How to Create A Memorable Restaurant Experience in 2021

Your customers dine with your restaurant for so much more than the food. They’re also dining with you for the ambiance and the experience. On a Friday night, after a long week, sometimes the last thing you want is to cook dinner. Instead, you might want to relax after a tolling work week with a good meal for a relaxing evening. 

Restaurants have become a hub for date night, celebrations, and treating ourselves. Right now those occasions might not be happening on-premise, but you can still create a memorable experience that will keep your customers engaged. Here’s how. 

Focus on loyalty

A good customer experience is the amalgamation of many touchpoints, but from your customer’s point of view it usually just comes down to how appreciated they feel. After the last year, restaurant owners are especially thankful for their loyal customers, and one of the best ways to reward them and show them how much you appreciate their business is with a loyalty program

A 2021 report from Square and Wakefield found that 42% of restaurants have loyalty programs top of mind this year in an effort to stay connected with customers. “Many restaurants are offering some sort of digital loyalty program that allows diners to become regulars, even from home,” notes  Rajat Deva, Square’s Product Marketing Manager for Square for Restaurants.

Loyalty programs can enable you to cultivate a repeat customer base by helping you understand and meet your customer’s needs. 

“The key piece here is to use a loyalty provider that can intelligently parse your customers by their visits and ordering habits,” says Deva. “The ability to group your customers according to what is most relevant to them, whether it’s the time since their last visit, their ordering history by item or category, or their total average sales, can be incredibly powerful.”

By serving your customers with rewards and promotions that are tailored to them, they’ll really feel appreciated and motivated to keep frequenting your business.

Don’t keep customers guessing

Reopening information and health guidelines are changing very quickly right now, and your customers don’t want to be left in the dark. Through all of your channels, website, social, and email, you should transparently communicate what your customers can expect from your business. 

Stay top of mind with customers by sharing regular messages that reassure customers of your commitment to ensuring safety and protecting their interests, however they’re dining with you. 

Some ways you can communicate updates to your customers are: 

  • On your website: With banners and homepage updates, you can share a notice front and center communicating your reopening plans. 
  • Send a newsletter or email series: Keep regular customers and subscribers updated through email. With an email marketing tool, like Square Marketing, you can send customized marketing emails to your regulars and offer promotions and advertise your loyalty programs without leaving your dashboard. 
  • Reach customers on social media: Share updates and photos on your social media channels, highlighting the accommodations and preparations you’ve made for customers. Social channels are also just a good way, in general, to connect with customers and build a stronger community.

Experience doesn’t stop at the door

Customer experience extends far beyond the doors of your restaurant. Just because your customers aren’t always dining indoors doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to make sure they have a memorable and positive experience. A few other ways to extend your experience to other channels are:

  • Delivery: One of the most popular ways that customers are likely to interact with your business other than on-premise dining is through delivery. The delivery experience starts the second that a customer decides to order, and you have control over how good of an experience they have from end-to-end. Customers also want to order directly from you, with 67% of consumers stating that they prefer to use a restaurant’s site or app to order directly, with 61% citing they want to support a restaurant directly.
  • Drive-throughs and drive-ins: At one point, drive-ins and drive-throughs were a way to keep serving customers at a distance, but with summer around the corner, they’re a good way to serve customers in a fun and different way. This year, almost half of restaurateurs (48%) plan to offer drive-in dining.
  • Meal kits: With the warm weather comes outdoor activities. To-go meal kits don’t have to stay a pandemic novelty, they can be a seasonal offering for your customers looking to enjoy the outdoors and enjoy your restaurant at the same time. 

Go above and beyond

Sometimes it’s the little things that mean the most. Go above and beyond with your customers and pay attention to the little details that can make their day. Offer promotions around their birthdays or other special occasions, and include extra sauce and bonus items on the side. Every detail, interaction, and channel contributes to creating an overall memorable experience that will get customers excited to return to your restaurant.