How to improve dwell time in your restaurant

By Ashley Sheppard

- Last updated on GMT

How to improve dwell time in your restaurant
Ashley Sheppard, commercial director at Call Systems Technology (CST) provides seven top tips on how to increase dwell time in restaurants and help drive loyalty.

Acknowledge customers 

Acknowledgement is king. If you haven’t made eye-contact and expressed a warm welcome within five seconds of a customer entering your premises, then psychologically, they’ve already started to make judgments, including how long they plan to stay with you – so, make it genuine and ensure it oozes personality. 

Keep it clean

Ask anyone if they’d actively choose to spend time in a dirty environment and the answer would of course be a unanimous 'no'. High standards of cleanliness across front and back of house should be an absolute given. I recently read an article about a survey carried out by commercial hygiene specialists Tork. It surveyed European diners, asking why they prefer to dine out in a restaurant with an open kitchen. Amazingly, it wasn’t for the reasons I expected – the sense of theatre, the experience, or the importance of watching their food go from pan to plate - according to 63 per cent of UK diners, it was so they could judge how clean it was. 

Make sure you're connected

If you’re not offering free WiFi then you’re not delivering a basic expectation of today’s generation who take it for granted that they will remain connected, irrespective of whether they’re in a restaurant, pub or bar. WiFi should be free and unlocked, omitting the need to enter a password or register via The Cloud. Why? Because it’s about added value – your customers should feel that you’ve given them something for nothing, with no need to hand over their information in return

Know your community

Use your key community influencers to drive loyalty. Customers love having a sense of belonging. I know of a leading multi-site pub operator who regularly test their staff on their knowledge of regulars.  They’re tasked with knowing their marital status, partner’s name, the brand of car they drive, occupation, favourite drink and food, together with who their friends are. They’ll find a table for their regulars even when full and call them when they know they’ve got a dish or drink in they especially love. They follow them on social media and create exclusive clubs/VIP events in their honour, as nothing drives loyalty more than community spirit. 

Don't forget customer relationship management (CRM)

CRM is an extremely powerful tool when it comes to driving customer loyalty. At its core is technology and if done well, it can dramatically increase customer satisfaction and loyalty. Operators are able to customise their offering to suit the individual tastes of customers by accumulating information based on their interactions to determine purchasing habits. As an operator, you will know how often a customer visits your site and on what days of the week, what their favourite dishes and drinks are – even down to their preferred cut of steak. The beauty of CRM, is that you can then carefully tailor your offering to suit their preferred choices.

Think seasonally

Think seasonally if you want your customers to stay longer. It’s a given with many menus, however, it is also important to think seasonally about your customer’s environment if you want them to stick around for a while. Nothing empties a space quicker than a cold environment in the winter and steaming hot one in the summer – so invest in the best heating and air-conditioning your budget can afford.

Consider scent marketing

Our sense of smell is the strongest of the five senses. We are 100 times more likely to remember something we smell over something we see, hear or touch. Scent marketing continues to be a growing trend in the US, especially within shopping centres, where they found that customers tended to stay longer in locations using a scent solution by an average of at least 15 minutes. Samsung shoppers in the US underestimated actual shopping time by 26 per cent and visited three times more product categories when exposed to scent marketing. Here in the UK, Dishoom, perhaps unknowingly, represents a fine example of scent marketing. The incense sticks used particularly at the King’s Cross site instill a sense of wonderful calm and relaxation making you subconsciously want to stay longer.

Ashley Sheppard is commercial director at Call Systems Technology​. 

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