Customer loyalty is everything in the restaurant business. With razor thin margins and changing customer tastes to deal with, restaurants rely on a loyal customer base to keep the kitchen busy even as they work toward bringing new customers in. As such, anything a restaurant can do to increase customer loyalty is a good thing. Enter the concept of creating a good first impression.
At Taqueria27 in Salt Lake City, ownership set out with their very first restaurant to create something unique and memorable. They wanted their first neighborhood location to be a restaurant that not only served the best Mexican food in Salt Lake City, but also a place that would bring people from the neighborhood together. Their goal was to make Taqueria27 a modern version of the old family restaurant that used to be a staple of so many American neighborhoods.
For the record, they have achieved just that. Taqueria27 now has five locations in different Salt Lake City neighborhoods. Their success has taught them a thing or two about first impressions. They understand how first impressions affect customer loyalty, which is why they recommend the following:
Personally Greeting Guests
Regardless of whether you run a fast food, fast casual, or sit-down restaurant, your customers want to be treated like human beings rather than just numbers on a spreadsheet. Your best opportunity to show them that you appreciate them as people is to personally greet them when they come in the door. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. You can make a great first impression just by saying “hello” and offering a warm welcome.
Maintaining the Dining Room
From the customer’s perspective, your restaurant is the dining room. They do not see what goes on back in the kitchen or the office. They do notice everything that happens in the dining room. As such, making a good first impression requires maintaining the dining room as a clean, attractive, and welcoming space.
Your dining room can never be too clean. It can never be too organized. Never let your guests see broken baseboards, cracked tables, or dirty windows.
Maintaining the Restrooms
The other public space diners see frequently is the restroom. More than one restaurant has negated every other effort to create a good first impression by not maintaining restrooms to the highest possible standard. The good people at Taqueria27 say this point cannot be emphasized enough. The quickest way to drive away guests and guarantee they never come back is to give them filthy restrooms to use. Don’t do it.
Presenting a Professional Appearance
Whether a restaurant serves Mexican food or Chinese-Thai fusion, guests expect staff members to look like they know what they are doing. That means staff should be positioned to present a professional appearance. Even if such an appearance seems silly to team members, it does have a very real impact on customers.
In light of that, restaurant uniforms are a must. They should be commensurate with the type of restaurant you run, its overall theme, and the type of environment you want to create. It helps when staff uniforms complement table settings and décor.
In addition to uniforms, presenting a professional appearance also includes personal grooming. A professional appearance involves attitude, posture, and even the words staff members choose when engaging customers. The more professional the presentation, the better the first impression.
Here’s the deal: first impressions are an important factor in determining whether or not your restaurant has a shot at turning a first-time guest into a loyal customer. Blow the first impression and you can kiss loyalty goodbye.