Sometimes we are amazed by the little things someone does that end up meaning a lot. A Thank You card at the right moment or, these days, even giving up a seat on a train or a bus to an elderly person. In the restaurant industry small gestures or offers can add up to return customers and word of mouth publicity.
Besides the conventional Happy Hour specials, here are some other incentives that have worked well.
Free valet with social media check-in.
Nearby there is a very popular restaurant in the heart of downtown where parking is difficult to find or in a pricey parking lot. While they don't really publicize it, regulars know that they can get free valet parking if they check in on Facebook or Foursquare. It is definitely a factor when guests are choosing a place to dine among the many downtown restaurants and especially helpful during lunch, when time is of the essence.
A huge draw for wine drinkers in the elimination of corkage fees, even if only for one night a week. Try Corkage Free Wednesdays with a few special dishes that you have promoted on Facebook and Twitter and encourage guests to creatively wine pair for the dishes they will select.
Free appetizers for a crowd
A good amount of restaurant revenue is in the alcohol sales. You can entice groups to come in after work by offering a free group appetizer for groups of X or more. Make it a salty one and you can increase the drink orders.
Honor competitor coupons
If you are in an area competing with similar restaurants, consider offering to honor competitor coupons. That not only pulls them from your competition, but gives you a chance to show why you are the better choice.
Birthday and anniversary offers
This one is used a lot by chain restaurants because they know it works. Offer a free dessert, appetizer, or discount on a guest's birthday or anniversary. It pulls business into your door and breeds good will. For more tips on this, check out our Sendku blog on Birthday emails.
Freebie for email signup
If you have an email list for newsletters and offers, you can entice people to sign up and then eventually return by offering a freebie for giving their email. A certain chain offers $10 off (of orders of $35 or more) for people to sign up.
Loyalty or rewards programs are becoming more popular, especially with restaurant groups that have several restaurants for guests to choose from. Award points for every dollar spent and have reward levels at different price points for cashing them in.
A restaurant's mainstay is the returning customer. With one or more of these techniques, you can ensure customers keep coming back, hopefully with friends and family in tow.