During the slower seasons here in the Caribbean we can’t always rely on tourists to populate our restaurants. When foot traffic slows down implementing some deals for local patrons is always a good idea but once they come you want to make sure that they come back again and again. Here are 5 ideas for customer retention that are actually fun.
- Mystery Envelope
This is by far my favorite restaurant promotion of all time and one that we used with one of our current clients and are seeing the same people coming back to dine almost every other week because of it! The mystery envelope goes like this: at the end of the meal a sealed envelope is given the guest and inside is one of many guaranteed prizes. The prizes are totally up to you and should range from a free drink or dessert to whatever you want (tickets to a local concert, one free main course every month for the rest of the year etc).
The catch is – customers must come back to your restaurant in order to open the envelope! When we did this with our client we saw an average of 3 out of 15 envelopes return in the first week and by the end of a second week 11 of 15 had come back to open their envelopes. You can put your own timeframes on these – so say you typically have a slowdown in July, then you can say ‘bring your envelope in anytime in July for a guaranteed prize,’ or something along those lines. Another tip: seal your envelopes with a sticky label that has your social handles on it!
- Restaurant Bingo
Restaurant bingo replaces the typical ‘loyalty card’ you see with some dining establishments and also encourages guests to explore your menu in order to find new favorites AND to bring their friends in. (Tip: this is best pulled off with a large, multipage menu).
Take a blank BINGO card and place your logo in the center square as a free space. In the other squares add items from your menu. Each time the guest comes (alone or with their friends) and orders something from the card they get that square marked (so find a mark that is unique to you like a custom ink stamp of your logo). When they have five in a row (or fill in the entire card – your rules are up to you!) they win something.
- Food & Drink Pairings
The craft brewery trend also helped the foodie trend and places like gastropubs suddenly became popular as people wanted to try a new beer paired perfectly with a meal. This same strategy can be used for your Caribbean based restaurant, no matter what type of food you serve. Either figure out what rum-based drinks (or other popular tropical libations) pair well with your dishes, or craft a new drink each evening that goes with your nightly specials. Take something typical and turn it into something exciting: pair wines with local specialties or create a cocktail that is specific to your curry.
- Game Nights & Theme Nights
Game nights and theme nights generally create a set of ‘regulars’ who will come every week for whatever it is that you’re offering that can’t be found elsewhere. Be that pub trivia, taco Tuesdays, or live music every Friday, whatever nights you choose to have theme nights, they create an easy to remember rhythm.
- Be a Part of the Community
There’s no better way to gain fans from the community than by supporting the community. Get out there and see what you can do to ‘support local’ – be it at art festivals, school recitals, fund raisers etc. But beyond that, there are other ways to support your Caribbean community other than donating your time and food. You can play music created by local musicians, hang art crafted by local artisans (which you can also give customers the opportunity to buy), and of course see where you can replace imported foods with farm fresh ingredients.