Small independent restaurateurs should explore simple loyalty programs to drive repeat business in a slowing economy.
The sit down restaurant industry has suffered more than most any other over the last 5 years. They’ve been beaten to death by the rough economy.
When you have somewhere around 15% of the population unemployed, underemployed or having given up looking for work, one of the first things to get cut is how much you eat out. I’ve heard from plenty of people who have gone from dining out three times a week to twice a month.
So the herd has been culled. You would think the surviving restaurants would be fine. But they’re really just holding on by their fingernails.
New industry data shows consumer confidence is down. That effectively means people will continue to abandon sit down restaurants in favor of fast food and quick serve when they need a bite on the go.
For you as a customer, that means more promotions and opportunities to save money with coupons, two-for-one deals and more.
But if you’re a restaurant owner, you’ll want to be careful with the one-shot deals like Groupon does. I don’t think they build loyalty. They just attract cheapos like me who want to hopscotch form place to place.
If I were you, and you’re an independent restaurateur, I would have a simplified loyalty program. Maybe something like every third visit gets a free entrée or every fourth visit gets a free dessert. Something to create a pattern of reward.
Keep it simple and keep it clean, where the customer knows multiple visits will get them savings, not a one-shot deal.