When a customer feels at home in your restaurant, you've achieved a level of loyalty that most restaurant owners can only imagine.

6 Tips for Building Brand Affinity for Your Restaurant

Customer Experience Brand & Image

Brand affinity and customer loyalty can be difficult to achieve in a restaurant setting. Here are six tips to help you be successful.

The sense of home and hospitality is a big reason why restaurant-goers choose to dine out rather than have food delivered. However, seeing warm smiles at the door and being well-received by staff members who know your name aren’t just reasons why people go to restaurants, they’re also signs that a restaurant’s foundation has been built on brand affinity. When a customer feels at home in your restaurant, you’ve achieved a level of loyalty that most restaurant owners can only imagine. So how can you bring this warmth to your restaurant in a way that feels genuine and not rehearsed or forced? Here are some helpful tips and tricks:

1. Keep Your Doors Open

If weather permits, keep your front doors propped open during operating hours. Open doors are more inviting to prospective diners, and that initial feeling of an invitation will make guests feel like they’re welcome and at home. For colder seasons or locations where open doors aren’t practical, have your host team ready to open the doors for every customer as they walk to the door. It’s small gestures like this that will set you apart.

2. Train Your Team Well

When your staff knows the ins and outs of your business, they’ll feel more personally invested. Keep them in the loop on big-picture things going on in your restaurant, whether you’re a corporate chain or a single operating store. Make sure they taste every dish and know every ingredient. Explain to them exactly why things are the way they are, and accept feedback during appropriate times, such as during a quarterly staff meeting. Letting your team feel like they’re part of the process keeps the restaurant running smoothly.

3. Preset Your Tables

As silly or time-consuming as it may sound, having your tables preset before your customers get there is a nice touch that gives your diners the feeling that they’re about to eat a meal that’s been cooked with love by people who care about them. If you accept reservations or have regular diners, this will be easier for your team to achieve. For walk-in diners, have your host team member remove any extra place settings after escorting customers to their table.

4. Remember Customers’ Names

Whether they’re first-time diners or regulars, your team should be trained to refer to customers by name. During your initial interaction, make it a point to ask a customer’s name, and then use it several times during their stay. By calling a customer by name, you’ll not only make them smile but also make them feel more connected to you and your team.

5. Make Your Rounds

As a manager, you’ll need to make sure your feet hit the floor, and that your hands meet a few palms. Meeting a restaurant’s managers and owners is an important part of building brand affinity between the business and the guests. This helps to build relationships with customers to make sure they come back, and it will help encourage them to spread the word about your business to their friends and family.

6. Offer Incentives

Many restaurants are adopting the practice of giving out punch cards or similar loyalty programs to encourage customers to come in regularly. With small sacrifices — such as an appetizer here or a dessert there — your sales numbers and reservations will soar. People want to feel like they’re getting a bargain for being part of something. By giving them an incentive that has some exclusivity to it, customers feel elite, which then encourages them to be loyal.

Brand affinity can be difficult to achieve in the food service industry. What diners want more than anything is a genuine, warm experience that’s surrounded by smiling faces and workers who are happy to have them there. Follow these tips and make it a priority to build a staff that’s dedicated to hospitality, and your customers will keep coming back for more.

Tiffani J. Purdy
Tiffani J. Purdy

Tiffani J. Purdy is a freelance writer and editor based in Tampa, Florida. Her areas of expertise include green business trends, lean management styles and workplace health and safety standards. She has also been the Assistant Editor for MUI Daily News since 2014.