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13 Marketing Tips to Gain More Repeat Customers

By Lindsay Ott Wilcox | 6 min read

As guests leave your restaurant, are they already hungry for their next visit? A repeat customer is your restaurant’s best friend. Compared to first-time visitors, frequent guests provide five bottom-line benefits — like spending 67% more money with you. On top of providing an awesome guest experience, these 13 tips will inspire guests to return again and again.

Launch the Latest Marketing Tech

It’s time to talk tech. According to the 2017 Toast POS Industry Report, 73% of guests believe restaurant technology — like tablet marketing and menus — improves their visit.

1. Go Mobile with a Loyalty App
Repeat business: There’s an app for that! While loyalty cards are a good start, a restaurant loyalty app is the real bread and butter of getting repeat customers.

  • Once your app is downloaded, you benefit from free smartphone and tablet marketing. Your app icon is like a mini billboard for your restaurant on their mobile device.
  • Most loyalty apps interface with email software so you can “trigger” emails based on guest behavior (see tip #9).
  • Loyalty programs “gamify” spending. When guests are close to a reward, they rush in and spend up to 39% more.
  • In a 2017 VISA/Bond Loyalty study of 28,000 customers, over half said they want loyalty apps on their smartphone.

Like tablet marketing, it’s more affordable than ever to launch a loyalty app. Check with your POS provider as many integrate with popular loyalty programs like LevelUp. Or, go DIY with an app builder like AppInstitute.


2. Restaurant Tablet Marketing: Let’s Get Personal
Speaking of POS integrations, have you explored tablet marketing?

Tablet marketing is just one benefit of bringing in restaurant tabletop tablets. These touchscreen tablets let guests order from a digital menu, pay securely, and even play games and trivia. Throughout the guest visit, custom tablet marketing can showcase upcoming events and promotions.

Another way tablet marketing and digital menus drive repeat business? It creates a personalized experience. Guests are shown customization options for every menu item. In a few taps, they can build out their “dream burger.”

Personalization is a hot button for millennials: 54% are more loyal to businesses that allow them to create something unique to them.

3. Digital Signage
Posters are so 2008. Now, it’s all about the screen scene. Tablet marketing tech can even turn your TVs into eye-catching signage, and digital signage is your friend when it comes to repeat business. While guests are on premises, give them a reason to come back with:

  • The date your new menu launches or a cool craft brew goes on tap.
  • VIP access or discounted tickets for an upcoming restaurant event.
  • Limited-time offers make great digital ads for TV and tablet marketing.



Special Offers and Promotions

Tailor special offers to current customers. They’re 70% more likely to act on your promotions. First-time buyers aren’t so eager: just 13% will take you up on your offer.

4. Go LTO
You’ve got your loyalty app and tablet marketing ready to roll. Use them to promote limited-time offers (LTOs). LTOs are a must for encouraging repeat business. After all, that irresistible offer — like 2-for-1 desserts — won’t be around forever. Experiment with time frames. Try a hyper-LTO, one that expires in a week or less. Amp up the urgency with LTO marketing speak. When sending emails, posting on social media, or creating tablet marketing ads, use phrases like limited time, be first to try, don’t miss out, don’t get FOMO (fear of missing out), or get it before it’s gone.

5. The Envelope, Please
Inside a very well-sealed envelope, put a free appetizer or $5 off coupon. Throw a $50 gift card in a few envelopes to heighten the suspense. Give guests their envelope with the bill; instruct them to bring it back (sealed) within a month — to be opened by their server.

6. Bring Back Bucks
Similar to the envelope promotion, include a $5 “bring back buck” with every guest’s bill. Or, go digital. Use your loyalty app, tablet marketing, or email program to automatically generate the $5 coupon after every guest visit.


Email Marketing 2.0


Up your email game. Use an email service provider (ESP) like MailChimp or GetResponse. For $10-$15/month, you can access powerful automation tools and robust analytics.

7. Pull the Trigger with Automated Emails
Want a 381% increase in click-throughs? Start sending “triggered” emails. That means an email that is sent out automatically based on a guest behavior or event. Here are a few examples:

  • When a guest joins your email list, trigger a welcome email — and a sweet sign-on bonus like a $10 off coupon. (Use digital signage and tablet marketing to promote your email sign-up bonus.)
  • If your loyalty app integrates with an ESP, schedule an email to go out a few days after the guest visit. Invite the patron back with that $5 bring back buck.
  • When capturing customer information, make sure to get the guest’s birthday. Trigger a birthday email. “We’d love to host your birthday dinner!” Include a free appetizer and small cake for reservations of 10 or more.


Social Media


Instead of using social media as an acquisition tool to get more likes and followers, just like email and tablet marketing, use your social platforms to strengthen relationships with existing customers.

8. Use The “Secret” Facebook Boost
Show love for Facebook likes. Create a “We Like You Back” graphic promoting a special secret menu or LTO. Write a post to go with your graphic, thanking your Facebook “fam” — those who already like your page. Then boost it! For as little as $100 you should see a solid ROI. What’s the secret? Select the most overlooked target audience when boosting your post: “those who like the page.”

9. Give Guests Four Minutes of Fame
Each week, select someone from your Instagram or Facebook community to be king or queen for the week. They literally rule — and get to select which wine, beer, or cocktail will be half price that week. Of course, the royal highness will bring friends to hold court at your restaurant. Use custom TV and tablet marketing to put their name in lights.


Be a Millennial Magnet

Marketing to millennials for repeat business is a smart move. The average millennial spends a crazy 23.8% of their budget at restaurants — more than any other age group. Not only do millennials make it rain at restaurants, they tend to stick with brands they love. In a Facebook study of more than 14,000 people, millennials were 1.75 times more likely than baby boomers to aspire to brand loyalty.

10. Focus on Healthy Options
The same Facebook study revealed that a “lack of healthy options” is the top reason millennials won’t be loyal to a restaurant. Use emails, your website, and tablet marketing to highlight any healthy menu choices, like gluten-free swaps or vegetarian options.

11. Market Late-Night Bites
Show young professional leaving work at 9 pm that you have their back. Launch a late-night happy hour menu, then use TV and tablet marketing to alert everyone in your venue that late night happy hour is on. In fact, 40% of guests ages 21-34 say late-night happy hour specials are very important in deciding which bar or restaurant to visit according to a 2016 National Restaurant Association report.

P.S. What’s the best social platform to use to market to millennials? Instagram and Snapchat. In fact, 60% of the under-35 crowd uses Snapchat. If you’re a millennial, congrats — you’re ahead of the game. Otherwise, ask the cool kid on staff to show you the ropes.


Be Eventful


12. Subscriptions
Take a cue from the magazine industry. Offer a subscription to a recurring event. One restaurant in upstate New York hosts a monthly wine tasting event with complimentary appetizers. It’s $200 for the year or $25 per event. Promote your subscription in your venue with tablet marketing and on your own TVs.

13. Brew Up Repeat Business
Plan events that repeat on a set schedule so guests make it a habit. Need ideas? We got you.

  • Brews and Schmooze: Make an event out of tapping a new craft brew or seasonal beer (think Oktoberfest brews in the fall, shandies in the summer). If you’re in a microbrewery hot zone, ask if the brewer can give live tasting notes. Or, what about an Arts n’ Crafts night? Sip craft beer and create a masterpiece.
  • Live Trivia Night: Repeat business on a weeknight? Yes, please. The same tablets used for tablet marketing double as scoring devices on trivia night. You’re provided with all the trivia questions and training so your staff can run the event.
  • Charity Night: Each month, let guests vote on a charity to receive 10% of your sales for one night. The charity’s members will hype up your restaurant. Plus, your generosity will instill loyalty — it’s the reciprocity principle in action.

Don’t forget! Put TV and tablet marketing to work. Encourage guests to RSVP for your events while they’re at your venue.

A little effort goes a long way in wooing customers to come back to your business. To see more familiar faces, try a few of these 13 marketing tips — like tech-forward tablet marketing and irresistible LTOs. But above all, treat your current customers like gold. Before you know it, you’ll have a repeat business goldmine.

Lindsay Ott Wilcox
Lindsay Ott Wilcox

Lindsay Ott Wilcox writes for the Buzztime Business blog. Her mission is to hook up bar and restaurant owners with the latest foodservice trends, tips, and best practices. Lindsay is an award-winning writer and creative director, with recent honors from Graphic Design USA and the New York State Broadcasters Association.

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