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The best practices for turning one-time guests into regulars

By OpenTable

- Last updated on GMT

The best practices for turning one-time guests into regulars OpenTable

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As dining rooms reopen, knowing your guests is even more important.

While the pandemic has changed the way businesses operate, from social distanced floor plans and juggling takeaway orders, diners remain the same with the only difference being that they have an even bigger appetite to visit new as well much loved restaurants again.

As establishments reopen, competition is fierce and customers are coming back expecting more. According to a March 2021 report by OpenTable, What Diners Expect in 2021​, 60% of consumers say they miss their favourite local restaurant. This demonstrates that regular guests are eager to rediscover their love of dining and new visitors will give businesses the opportunity to show off new menus and restaurant experiences. 

Understanding that no two diners are the same, will not only encourage repeat guests while attracting new ones, but combined with a flair of creativity will also give businesses the competitive advantage they need to stand out.

OpenTable explores some of the best practices on how to retain your most loyal customers and encourage new ones along the way. 

Leverage your customer data

Repeat customers are essential to any business and over time it is key for establishments to build relationships with guests to encourage their support. Being able to record simple details in one place will give a business the competitive edge as it allows a restaurant to get a deeper understanding of their guests. This can include adding special notes about their visit or any special requests such as dietary requirements or celebrations to allow for personalisation on every visit. 

It’s the simple things - saying hello to every guest by name, giving thoughtful recommendations based on past orders. Anticipating your guests' preferences and needs will empower your staff to provide high quality customer service for every guest.

OpenTable offers a host of solutions to ensure operator’s can offer the best hospitality possible with guest details at your fingertips. OpenTable’s restaurant management platform​ offers pre-shift reports with robust insights to build stronger connections with diners during service, as well as guest profiles that automatically update with each visit.


Drive loyalty with a memorable experience

With many businesses incentivising guests with an abundance of points and loyalty cards, many diners are seeking out more novelty or surprising experiences. If a memorable and unique experience is fun, tangible and compelling, it’s more likely to create a memorable experience for loyal guests. It’s also likely to be sharable, either by word or mouth or social media, so you’re one step closer to a deeper connection with that diner.

Experiences such as a special tasting menus with the chef on their 4th visit, or the best table in the house (with their favourite wine already waiting at the table) for their 10th visit, will show diners that you value their custom. It only takes a creative idea to set a business apart from the competition and offering a unique experience can be one of them.

Communicate with the right guests at the right time

Once you have your guests' data, you can use it to engage with them in a more personalised way. According to OpenTable, diners put a high value on being able to get in touch directly with an establishment. Their survey​ results show that “87% of consumers think it's important to be able to directly communicate with the restaurant”. That’s an important touch point that businesses shouldn’t forget. 

But with many different forms of communicating and engaging with guests, keeping things relevant to everyone will allow for that personalised touch that many crave. That might mean letting your steak lovers know of the new season menu option, or showcasing some of your other offerings and locations they may enjoy. 

As well as personalised guest communications, staying consistent with your communication is also key to ensuring that you stay top of mind. This can be in the form of getting back to any guest feedback or simply offering a tailored email with a special promotion. No matter the approach, tailored communication and consistency together will set you apart.

Anticipating and meeting the needs of your regulars will pay off, and even grow your loyal following. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be impossible work, but with a spark of creativity and the right tools, you’ll be set to win over diners!

With guests eager to get back to dining, it’s prime time to reconnect and grow your community of regulars — and your business at the same time.

Download a free guide focusing on how to reveal what keeps your regulars coming back plus how to grow your loyal following.

Related topics Casual Dining