How Do I Attract Customers To My Restaurant?

Five Top Strategies to Attract More Customers to Your Restaurant

The next question - and it's a good question - is what attracts someone; a customer, a diner to your restaurant? In the old days, all you had to do basically was have good food, good service, and a hygienic place and people would come in. Now, unfortunately, those days were gone.


In the last 16 years while we've been working with restaurants, we've gone from 15,000 restaurants to over 82,000 restaurants and then on top of that, you've got pubs, clubs, cafes, bars, and so on, which didn't used to be your competition. But nowadays they are your competition because they've really lifted their game. So where people used to go out and enjoy food at a restaurant because that was a place to go get good food, now they can go to many cafes and bars and hotels and so on because the food there is great too and they've really worked on their atmosphere as well.

Cafes and what were used to be cafes are now places where people go and dine out, particularly at lunchtime. And speaking personally, we have a cafe nearby here, where they open on a Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night and we've dined there rather than a restaurant. So you have more competition than you've ever had before, so you cannot rely on the fact that you've opened your doors and people are going to walk through.

1. Make a Good First Impression

So the first thing is you might open your restaurant and you immediately get a honeymoon period - a period when people are going to come in and try you out is between about two weeks and six weeks depends where you're located. If you're in the city center like a CBD, it's probably about two weeks because they'll be somewhere else opening new very soon and people move off to go and try that one out. If you are in more regional areas, then is probably around six weeks to three months where people will come and try you out because they don't eat out all of the time.

Obviously if you are in a tourist area, that's completely different because the locals are around obviously all the time, but if you're going to rely on tourist dollars, maybe over the summer period and then they don't even know that you're a new place until they arrive. And that's only if they've been before, so that honeymoon period for you only works with locals. And if there's only a few locals, you've got to work really hard to get to know them and get to invite them back in, which brings me to the next point;

2.Invite Your Customers to Dine

attracting customers to a restaurantThe first thing you've got to do to make sure people come into your places - invite them, and I know that sounds like a really strange thing to say that you've got to invite people in.

If you got my book, More Bums On Seats, you remember when you read in there about inviting people in that I actually talked about a time when myself and my wife were invited into a restaurant. To tell this story again and give you an insight into how it works; so we were regulars at a particular restaurant and we’ve gone there for a few years, same owners that owned it all along. We take overseas guests there, we take business associates there, spent a lot of money there. I know they have my details because I entered competitions and things that they run. And so we were in a good relationship with them, then my wife got pregnant with our baby and we stopped going out so much. And, in fact, we didn't go out to really nice restaurants because it was really hard for us - we didn't have babysitters, we were immigrants into the country, no family here, so we basically would only go out where we will take a baby or an infant and that restaurant didn't fall into that.

So for a few years, we didn't go back to that restaurant and I never heard from them, never got message from them at all. Then ironically, one day when my wife is taking our daughter to preschool and the owner of the restaurant, Nicole, was taking her child to preschool too and they met in the car park and Nicole said to Bev, “Hey, we've not seen you for ages. We've got a new spring menu on tonight we're launching it, would you like to come down?” And so Bev said, “Today? That sounds like a really good idea. I'll ask Howard and maybe we will.” So sure enough, she comes home and says, “Hey, this restaurant, Nicole's restaurant, they're doing the spring menu, should we go?” and we agreed to go.

So we got to the restaurant, and we knew the owners well, so when Nicole came to the table - and she was waiting at our table - and I said, “You want to know why we've not been back?” And she looked at me as if I was going to say something really bad about the service or something like that and she said, “Yeah, go on.” I said, “You never invited us.” And she kind of looked at us strange and I said, “Well, it's probably about four years since we've been here. That means I’ve had four birthdays, Bev's had four birthdays, we've had four wedding anniversaries. There's been things like Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, and Father’s Day. I know that we've been out somewhere to celebrate those things, but we didn't come to you. And the reason is that you never invited us.” And again, she's looking at me really strange. And I said, “Well, I know you've got my details, including my birthday, because we filled in competitions with you where we had to give you all of our details, but you never send anything out to invite us. Look at what happened today. You invite us in and sure enough, we're here.”

And this really is the basis of what happens between you and your customers or your guests is that they will forget about you. It's not that they don't like you, it’s that they've got other things going on in their lives; whether it's a new family, or a new job, or maybe they're going through some financial difficulties, or things have happened in their life. They get busy and they forget about you, then maybe they go through a period of they started going out again – if you are not in their face, if you're not reminding them that you're there, then why would they come to you? Because there's lots of other places that have just opened are in the area. So you've got to be there with them, telling them about what's going on and so on. And so the easiest way to do that is with an email. And so committing to doing it, an email newsletter, maybe once a month, it's not a big deal to do that. So you can talk about what's on what's happening in the restaurant.

3. Run Special Offers

marketing tips to attract more customersAlso, if it's one of those times of the year and, let's face it, every single month there's something to celebrate in Australia. It's one of those times of the year maybe it's Australia Day, ANZAC Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Melbourne Cup, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, April Fool's Day, Halloween, whatever it is, you can say, “Hey, it's this time of year and this is what we're doing to celebrate this time of year.”

On top of that, of course, you've got their birthdays. If you've collected a database, you got their birthdays, possibly their wedding anniversary, and so on. So there's lots of lots of reasons to invite people in. So you can do the generic newsletter with what's going on, and what the new menu is, where you get in your produce from or what produces special at this time of the year.

And then, as I said, one of those calendar items like Valentine's Day, and then the other thing is if you've got a really good database and you know how to do it, you can be sending out birthday invites to people on their birthdays - so lots of ways to invite people in.

So how do you attract people to your restaurant? Number one, you've got to basically get into that honeymoon period and make people feel great and then collect a database off the back of that. The other thing that you need to be doing is you need to be doing social media - but don't get me wrong here, by doing social media is not going to get people through the door just because you've posted a picture of a Pavlova, or your dog, or the chef, or the new waiter or waitress - that's not going to get people through the door. All you're doing there is reminding people that you're there and people respond to invites when there's something in it for them.

So why would I go to your restaurant? What's in it for me? Well, if I come tonight, you've got this special on. If I come tonight, and there's a new wine being featured. If I come tonight, there's a free glass of bubbles because it's a Thursday night, whatever, there's got to be a reason for me to come. If I come tonight, it's a wine dinner, It's St. Patrick's Day, whatever it is that you're doing, there's got to be a reason to get me in there. So even on Facebook and Instagram, by posting things out, and it's, as I said, it's not a way of definitely getting people in, it's about reminding them that you're there.

So you've got to set up a calendar to do something every day or every second day or one of those social media accounts. If you really want to use social media as a strategy, then believe me, you need to really understand that or work with a social media agency to get people through the door. If you're just using it as a reminder strategy and telling people what's going on, then you can do that yourself. Believe me, you can post a picture and type some text and click Post, you don't need to be amazing to do that.

What I would say though is, if you're doing food shots, get a professional photographer, it makes a massive difference. So get social media going; the other thing is make sure that you've got great signage, think about an A frame, they do work, believe it or not, and make sure that you've got a menu that people can read in the window or on a board so that people walking past can see what you're doing. Make sure that your phone number and your opening hours are on your website, on your premises - so if you’re closed, people got to know when you're open, and so that's for people walking past. If you do take away or home delivery, make sure that you do letterbox drops. I know it's old school, but it works. It doesn't work long term, but you'll get a two week window of sales increase just by doing a letterbox drop. When those people come in, make sure that you add them to your database too.

4. Build Your Restaurant's Reputation

And then going beyond that looking at what are you doing to have an amazing reputation, both online and offline? So if I go online and look at your restaurant, what am I going to think of your website? Is it great? Is it enticing? Is it up to date? And if this is the middle of the year that you're watching this, are you still advertising Valentine's and Easter? You know, is it up to date? If I look at your social media, does your food photography attract me or does look very ordinary and yellow and awful? And what are the reviews like on Facebook on TripAdvisor and Google reviews? So if I'm going to be looking at where should I eat tonight, what is going to be your reputation online?

So remember, your reputation lives in my mind, it lives in your customers minds. It doesn't live anywhere inside the restaurant, I make up your reputation inside my head. So when I'm looking at those things online, I think I'm building a reputation for you what I think about you. Then offline, if I was in your neighborhood, what would people tell me about your restaurant? Would they say, “Oh, yeah, that's a great place to go.” Or would they say, “Well, I'm not sure. I don't know why it's like, I've never been there. Don't know anything about it.” If it's the first thing, great - whatever you're doing from a reputation point of view is working very well. If it's the second thing, you're not doing well in putting your name out there - in a good way, in the local area, so ways to do that is make sure that you work with local businesses, work with local associations, surf lifesaving, for instance.

5.Network Locally

how do I attract customers to my restaurantMake sure that you work with local groups, whether they're sporting child care at groups. And what do I mean by working with people, schools, as well universities, things like that, that you basically go there and give them what's in it for me, why should we work with you, give them a reason to send their customers or students or clients to you and there's lots of ways of doing that. Which if you've, again, read the book, or if you've had time with me, and spend an hour with me—which you're very welcome to do so, by the way—and then you will talk about that in much more detail.

How do you get people in your community to refer your clients, their clients, to you. So just on that note, when I say that if you want to book an appointment with me, go to our website, you can click on button there and book in my calendar and we can talk.

So, coming back to the point, what is it that you can do to attract people to your restaurant? Or what is it that attracts people to your restaurant, all of those things. There's lots of new business ways of bringing people in. There's a lot of repeat business ways, you must have a database to do that. You have to have good food, you have to have good service, and you also have to have a good reputation.

I hope that's been useful for you. I'm going to do a lot of these videos on these questions. I've got a load of questions to answer. But if you personally want a question answered, by all means, send me a message. If you're seeing this on Facebook, send me a message. If you're seeing it somewhere else online, go to our website, and send me a message and I will do a video like this for you based on this on your question.

All right, hope that's been useful and I'll see you again soon.

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