#1: Create a Friendly Atmosphere. This first one may seem like a no-brainer, but as a consumer yourself, I’m sure you’ve been to restaurants where you feel like family, are greeted by name (maybe even with a hug) and leave feeling like you’ve visited old friends. Alternatively, you’ve probably been to other restaurants where the employees seem rushed, distracted and generally uninterested in you as a guest. Which one would you rather return to as a customer?
#2: Keep the Restaurant Clean. From the tables to the dishware to the floors to the bathrooms, the pizzeria should always be spotless. If the kitchen is viewable to guests, make sure it’s not in disarray. A recent poll revealed that 88% of customers associate dirty restrooms with poor sanitation in the rest of the restaurant.
#3: Get to Know Your Customers. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day duties of running a restaurant, but it’s important to get out of the accounting books and out on the floor to greet your customers personally. Ask them how their meal was, solicit customer feedback and take their suggestions seriously. The personal touch you give as an owner can keep customers returning for years.
#4: Keep Your Employees Happy. Many pizzerias suffer from high turnover rates for various reasons, but it doesn’t have to be this way. There are many affordable ways to keep your employees happy–and working. Show them that there’s room for advancement; once trained, allow them some independence and self direction in their work; let them play music in the kitchen if it can’t be overheard in the restaurant; work with them one-on-one to help create a work/life balance; and remember that saying something as simple as, “Great job!” goes a long way toward keeping employees happy.
#5: Reward Guests for Returning. One of the easiest ways to get customers to return to the pizzeria is through a loyalty card program. If you are a small operation and aren’t ready to jump in with both feet, start with punch cards (you’ll want to graduate to a POS-based system, but punch cards will get your feet wet). Make sure that the back of the punch card has space for the guest to write their name, phone number and email address for your marketing purposes once they turn in the card for their free meal. Also, when you give them their first card, punch it two times. Guests are much more likely to return if they think they are closer to their goal.
#6: Get Online. With an estimated 300 million Internet users in North America, you are missing out on free marketing opportunities every day if you aren’t online. Having a website is just the beginning. Do you have a regularly updated Facebook page and/or Twitter page? Do you offer online ordering? Do you monitor and respond to the reviews of your restaurant on sites such as Yelp, Urbanspoon, Tripadvisor, etc.? Consider tasking one of your tech-savvy employees with maintaining your online presence.
#7: Continue to Create the Best Pizza in Town. You didn’t think I was going to forget about the pizza, did you? First and foremost, your guests are coming to you for your pizza, so make sure it’s always the fresh, delicious, consistent product they’ve come to expect from you. When the economy fluctuates, raise prices, don’t lower your ingredient quality. Your customers will understand your need to raise prices when it means they get to continue to enjoy their favorite pizza!