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What's the Value of Regulars in your Restaurant?



What’s the Value of Regulars in your Restaurant?

Customers who keep coming back are worth a lot more than just their toms restaurantcontribution to the bottom line. Here’s how to go get them—and keep the ones you have.

Close your eyes for a minute and imagine your dining room or service line during a typical busy shift. Smile. Now, keep that scene in mind but take all of your regulars out of the picture. Still smiling? Probably not.

Take away regulars and you take away what for most operations is the heart and soul of the business—not to mention the bulk of revenues. Whether you’re fast food, fine dining or the taco cart on the corner, regulars keep you humming and pay the bills.

Consider the following stats from the National Restaurant Association’s 2008 Operator Survey: Repeat customers account for an average of 75 percent of sales at family dining and quick-service restaurants; for 70 percent of sales at casual dining restaurants; and for 60 percent at fine dining operations.  It’s a pretty safe bet that during the past year, with consumers extra-skittish about spending money on unknowns, those percentages have increased.

“Regulars pay the rent. From a bottom-line standpoint, they’re critical."

Beyond the obvious revenue contributions that regulars make, they provide other important benefits. Top among them is positive word-of-mouth advertising.You can spend a lot of money on advertising, but if you pay close attention to keeping your current customers happy, they’ll do a lot of advertising for you and you’ll spend a lot less money.

Regulars also act as a sort of built-in focus group. You build a personal relationship and if you’re smart, that relationship extends from the greeter to the manager, the bartender, the chef.The regulars are recognized and appreciated, their preferences are known. The relationship that results enables the operator to get critical feedback. It’s great to be able to go to your customers and say, ‘We’re thinking of doing x,y,z. What’s your opinion?’ Or, ‘We’ve just added something new, have you tried it? What do you think?’ They’ll tell you what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong, what you could be doing that you hadn’t even thought about. That type of feedback will come most reliably from your regulars.

In a very tangible but often unrecognized way, regulars also contribute to staff morale. That’s particularly true where job functions can become rote, as can be the case in limited-menu fast-food operations. What makes a job worthwhile is often the social interactions with your co-workers and also with your customers.

“Regulars who recognize you, who chat a bit while they’re there can really brighten your day. It’s what humanizes the staff and keeps them happy, and a happy staff is always your best sales tool. So cultivating regulars creates a full circle of positive benefits.”



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