Before I decided to sell up and hit the road, I was once the proprietor of a successful restaurant. During those years I learned an incredible amount about the way in which to get customers through the door, that was the easy part, the hardest thing to learn was how to keep the customers that came through my doors, coming back for more.

Recent data shows that you have a 45% chance of a customer coming back for a repeat visit, of those that return, you will only have a 44% will come back for a third visit. These figures may seem low, but once you get a customer in for a third trip, you can count on a 72% probability that they will come back again and again. The key then, is to get three visits, and here is how.

First Trip

When someone comes in for a first visit, you will greet them and offer them a free hamburger because it is their first visit. The key here is that when you show them to the table, you place a yellow napkin on their table instead of white one, so that everyone knows that they are a new customer. During their first trip, it’s crucial to show other options and upcoming events/menu items to entice them into returning again. Digital menu boards are one of the best ways of showing enticing menu options.

Second Visit

When the customer comes in for their second visit they present you with their coupon for  $5 off chicken, now that you know it is their second visit, you put a red napkin on their table, and give them the same service. At the end of the meal you go to see the customer to ask them how their meal was “are you full?” The customer tells you they are stuffed and so you say “hey, you gotta come back and try my homemade cheesecake,” and give them a free coupon for cheesecake.

Third Visit

Once the customer comes back with their free coupon for cheesecake, you now have a 70% chance of them returning for a fourth. If the customer didn’t enjoy the restaurant, they wouldn’t have come for a second or third visit, you now have them on the hook.

In total this will cost you say $8 for the rib dinner, $2 for your cheesecake and you lost your profit on the chicken dinner. All told you have managed to get a customer to come in on 3 separate occasions, all for the cost of $10, and of course, the next time they will be paying full price.  If you have a restaurant, this is how you both get customers, and keep new customers.

Don’t forget to shell out every now and again for your existing customers too, or they may become frustrated by the fact that you are only offering promotions to newbies.