manychat.com.  After setting it up, you’ll need to connect it to your restaurant’s Facebook page.  

When creating a chatbot, the first thing you create is a flow.  Multiple flows can be joined into a single sequence which is what we’ll be doing by the end.

The first thing the flow will do is get a new customer’s phone number.  This will allow you to add them to your SMS VIP group, and you will need to connect your chat software to your SMS software with a service like Zapier.  

Next, assuming they are not already on your list, the flow will provide them with their “Get them in the door” offer #1.  They should have roughly a week to use this offer.  

After they use the offer, a second flow will start and they will receive a video that was prerecorded by you or one of your staff.  This video will do three things: thank them for their visit, create a personal connection with them and provide the code needed to get offer #2.  After they respond, they will receive offer #2.  They will have around a week to use this one as well.  Then a new flow is created with a video and offer #3.  Tie all three of these flows together into a sequence.

We have now taken and new customer and gotten them to hopefully visit your restaurant three times, they are in your VIP group and they have “personally” met you twice.  The odds of them returning many times in the future are definitely in your favor.

Step 3: Create the ad

Once again, I can’t go into complete detail regarding creating your Facebook ad, but I’ll discuss the main objectives.  First, log into Facebook Ads and create an ad.  You are free to decide the copy and/or image/video.  The main thing you are doing is promoting your “Get them in the door” offer #1 if they signup to be in your VIP group.  

Next, we are going to setup targeting.  There are three areas I want you to think about.  The first is location.  I would suggest anywhere from 3 miles to 10 miles would be ideal for most restaurants.  A lot depends on where you live and how far your guests usually travel to visit your restaurant.  The second is demographics.  I would look at your current demographics and use them as the model.  The third, and most important one, is the exclude people who have liked your page.  If they have liked your page, most likely they are a current customer.

A note about attracting new customers.  If you noticed, we used two different methods to make sure only new customers can get offer #1.  Those who are not in your VIP group and those who have not liked your Facebook page.  These are by no means fool proof, but they do the best job possible in insuring that you will be attracting only new customers.

Finally, choose a budget and start running the ad.  After it’s been running for a little while you can start optimizing it and even start doing some split A/B testing or use Facebook’s pixel technology to really optimize your ad spend.

And there you have it.  You should now have a customer database that is growing everyday with both current and new customers joining it.  You also have a way to attract new customers into your restaurant whenever you want.   I hope you found this beneficial.  If you would like to get more information like this on how to grow and improve your restaurant, signup below.  Also, if you want us to manage this for you, click here.  Our plan is month-to-month and starts at $99/mo plus a $500 one-time setup fee.  This price does not include ad spend but does include up to 500 text messages sent per month.  If you have any questions, email hello@localbites.com or call 616-953-0385.

Andrew and his wife during their early days of owning their restaurant.

About the author

Andrew spent 14 years in the restaurant industry as the owner/operator of a brunch restaurant.  When his restaurant was acquired, it was growing 5x faster and was 4x more profitable than the industry average.  He was featured on Forbes’ #2 podcast for entrepreneurs called Built To Sell Episode 184.  He is passionate about helping small business owners, especially restaurant owners, succeed both personally and professionally. 

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