Customer Loyalty lessons from Hospitality Pros themselves

Thursday 17 December, 2015

 Sean McCarthy Oporto Christaki Frangeskou Browns Bar and Brasserie Valentina Borin Expresso120Moustache


Customers aren’t born loyal, they become loyal. If you want to make them as addicted to your business as carbs after a hangover, then we’ve got you covered. We've unearthed the tips and tricks of the hospitality trade for keeping customers loyal, from the deepest depths of fair England, to the mean streets of Australia (well, as mean as Sussex Street in Sydney gets). 

Restaurant Managers on Customer Loyalty

Christaki Frangeskou Browns Bar and Brasserie 

First stop, an international detour to our counterpart in the Commonwealth, England, to find out what Christaki Frangeskou, Duty Manager at Mitchells and Butlers (a giant in the UK hospitality industry) had to say on the subject of customer loyalty: 

For me, the most important thing that helps with loyalty are the people working in your business. The people pulling pints, serving food and shaking cocktails are the one thing that will remain constant no matter what's going on in the business. Your people (employees) have more daily interaction with customers than any event or special night you put on. Everything in our society today is about socialising, and your staff need to be able to naturally interact with strangers.”

“And as a customer, if a bartender/waiter/barista talks to me and is open and honest about the product and the place, then I feel I can trust them and the place. Then I’ll likely go back. Businesses need to have the right people selling their product, otherwise customers won't stay loyal.” 

Customer loyalty tactics come in all shapes and sizes. There's the blindly obvious ones: discounts, a happy hour, loyalty cards. Something that makes punters feel they’re getting more bang for their buck. Some hospitality venues prepare an extra somethin-somethin for super loyal customers; an extra batch of brownies to give away to the people who have popped by your café everyday for the past month, free tequila shots for Barry in the office across the road for introducing his whole team to your bar.


Bar Managers on Customer Loyalty


Sean McCarthy Oporto  

Sean McCarthy has bartended from Bondi to Bristol in England. He knows his way behind a bar top better than a mathematician knows numbers, which made him the former Bar Manager of award-winning Oporto bar in Yorkshire, England (picture a blend of Sydney’s The Baxter Inn and Mojo Record Bar).

Sean said, “The most simple and valuable tool for customer loyalty is making an effort with every customer that walks through the door. You'd be surprised by how much it means to somebody if you can remember their name, better yet their drink order. Even if you couldn't give a shit, just nod your head and entertain their thoughts for a couple of minutes. People love to talk, moan, boast, and even cry about their day!“


Baristas on Customer Loyalty

Valentina Borin (below centre) is one of four baristas that run the show at one of our most frequented cafes in Sydney CBD, Expresso120Moustache. It’s just on our doorstep on Sussex Street and if you’ve ever quenched your caffeine thirst here then you’ll know exactly who Valentina is. Always full of beans (coffee ones presumably), Valentina explains why trust is crucial for customers. “We introduced a loyalty card which keeps customers coming back – our loyal people receive a free coffee after every 10. Loyalty is trust and our customers trust us.” 

Valentina Borin Expresso120MoustacheValentina recalls a time that proves just how loyal the Cafe's customers are. “I remember when our till wasn’t working. We couldn’t take payments but customers still wanted coffee and snacks, so we didn’t stop making orders. We served them what they wanted, scribbled a handwritten bill per person and trusted them to return and pay later in the day. Everyone came back, were honest and paid what they owed. This has cemented trust between our customers, us and the cafe. 

“I find the best way to turn new customers into regulars is just chatting to them, getting to know their orders and getting to know them. These days people don’t have the time to stop and chat, but when the person making your morning coffee takes the time to ask you how you are, it can make a huge difference to your day, sometimes even make your day.”


You can't Fight the Facts

A survey from the White House (yes, where Obama and his possy make world-changing decisions), shows that on average loyal customers are worth up to 10x as much as their first purchase.* Let’s say a new customer comes into your restaurant and purchases a $20 meal; if they are engaged and return, then they are proving their loyalty. This makes them worth up to $200, which means big bucks to put back into your business!

The report also discovered that it is 6-7 times more costly for managers and businesses to attract a new customer than it is to retain an existing customer.*

The answer to customer loyalty isn’t a finite one. Every business is different, every target market is different and different things keep different customers engaged. But to keep them coming back like boomerangs you need to find your customer’s sweet spot. 

Word of Warning!  

Beware! Don't lose sight of your company values whilst chasing customer loyalty. Overkill of promotions and lack of consistency could make customers doubt your business, and lose trust in your company and your products. Here's what the professionals had to say about this:

Christaki believes, You need to know your audience before you can decide what creates loyalty. Special weekly events like trivia nights or a Friday band can be a huge hit with certain crowds, but if it's not your crowd then you've wasted your time.” 

Sean adds, “I personally feel too many offers weakens the identity of a bar and most of the better independent bars will try and avoid blatant drink offers.”

There you have it, the tricks of the trade from some of the best in hospitality! We want to hear your thoughts, tips and tricks, so please speak your mind in the comment box below. 

*Source: White House Office of Consumer Affairs 

Heather Doherty

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