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Here’s How to Win Your Dine-In Customers Back to Your Restaurants

The smallest details in your dine-in experience help build your brand loyalty and profits.

Lessened COVID-19 restrictions is the opportunity that you have been waiting for since March of 2020. There is plenty of pent-up demand for upscale dining experiences, but how do you lure back lapsed customers and turn them into frequent dine-in customers again?

Dine-in business is better and more profitable. Boosting your liquor, wine and beer sales alone is reason enough, but with a few smart tips you can squeeze larger tickets sales easily and efficiently to turn occasional diners into frequent ones.

Delivery and takeout business still out-performs dine-in business by consumers who purchase food from restaurants at least once per week.
Delivery and takeout business still out-performs dine-in business by consumers who purchase food from restaurants at least once per week.

Morning Consult is polling more than 2,200 consumers weekly on how they choose to purchase food from restaurants. Takeout and delivery were still outperforming dine-in business among those who purchase restaurant food at least once per week in late February 2022. Here are some quick tips to make your dine-in experience irresistible.

 

1.  Setting The Profitable Vibe

The branded vibe you set is a key opportunity to differentiate to dine-in customers to return.
The branded vibe you set is a key opportunity to differentiate to dine-in customers to return.

There has been some important research done during COVID-19 on the dine-in experience and how to help customers feel comfortable and spending more. The Wall Street Journal spoke with Dipayan Biswas, professor of marketing at the University of South Florida’s Muma College of Business. “There are two types of diners right now. Younger people who want to overcompensate for everything they missed out on. This crowd is often looking to socialize with people in an intimate space with loud music and dim lights, he says. The other group is more fearful of the virus—and apprehensive about returning to indoor spaces—but can be reeled back with safety and precautions.”

Biswas recommends creating two sections within your restaurants. To lessen fears of the virus, a well-lit area with lowered music and elements, from a bookshelf to movable planters for a sense of security. The other section designed to welcome greater intimacy with the music turned up, tables that are more closely placed and the lighting dimmed.

Prof. Biswas found that in dimly lit scenarios, patrons are more apt to order dessert or another glass of wine than in a brightly lit room.

In his study conducted at locations of a national restaurant chain, the differences were stark. In brighter environments, 52% of diners ordered healthy options compared with just 35% in more dimly lit scenarios. When it came to counting calories, customers in dim ambient lighting ordered 39% more calories than those in bright.

The results were similar when his team tested music played at different volumes in restaurants. “When loud music is playing, people order more fried foods and more high-calorie, unhealthy foods,” he says. “On low-volume-music days, people ordered more salads.”

Another researcher, Professor Charles Spence at the University of Oxford found that your music choices can affect sales. His study found that people listening to jazz, for instance, perceived the meal as more expensive than the same meal paired with pop music. And pairing Pavarotti with Italian food made consumers rate the dishes higher.

Think about the ambiance inside your restaurants to make the experience comfortable and inviting. We’re betting that if you do, your customers will frequent you more often.

 

2. Make Ordinary Tabletop Items Extraordinary

Demonstrating your attention to detail can offer an extraordinary opportunity to make your dine-in experience memorable. It can be as simple as greeting your customers at the start of their occasion. Another great example is in the bread and butter that you serve. Rather than serving simple pats of butter, choose shaped butters from Butterball® Farms. The company’s premium butter balls and rose-shaped butter will wow your guests by adding elegance to the tabletop. Though it may seem like a minor detail, the butter you offer your guests forms an integral part of their first impression and sets the tone as the meal unfolds. Their perfect portion size makes them a favorite for use in the kitchen too, melting atop everything from a green bean side to a big juicy steak or mahi mahi.

Shaped butters are an easy way to stand out above the rest.
Shaped butters are an easy way to stand out above the rest.

Shaped butters can also be part of your catering, takeout, and delivery plan. Whether it be premium butter balls, roses, or a customized embossed butter with your logo, Butterball Farms premium butter is an easy path to an elegant dining experience.

From your oversized glassware for wine to the best big rocks for bourbons that your staff brings to the table, everything that you can do atop your tables to clearly communicate a one-of-a-kind experience will generate greater profits and loyalty to your brand.

 

3. Speeding Up Service to Your Tables

Speed of service is driving chains to prepared ingredient solutions.
Speed of service is driving chains to prepared ingredient solutions.

A friendly, attentive wait staff is crucial to your table service. A slow kitchen can destroy the experience. That’s why the culinary team should always be on the lookout for ways to assure consistency, speed prep and enhance flavor. Partially or fully prepared aioli’s, sauces and butters can trim time from your prep. Butterball Farms’ flavored butter dollops and butter sauces can be part of your solution. Our pre-portioned ready-to-use butters and sauce dollops will support your line cooks with making flavor pairing decisions while saving time on labor. No training needed!

Flavored, pre-portioned butter or sauce dollops added just before plating can save time, reduce prep and assure consistent flavor, no matter the menu item or location.
Flavored, pre-portioned butter or sauce dollops added just before plating can save time, reduce prep and assure consistent flavor, no matter the menu item or location.

Butter dollops are delicious mounds of frozen butter, pre-portioned and infused with natural spices and citrus to impart a unique flavor atop proteins and vegetables as they melt. The dollops save time while finishing a plate and eliminates prep time, waste, and extra pantry ingredients by eliminating pre-mixing. Butter dollops are available in portion sizes from 0.3 ounces to 1.1 ounces, in a variety of off-the-shelf flavors or can be customized by Butterball Farms for your specific menu applications. The company offers its most popular flavored butter, garlic herb butter in tubs for smearing atop proteins and buns quickly right at the grill and in portion control packs for use in takeout and delivery. Contact a Butterball Farms flavor expert for more information or to craft your own flavored butter solution.

Branded butter sauces made easy with Quik-Creations® butter sauce recipe starters.
Branded butter sauces made easy with Quik-Creations® butter sauce recipe starters.

Prepared butter sauces save time in the kitchen. Customer favorites, such as alfredo sauce (38% of consumers say they LOVE IT*), can be made quickly and easily by using Quik-Creations® 32 oz. pouches. Simply microwave and add your own spices and herbs to transform an ordinary sauce to an extraordinary culinary delight. From hollandaise and bearnaise to glazes for desserts – your customers will  benefit from the consistency and speed of prep offered by Quik-Creations Butter Sauce pouches. For chain operators, Butterball Farms can customize flavored dollops and butter sauces to the chain’s specifications. The company’s R&D team can also recommend perfect pairings based on the objectives of chain customers.

 

4. Putting COVID-19 In the Rear View

More discrete COVID-19 safety options can help customers put the pandemic in their rear-view mirrors.
More discrete COVID-19 safety options can help customers put the pandemic in their rear-view mirrors.

COVID-19 precautions that once reassured customers of protections you made in 2020 may now be a reminder of bad times. While local restrictions may remain, Stephani Robson, a senior lecturer emeritus at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration told the Wall Street Journal, “Don’t have hand sanitizer at the tables. It sends the message that dining out is not that safe, and it constantly makes the pandemic top of mind—and this is counter to the reason they are going out,” she says. “A discreet dispenser by the door is fine, but that’s it. You want to send the message to diners that once you pass through our portal, you are in a safe place.”

 

5. Re-Evaluate Your Bar Offering

A quick path to profit and differentiation is at the bar.
A quick path to profit and differentiation is at the bar.

Your bar beats anything at home for those choosing delivery or takeout. The best bartenders with irresistible drinks can be the catalyst for creating “regulars” who dine and drink multiple times a month or week.

We’ve mined the latest data on trending cocktails to assure that your attention to crafting signature versions of customer favorites offers value to being the best.

Top trending cocktails point to Spritzers, Kentucky Mules and Old Fashioneds as the best opportunities for bar business success*.
Top trending cocktails point to Spritzers, Kentucky Mules and Old Fashioneds as the best opportunities for bar business success*.

As for branded liquors that should be displayed, we found these that have grown within restaurants in the past four years that you should consider.

These branded liquors have grown on restaurant bar menus by +100% or more since 2018*.
These branded liquors have grown on restaurant bar menus by +100% or more since 2018*.

 

It’s Time to Take Back Your Dine-In Business

The great news is that the pandemic honed you and your team’s skills and attention to opportunities for efficiencies. Your brick and mortar investments can again be a big part of your brand and your future growth. The tips that we have shared can help you bring back the dine-in component of your growth plan.

*Datassential 2022