Why Customers Don’t Come Back

By David Scott Peters


You spend thousands upon thousands of dollars a year driving customers through your doors. You’ve tried advertising on the radio, in the newspaper, in magazines, in Money Mailer, in directories, on the movie screen, couponing and more — with some success.

But with all of this money being spent, sales aren’t moving up as fast as you would like or even worse, they are actually going down. Why?

In a past study called “The Spirit of Service” done by the National Institute for the Foodservice Industry (NIFI), they detail six main reasons why customers don’t come back. I not only want to share them with you, but I want to share some ideas on how you can counteract them, with the exception of one.

Reason No. 6

Let’s start things off with a bang, so to speak. It’s the one thing you can’t do anything about. It’s that 1 percent of your customers die. This is just the reality of it all.

Reason No. 5

3 percent of your customers will move out of the area. For many restaurant operators there’s not much you can do about this because when someone moves, they move literally hundreds of miles or more away from your restaurant. But for many restaurants in large metropolitan areas, moving may mean moving to a neighboring city that is still within an hour driving distance.

So staying in touch with your guest becomes extremely important. Just think about this, if your customer moves 45 minutes away you have a choice, lose their business for good or fight like heck to get them in at least four times a year.

Let’s look at the economics of this. Let’s say this customer used to come into your restaurant only 10 times a year. They’d always come in with at least one other person and spend an average of $40 a visit. Every year they would spend at least $400.

If you’ve had them in your marketing database and have created a system where they can update their information with you and continue to receive your newsletter by mail and your e-mails, you might be able to get them to continue to come into the restaurant at least four times a year. So instead of losing $400 a year, you’ve managed to keep $160.

While that may not seem like a lot of money, when you multiply that over the lifetime of visits by that customer and then by the rest of the 3 percent who move… that can be a lot of money.

And don’t forget to make sure that as a part of your marketing budget you employ some form of new-mover marketing, because for every 3 percent moving away there are new families moving into those empty apartments and houses. You need to have a system in place to drive them through your doors quickly so they make your restaurant a part of their dining habits as they’re forming them in their new neighborhood.

Reason No. 4

5 percent find new interests or friends. OK, I know you’re thinking, “that’s completely out of my control.” While this is true, if you follow the example given in Reason No. 5, you will again magnify the importance of building up your customer database and staying in constant contact. Just remember interests and friends change… and they may come back.

Reason No. 3

9 percent change for competitive reasons. This reason is the one most restaurant operators lose the most sleep over. A new restaurant is opening up next door or around the corner. The new restaurant is in direct competition with yours.

If you’ve done your job right and have a restaurant that is clean, has great service and great food, they will come back… and usually do. And it doesn’t hurt to keep communicating with them with your monthly newsletter and e-mails. Remind them that they matter and continue to invite them back in to your restaurant.

Reason No. 2

14 percent change because they are dissatisfied with the restaurant. OK, this speaks volumes to what I just said, “if your restaurant is not running well on all accounts… there’s not a lot you can do except correct it and rebuild…”

So where do we start? Let’s cover a little bit of Restaurant 101 here.

  1. Make sure your restaurant is in clean working order.
  2. Make sure hot food is hot, cold food is cold and ticket times are in an acceptable range for your restaurant.
  3. Make sure every employee is trained and ready to give your customers the best experience they could possibly desire.

Reason No. 1

68 percent encounter an attitude of indifference or unconcern by one or more employees.

Just look at that number, 68 percent. This mean 68 out of 100 customers aren’t coming back because of how your employees conducted themselves, 68!

So as a part of your training program you need to not only cover the basics from food safety to steps of service, you need to make sure you train hospitality and the idea that the customer comes first!

If you do nothing more than tackle Reason No. 1, “encounter an attitude of indifference,” your business will literally explode!

David Scott Peters TheRestaurantExpert (1)David Scott Peters is a restaurant expert, speaker, coach and trainer for independent restaurant owners. He is the developer of SMART Systems Pro, an online restaurant management software program helping the independent restaurant owner remain competitive and profitable in an industry boxed in by the big chain restaurants. He is best known as the SMART Systems guy who can walk into any restaurant and find $10,000 in undiscovered cash before he hits the back door… Guaranteed! Learn more at www.TheRestaurantExpert.com.


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