Main Title 25 Ways

How to Earn More from your Patrons - 25 Tips for Happier Customers

A lot of us think that getting a new customer into our establishment is where the marketing ends. This couldn't be further from the truth, though.

Here's  a golden secret that you might not know... The key to making money from our business is maximising the lifetime value of our customer.

What does this mean?

Well... there are 3 ways we can make more money:

  1. Charge more for our food / drink
  2. Get people to buy more food / drink when they are in our restaurant / bar
  3. Get them to keep coming back

While we would always advocate using all three strategies, let's focus on the third with 25 tips for happier customers.

This comes from a post from HelpScout on slideshare. While generic, it has some great ideas and we'll show you how to apply them to your business below the slide:

So let's have a look at each of the slides and see how they can be applied to your business


1. Write your Customers a Note

Write a note

This can be as simple as popping a quick note at the end of the meal (you can pre-write this in advance). You also don't have to do this for everyone. Look at who has been a good customer / spent the most and make sure you give them the note thanking them for eating with you (and make sure their waiter finds out the names of the customers to take it to the next level!). Combine this with tip number 19 for maximum impact


2. Help Customers to Learn Something New

Help them learn something new

People love to learn new things, so why not look at hosting an educational event on one of your traditionally quieter evenings. Quay Fifteen in Southampton ( have started a monthly pairing evening, where they teach customers how to pair either wines or spirits with different foods. This can be a great way to fill your venue on a quiet night, and also bring in new customers who might not otherwise try your establishment.


3. Wow one Customer

Wow the customer

We're going to assume that you provide excellent service to your guests, but can you take this a step further. If you have a family in, make sure to find out the names of their children, then be super attentive to their needs. Whenever I eat out if someone really looks after my daughter then I am guaranteed to both come back and leave an extra tip. I also make sure to tell my friends (who also have children) all about it.


4. Spend Quality Time Together

Spend time together

This may not seem like a practical tip in our line of business, but you can work this into your daily routine. Recently I went to the Gavroche in London with my Wife and her family. During the 3rd course of our tasting menu, Michel Roux Jnr popped out of the kitchen and stopped at each table to say hello and ask how everything was going. This personal touch made the diner all the more special.

You don't have to be a celebrity chef to use this tactic. Everyone wants to feel important, and meeting the owner / manager accomplishes this (and only takes a small amount of your time).


5. Give a Great Read

Give a Great Read

This one you combine this with tip no.24 and make it personalised to your establishment. If the customer has had a great meal, why not give them a recipe card for the main course they just enjoyed (with your restaurant details on it). You can guarantee this will be kept as a momento, as well as shown to friends and talked about (bringing you new customers by word of mouth)


6. Start a Loyalty Program

Create a loyalty program

Loyalty programs are great for bringing customers back time after time. You don't need to do anything flashy. A simple card which you stamp each time they eat / buy a drink is fine. You can then offer a reward (eat here 4 times, get 25% off your next bill).


7. Reward Social Media Savvy Customers

Reward Social Media Users

This is a great tactic for quickly getting new customers to hear about your business (as well as making current customers feel special). I'm sure you've seen people sitting down for dinner, pulling out their smartphones and tapping away. Likelihood is that they're either on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Time for you to take advantage.

Ask the guests to check in on Facebook and tell people they are at your establishment, tagging you Facebook page and the people they are eating with. Also ask them to "like" your page, if they don't already. For each person that does this you can offer a free drink or starter / appetiser.

This accomplishes 2 things:

  1. It lets you know the names of the people eating with you (so you can personalise your service immediatley)
  2. It tells all their friends where they are eating. People know people in the same area, and this will encourage their friends to come visit your restaurant. New customers for the cost of a drink... that sounds good to me!


8. Treat a Far-away Customer to  Coffee

Treat far and away customers to a coffee

I would only use this strategy if you are based somewhere that gets a decent amount of UK tourism. It also depends on you having a way of capturing customer information (email address, home address, name) during or after their meal. People are creatures of habit, and if they visit somewhere on Holiday they are very likely to return. If someone eats at yours, is a good customer and spender, then send them a note off season with a Costa card (or similar) loaded with £5 credit so they can get themselves a coffee on you. This will virtually guarantee them booking in to eat at yours when they are next back in town.


9. Spotlight Customers

Spotlight Customers

Use social media to your advantage (and tie this in with tip no.7). Mention a particularly good customer on your Facebook page, and even offer them a discount if they return within 1 month. Their friends will see this, and it will also make them an advocate of your company.


10. Send a Treat

Share a Treat

As we are in the food business, this is a nice easy one to implement. Try sending your best customers a nice box of petit fours, or a paired down version of one of your other sweet treats. Include a nice thank you note, and invite them to come back soon.



Give a Charitable Gift

This is a tip that you can use to both collect customer details, get some great free publicity and feel good about yourself all at once! When a table is waiting for the bill you can tell them that you have 3 nominated charities for the month, and for each person who fills out a "charity note" you will donate £1 (or more) to their preferred one. Give them a small form to complete with  their name, email address and a tick box for the different charities, then ask them to pop it in a box on their way out (or give it to the host / hostess). At the end of each month (or longer) you can then count up the votes and give the charity a nice donation. At the same time we'd recommend doing a small bit of local PR with the press, thereby getting your name our there for free!



Give a Surprise Gift

Upgrades don't readily apply in our businesses, unless you are running a club or bar with VIP access. Instead, why not offer your customers a free glass of champagne (or Prosecco) while the wait?



Throw a Party

A powerful way to bring in new business, as well as reward good customers, is to host a party at your establishment. Make sure you plan well in advance, and then invite local dignitaries (council leaders, business owners, rotary presidents, etc), local press, local influencers (social media champions, bloggers, local celebrities) and regular customers. Make sure you serve your own food (canapes and tasters are fine) and free drinks. This may seem like a bit of a cost, but done right you will get lot's of local media attention, referrals and new business which will more than pay for the cost of hosting the event.



Free Goodies

This is a classic old trick which we're a big fan of. If you have particularly quiet days, why not prepare a tray of delicious snacks and tasters and pop into some of the local businesses near your establishment. This will give people a chance to sample your food in their own space, and then most likely pop in for lunch at yours in the very near future.



Send a Card on Unique Holidays

We're a huge fan of using the many food holidays that exist for marketing. Check out our post on this here...



Refer Customers

It can pay to form a network of local restaurants and bars. The fact is people who eat out often like to try different places, so why not chat to you fellow restaurateurs and bar owners and offer to refer customers to them (and look for them to reciprocate... but don't mention this until after you have started referring people to them). A nice way to do this is create a coupon book with your network that you can give to people once their bill is paid. This could offer a small discount, but more importantly it will let your network know the referral has come from you. They will soon start returning the favour!



Show you Value Feedback

You do not have to speak to customers directly to implement tip 17. We recommend using Tripadvisor as your primary source. Respond to ALL comments made, especially any negative ones. Never criticise the customer (even if they are clearly in the wrong), and try to be positive and polite. Tripadvisor is a massive ally in the war on getting and retaining customers, so please use it to your advantage.



Excel at Customer Services

Not too much to say about this one. Quick, polite service (while maximising your revenue) is key here.



Discount their Bill

Another simple one to implement. What we like to do is reward special occasions. A lot of people are eating out "just because", but sometime it might be birthday, anniversary or first date. If you can accurately gauge the situation, you have at your hand a very powerful strategy. Let's say someone is there on their anniversary. You can congratulate them, offer them a discount (say 10%) and then tell them you'd love to offer them a free glass of champagne when they next come in. All you need to do, you say, is take their name and email address so when they book you can have the glasses waiting for them.



Send Gift Cards

Gift cards a great, but we prefer to make the gift card applicable to our establishment. You could offer £5 off a main course, "A Free Glass of...", "Complimentary Dessert", your choice. We like to send these to both existing customers and cold customers.



Honour an Achievement

If you are building your customer database (which we hope you are!) and making note of special occasions then your will be able to track special events happening in people's lives. Use this to your advantage and invite them to celebrate with you (with a nice freebie, of course!) or just send them a nice card + gift voucher (see strategy 20).



Run Exclusive Events

In our community we don't really have an "after hours" as such, so what we like to do is set aside one evening every quarter and have a special evening for invited guests only. You might want to theme the evening (with either food, decor or music or all three) and make the invitees feel like it is an exclusive event. Naturally include some cool free element to the night to add to the exclusive feel.



Make them Laugh

This is a bit more of  challenge as you will have so many varied individuals eating or drinking at your establishment and hunour is extremely subjective. Our advice here is to use with caution...



Give Branded Gifts

Branded gifts are great, especially food related ones. Also, the more useful and the higher the perceived value, the better. For a family restaurant, you could offer a nice fridge magnet + notepad (or magnetic notepage branded to your company)... Essentially you want you gift to be present in the customers mind long after the meal is finished.



Celebrate your Business Milestones

Time to celebrate your milestones! 1 year business anniversary? Hold a special event (kids eat for 25p)... You'll have people queuing down the street!


These 25 tips help focus our attention on how to deliver an excellent customer experience, as well as bring in new blood to our business. Which strategy will you implement today?!?


Rob McNicoll is the CEO and Founder of The Restaurant Marketer. With over a decade helping businesses grow, he has added over £16.9 million and counting in additional revenues using his marketing techniques.A sought after marketing consultant and business mentor, Rob's strategies have been implemented in businesses ranging from PLCs to single entrepreneurs. There is one common theme  - these techniques are straight forward, easy to implement and give results.

Rob McNicoll
CEO - The Restaurant Marketer

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