Comment: How to get guests back through the doors

Duncan Fraser-Smith discusses enticing customers back after the summer period

Duncan Fraser-Smith is the founder of The Cutting Edge Agency.
Duncan Fraser-Smith is the founder of The Cutting Edge Agency.

Following the mass exodus of GCC residents for the summer months, the time has come for us all to look at re-mobilising our business operations and reminding the community of just why we are here and why they loved us in the first place.

Inevitably we are inundated with questions from existing operators as to how best to position themselves in the market when all returns back to normal, being mindful that there is an influx of new restaurant openings to contend with, without ‘giving the farm away’.

There are several simple suggestions I can offer that ease this process for existing operators and provide the right form of motivation for your guests to return to you first.

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Social media: If you haven’t started your social media teaser campaign for September already then I suggest you move it!

Teaser campaigns remind guests of all the good times they have had at your venue. Guests connect with you on an emotional level and it motivates them to have the experience again.

Social media does not need to make grand statements about new menus or new chefs, but a simple connection along the lines of ‘we hope you enjoyed your summer and would love to hear about it when next you join us’.

Be friendly: There is nothing better than being friendly with your regulars and the neighbourhood at large. Incentivise them to come back, as it shows respect and gives them a sense of ownership for the venue.

It does not need to be a long-term strategy — more like a gift to show that you missed them and that you are looking forward to welcoming them back. Being friendly with regulars and local neighbours, in operations, is a strategic key in reminding guests how much you value their patronage.

Consistent and quality delivery: When things are quiet, it is not unheard of for people to relax a little more, take their eye off the game and ‘cruise’ through the summer months. What we forget is that at the end of summer, business is like a light switch. It’s off, it’s off, it’s off, IT’S ON!

Your teams need to be ready when this happens, with the same consistent delivery of service and consistent quality of food and beverage offering as prior to the summer break.

Please do not forget to make doubly sure that teams have had refresher service training courses and chefs’ food suppliers are aligned with consistent product sourced from the best available vendors. The last thing you want to do is invite everyone back, only to stumble in either of these crucial deliverables.

And finally: Is the competition getting fiercer in the industry? Absolutely. Are we getting more and more spoiled for choice? Without a doubt. Are our customers continuing to expect more for less? Inevitably.

We can, as operators, protect ourselves a little from this by being proactive in the marketplace, and through friendly engagement with regulars and the local community, and — above all else — ensuring that your teams are ready for the challenge.

Duncan Fraser-Smith is the founder of The Cutting Edge Agency, which specialises in developing and creation of benchmark F&B concepts through conceptualisation and training, as well as sourcing and partnering with international brands and high profile chefs to successfully establish their presence in the Middle East. for more information.

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