From ingredients to Instagram — what role can design play in driving customer loyalty?

Customer loyalty is the ‘holy grail’ for any business. But with more options to eat out than ever before, it’s difficult enough getting diners through the door in the first place—let alone convincing them to return...

To achieve this lucrative loyalty, businesses know they need to focus on ‘customer experience’―every aspect of their product, environment and service. While cuisines go in and out of fashion, one of the most notable changes in customer experience is that ‘environment’ and ‘service’ are no longer confined to what happens inside a restaurant. Significantly, the demographic most likely to dine out (under-30s) also spends more time online than any other age group.

With more potential customer ‘touchpoints’ than ever, it’s vital to create a seamless experience that reflects your style in every detail. Consistency is essential across the whole customer journey—whether it’s in your restaurant, or online. This includes everything from social media accounts, websites and apps—to the quality and origin of ingredients, food presentation, menu design, staff uniforms, decor, music and lighting.

While a strong online presence has long been viewed as essential in driving customers to restaurants, recent years have seen more efforts to guide diners the other way. Smartphone technology is propelling this trend—which includes everything from street food vans with selfie frames, to “Instagrammable” restaurants. Obviously the ‘next big things’ need somewhere to pose for pics with beautiful food―tucking straight in is #solastdecade...You don’t have to be ‘influencing’  people to need WiFi and a charging station though. And restaurant infrastructure is now clearly being designed to enable a smooth transition when moving between ‘offline’ and online touchpoints.

First impressions count...

Whether you walk into a restaurant from the street, or google it—first impressions count! Opinions are formed within 30 seconds of stepping through the door, or landing on a webpage. Every experience from this point will be building (or chipping away at) customer loyalty. A picture of a colourful cocktail or a dirty toilet can go viral in hours, which is why restaurants are employing software to manage customer experience.

Forward thinking businesses are using technology to join the dots between booking a table, ordering food, paying and giving feedback. This means staff can easily trouble shoot to deliver top-notch service on a modest budget. Getting the small details right can turn indifferent diners into brand ambassadors (whose online ‘word of mouth’ is worth its weight in gold).

I remember a simpler time—when a ‘troll’ was a neon-haired toy at best, or a fairy-tale baddie at worst. Skip to 2020 and businesses are using software to enable responsiveness, empowering them to protect their presence in the fast-paced online world. And in a ‘spam-weary’ society, being able to cut through the noise is essential. Well-timed, personalised and relevant messages (using the customer’s preferred method of contact) go a long way towards building loyalty.

This all sounds like a lot of work...

It is if you don’t partner with the right team! Using a restaurant design expert to help establish your new business (or refresh an existing one) not only ensures brand consistency, but also makes financial sense. A dedicated specialist will save you valuable time researching, interviewing and co-ordinating multiple suppliers. And they may even be able to pass on economies of scale.

By creating an environment that consistently reflects your values and is managed by the right technology, you’ll have your ‘finger on the pulse’ when it comes to customer experience. Knowledge is power. And with the right systems in place, you’ll be free to focus on adapting your strategy to build customer loyalty and stay ahead in the tough restaurant game…

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The Pocket Guide to Experience Mapping your Restaurant

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