As members of the Commercial Solutions team, it is our goal to effectively consult and advise customers on the best ways to continually grow and build their business, even during the slower post-holiday months.
Bob Koch, Commercial Segment Leader, reminds that its important to remember to build your database and collect new customer data. “The operator has an opportunity to gather data from the new customers during the busy holiday season, giving them the opportunity to invite that guest back for a second visit after the holidays. This drives loyalty as it creates excitement for the customer to visit again.” He continues to say that a diner’s first visit is the perfect time to gather an email address, sign them up for a frequent diner club, etc.
Also, be aware of what’s going on in your local community. Prepare for how you can attract business with visitors to local events and be sure that you’re staffed appropriately during these times.
Be on your A Game – experience
Geoff Bonham, Gordon Food Service Commercial Segment Specialist, advises that your execution matters more than anything else during the holidays. “This is your time to shine,” he says. “Be on your ‘A’ game and prepare to make a great first impression.” He recommends emphasizing high performance with your staff, inviting them to delight every customer that visits the operation.
Don’t forget that if you’re hiring seasonal staff to meet higher demands, you should be sure that they’re trained early so that they can meet your service level standards before the big holiday rush.
Using pre-shift meetings throughout the holidays is a great way to talk about how to elevate and optimize service, to motivate your staff members to do their best, and to offer incentives for sales and customer experiences.
“The holiday months are popular for family and business gatherings,” Bonham reminds, “It’s a time where many new visitors will be experiencing what you have to offer. If the execution is flawless, it’s likely that you’ll get return visits in the slower post-holiday months, and you’ll have built a loyal customer.”
Build customer loyalty
In building loyalty, Koch says to look to frequent flyer programs for inspiration – the more a person flies, the more they are rewarded. Frequent diner programs can offer rewards for first-time customers, and can offer more rewards for repeat visits. Once a customer realizes their benefits over time, it builds strong loyalty.
But the dining table isn’t the only opportunity for your operation to shine – digital marketing opportunities are also a great place to build loyalty. Building loyalty through the website allows customers to research your business online before they make their decisions. Koch advises, “Online is where the opportunity is to make a connection, to get people to sign up to receive additional information, coupons, and offers. You can entice customers with special occassion offers, exclusive offers for frequent diner members, and more. In exchange, you receive data for customer tracking – it’s a cost-efficient solution.”
Gift cards – tie in with loyalty and experience
The most unique aspect of the post-holiday season is that the “spending season” is over. “People are in saving mode,” Koch says, “With gift cards, there’s a unique opportunity to bring in someone who might not have otherwise have chosen your operation for that night’s dinner.” On a guest’s first visit, however, it’s important to remember that customer experience is everything. Have your servers ask if this is the guest’s first time at the location, or if they’re visiting the restaurant to celebrate an occasion – it offers a little something extra to enhance their experience.
Gift cards tend to be a great bottom line boost as an average of 27-29 percent of diners spend more than the gift card offers. In fact, according to Technomic Inc., 81 percent of consumers redeemed gift cards within 90 days of receiving them, offering your operation an opportunity to increase your sales during the slower post-holiday months.
Koch adds, “A gift card to a restaurant can be thrilling. But if the service aspect falls short, the whole premise can be defeated by a negative first experience.”
With the extra traffic being driven to your operation by the holidays, it might be tempting to change up your menu and add some limited time offerings to it. Koch advises that you keep it simple during this time, stating that “the best way to build loyalty is to execute your traditional menu well.”
In the slower months between January and March, it’s a great time to experiment with a variety of limited time offers. “Get feedback from your visitors at this time, and if there is a dish that becomes popular, consider making it a standard menu item,” he says.
As the holiday season starts to ramp up, it’s ultimately important to continue to prepare your operation for the opportunity to create customer loyalty and drive customers back into your restaurant during the traditionally slower post-holiday months. Bonham says, “We’re constantly trying to get customers to think further ahead so they can optimize their opportunities.”
By thinking ahead and preparing before and during the holiday months, you can build your sales for the post-holiday months.