If Your Restaurant Isn’t Doing This on Social Media, You’re Missing Out

In a recent interview with Gary Vaynerchuk, Jon Taffer (known for his hit show Bar Rescue) touched on restaurant marketing and customer retention, saying:

  • A first-time customer is about 40% likely to return for a second visit.
  • If they return for a second visit, they’re still only about 42% likely to return for a third visit.
  • If they return for a third visit, they’re 70% likely to return for a fourth visit.

Restaurant Customer Retention Social Media

Taffer emphasizes how important it is to capture guests’ loyalty on their first three visits. If you can do that, you most likely have a long-term return customer.

He lays out an example of how this might work.

  • The host/hostess asks the guest if it’s their first time eating at your restaurant.
  • If they’re first-timers, you signal this to servers and management (e.g. new guests get red napkins).
  • Management comps the guest’s meal on their first visit, and hands them a “$5 off” coupon for a specific meal. That coupon prompts the second visit.
  • Servers and management know it’s the guest’s second visit when they use the coupon — only given to select first-time guests.
  • The second meal is closing, management approaches the guest as they’re finishing, asks how the meal was (ya know, does the standard restaurant manager small talk) and says, “You’ve gotta try our [insert dessert or appetizer].” Then hands them a coupon for a free piece of cheese cake, for example, for use during their third visit. Now you’ve prompted their third visit.

So, let’s say the first meal cost you $5. The second meal isn’t a big loss, with only a $5 discount. The third meal you gave away a $1.35 piece of cheese cake.

For a total of around $6, you’ve given the customer three exceptional experiences and gained a 70% likelihood they come back for a fourth visit (and again and again after that).

Research shows a loyal guest will buy 1.7 times per month, over a 2.7 year period on average. When you compare that $6 to the lifetime value of the customer, well…you get the point.

On top of that, this customer has a very favorable view of your restaurant, so they’re far more likely to tell their friends about how great the place is. For a measly $6, you might be turning a profit of hundreds or thousands by the time word-of-mouth takes full effect.

“Okay, great. But how does social media play into this?”

Well, I’m gonna tell ya, if you just calm down. (I know, this is exciting shit!)

Using Instagram to Find Restaurant Customers

So, after Taffer finishes explaining that customer retention model, Gary Vee swoops in explaining how you can get this rolling using social media.

The simplest way to pull this model into Instagram is searching for your location and pinpointing influential people who seem like potential customers, then sending them a direct message saying you’ll comp their first meal if they visit your restaurant. Tell them all they need to do is show the direct message to the host/hostess.

Let’s say I have a restaurant in Austin, Texas. So I search for the city on Instagram and I get these results…

Finding Restaurant Customers on Social Media

Digging a little deeper, I see:

  • The person who posted the picture of fried chicken has 30,000 followers.
  • The couple in the bottom left was posted by someone with 4,000 followers.
  • The bottom right photo was posted by a local musician with 3,000 followers.

Any of these could be reasonable to approach with your offer. Or scroll through the feed (literally thousands upon thousands of people posting at any given time) and find people who seem both influential and like someone you’d expect to visit your restaurant.

MORE: Get three free practical lessons teaching you how to pinpoint your target customer and create a winning social media strategy for your business. Join for instant access here.

Once you’ve made contact and have a few of these customers in the door, work the magic of Taffer’s model.

Prompt them to come back with very specific incentives.

Make the short-term goal to give them three exceptional experiences, and you’re much more likely to have a customer for life.

Using Twitter to Find Restaurant Customers

Using Twitter to implement this model is very similar to Instagram. What you need to do is use Twitter’s Advanced Search function (do this on a desktop), shown below.

Twitter Advanced Search Find Customers

Now, there are a few ways you could go about this.

One, you could do a general search just based on location by clicking the “Add location” field under Places. That will give you all the tweets that have been published from your selected location.

Or, if you want to get a bit more fancy, you could search for a keyword or key phrase + your location. For example, I could search the keyword “hungry” in Austin, Texas. That’s going to return every person who used the word “hungry” in their tweet AND posted from Austin, TX.

If you want to get even more fancy (like pinky-out level fancy), you could go after your competitors and try to poach their customers. All you have to do is put your competitor’s Twitter account name in the “Mentioning these accounts” field under People. Then filter through the results to find potential customers talking about your competition and reach out to them with your offer.

You might even stumble on some customers tweeting about a bad experience they had with your competitor, which you could then capitalize on using the model we talked about.

Challenges With This Strategy

Admittedly, I’m not in the restaurant business, but I do trust Taffer’s suggestions to a degree considering he’s been a successful leader in the bar and restaurant industry for decades.

My view is this strategy should be experimented with selectively, because there are of course financial limitations and many different levels of coordination required to pull this off.

Ideally, you would also primarily reach out to people who have influential presences on social media, meaning they have the potential to affect the opinions of many. This increases the likelihood that customers you bring into this model are the type to go out and talk positively about your restaurant. That word-of-mouth marketing is where the money is made.

MORE: If you’re not sure who your target audience is, or can’t find them on social media, you need to grab these three free social media lessons. You’ll love them, promise! Join for instant access here.

As Gary Vee points out during the interview, one major bonus of using social media to privately reach out to potential customers is you significantly reduce the risk of other loyal customers wondering, “Why is this guy getting free stuff and I’m not, even though I’ve been a loyal customer?”

By using social media and keeping things fairly under the table, you’re not out there publicly parading your comp’d meal offers or discounts as you would have done ten years ago using traditional mediums. Lowering the risk of pissing off your other loyal customers is a big deal!

Got An Opinion?

I’m definitely interested to hear from others, especially if you’re in the restaurant industry. Do you feel like this is a strategy you could implement and would it be worth the financial and time investment?

For the marketers out there, what other opportunities do you see with these tactics on social media? Leave comments!

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About Jonathan Payne

I'm the Founder and Author of My Social Game Plan, where I've spent the last six years writing about social media marketing in an effort to help business owners and marketers stay on top of the rapidly-evolving marketing landscape.

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