Restaurants need a lot of things to succeed: great food, professional staff, high margins. But, at the end of the day, a successful restaurant can be heavily dependent on one thing: foot traffic. Can you get people into the door? Can you keep people coming back? How do you attract more customers to your restaurant? Knowing your customer and communicating with them.
Here are two steps on how to increase your restaurant's foot traffic:
Step 1: Know your customer
Before you figure out how to get more foot traffic, you need to figure out who to target. The tactics that you pursue are dependent on your unique, ideal customer. Use POS data to determine what type of guests are currently coming to your restaurant the most. With the data, you can narrow in on their demographics and understand who you’re serving today. Ask: does this match who I want here tomorrow? What are their patterns of behavior like? Where else do they go? How did they find out about restaurants? What are their habits, wants, needs?
If you understand why your current customers chose your restaurant, you can better attract more customers who feel the same way. Try mapping out a customer journey for your most frequent (current) audience and another one for your most wanted (target) audience. Are their differences in how they make their decisions? Do they have different priorities, preferences, and pain-points? A user-focused exercise can help you be more empathetic and eliminate the normal bias you have towards your restaurant and your decisions. It might help you uncover a problem you were overlooking or an opportunity you were missing to increase foot traffic.
Step 2: Communicate with them
After you fully understand who you’re targeting, it’s much easier to determine how to do it. Below are a few tips on how you can maximize your foot traffic. However, remember to refer back to your current and main customers thoroughly. Keep in mind what their behaviours are and if these solutions align—some might be the perfect fit, while some might be a poor match.
Build an online foundation
Most people are online. In fact, 86% of diners check menus online before they dine out. If you’re in a low traffic area and potential diners are searching nearby for somewhere to go, they should be able to find you. Get on Google Maps, Yelp, and explore other popular listing websites. A basic presence will increase your reputation and increase new customers. A bonus? Listings are often free.
Create a social-worthy atmosphere (and share it yourself)
People eat with their eyes first—it’s why the presentation of dishes and a strong social media matters. Almost 60 percent of diners always or frequently check out images of their destination before they go. Capitalize on their curiosity. Work with your chef to create “Insta-worthy” specials that are also cost effective. Work with a designer to build a permanent fixture to encourage people to create their own user generated content. It will pull people (especially millennials) to try your restaurant: the photo op will make them come, and your food & service will make them stay.
Introduce unique specials and recurring events
A restaurant’s life depends on return customers. Focus on specials that surprise and delight your regulars, rather than one-off guests: loyalty is a restaurateur’s bread and butter for success. Consider mixing some daily specials into your usual menu. Happy hour is a hit with the younger crowd (and so are trivia or game nights). However, before adding countless nights of half-off drinks and pop culture trivia, think through your strategy—you should approach it from a strategic marketing perspective, choosing only what’s smart for your business goals.