* by Shaazia Bhika
It is no secret that the restaurant industry takes a bit of knock during the colder months as customers prefer ordering take-aways and eating it in the comfort and warmth of their homes. Although, if the customer is going to a restaurant that boasts a warm and welcoming environment that offers great food and excellent service, it does tend to make their visit much more pleasant — and more frequent.
Here are a few tried and tested tips on how to keep your customers loyal and coming back for more, even during the colder seasons.
1. Winter-proof your premises
Sitting in a chest freezer is nobody’s idea of fun so focus on winter-proofing your restaurant to make it as comfortable as possible for customers regardless of the weather. Provide sufficient heating and or they will find another restaurant that provides this basic comfort.
2. Create a ‘hook’
To keep your customers coming through the door, you will need to think of a ‘hook’ to get them in – that added perk that separates you from your competitors. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and think about what appeals to them most. How about an odd but clever idea? In addition to mobile gas heaters, offer your customers hot water bottles or lap blankets as soon as they enter your premises? If your restaurant has family-friendly facilities, make sure that it is warm enough for parents to allow their children to play. Avoid portable gas heaters and rather consider wall mounted heaters.
Winter-specific deals are always a hot seller for the hospitality businesses, so make sure that you are offering your loyal customers a warm and comfortable environment with welcoming specials during the colder seasons.
3. Take your business to your customers
If your customers are tucked up at home keeping warm, it does not mean that they are off limits. Keep them updated by using your social media pages such as Facebook and Twitter to keep interest brewing or even offer free or low-cost delivery for meals ordered over the phone.
Just because the winter weather may put a damper on your customer’s mood, it doesn’t mean that your restaurant must suffer. By making simple changes and offering friendly and welcoming service, you will attract regular and new business through your doors this winter.
* Shaazia Bhika is the owner of Maxi’s Overport Halaal, a franchise of nationwide family restaurants that forms part of the Taste Holdings group. For more information on the restaurant franchise visit www.maxis.co.za or if you would like to visit Shaazia’s store, visit him at 430 Ridge Road, Overport, Durban.