You built it, but did they come?
Restaurants face a myriad of challenges that can spell their success or failure. One of these hurdles is foot traffic.
Today, restaurants, cafes, and similar establishments have a diverse array of tools at their disposal to encourage people to sample their offerings. This is important as these new customers will act as ambassadors by spreading the news about new establishments and what they have to offer.
Indeed, if you have chosen a good location for your establishment, a place with excellent foot traffic and high visibility, you have substantially cut down the challenge of bringing warm bodies into your resto.
However, sometimes, a good location is not enough, especially if you have several other establishments vying for the attention of the same customers. What, exactly, can you do to cast a wider net and haul in new customers?
How to measure foot traffic
There are two approaches to measuring foot traffic in an establishment.
First, you can use your CCTV system to help you manually count customers who have visited your restaurant. However, take note that this method is not entirely accurate, especially when you have to count customers during busy periods manually.
If budget permits, there are specialists in restaurant analytics that can install sensors and provide you with apps to help you count foot traffic more accurately.
Another way to measure foot traffic is to encourage diners to check in online. You can invite customers to do these during promos or every time they log on to your Wi-Fi connection.
Increasing foot traffic
The ultimate goal of every new food establishment (just like any business), is to increase foot traffic and gain more loyal customers. But how do you achieve this?
Decor and ambiance
Along with good food, your resto’s decor and ambiance combine to provide your customers with the totality of the dining experience that you offer.
A significant number of customers, not just those from the younger set, are looking to experience something new. And serving delectable meals and beverages is no longer enough to attract and retain loyal diners.
Your establishment should create a strong theme revolving around the food, customer service, decor, and ambiance in order to achieve your goals.
Good food plus free a live show is a great combination. Live musical entertainment is an old strategy that almost never fails to draw crowds into a restaurant.
Many customers love the idea of consuming their meals with live musical accompaniment in the background and is well worth a try if your foot traffic has taken a nosedive. Just make sure the kind of music you feature complements the theme and ambiance in your establishment.
Modern dining and social media is a pairing that establishments should take full advantage of. Apart from creating social media profiles, offering free Wi-Fi can help draw more foot traffic to your restaurant, enticing prospective customers to sample your offerings and post their pictures and thoughts online.
But apart from that, you can use free Wi-Fi to get your customers’ contact information by asking them to opt-in. With their information now readily available to you, you can send them special offers.
Plus, installing a Wi-Fi system is relatively cheap and provides excellent returns for your investment — a true win-win situation for you and your restaurant patrons.
Promotions and offers
Done correctly, promotions like ‘buy one get one free,’ discounts, and happy hours can pull new customers to your establishment. You can even leverage social media for one time offers or freebies.
However, these promotions (and acquiring new customers) should not come at the expense of your bottom line.
Limited offers, on the other hand, operate upon the scarcity principle. When people perceive that an offer is limited in supply or availability in terms of time or price, the more likely that they will buy what you offer, fearing that they’ll miss out on a good bargain if they delay the purchase.
Foot traffic still matters
With the rise of different tools to promote a business online, some experts state that foot traffic has gone down the list of priorities for retailers.
But there is one exception to that. For cafes, restaurants, coffee shops, and other similar establishments, foot traffic remains an urgent priority.
By combining the tried and tested strategies used to increase foot traffic in restaurants and similar establishments and combining these with new tools like online marketing and social media, you can gain a significant advantage over your competitors.
Ahmad Alzaini is the co-founder and CEO of Foodics, a fast-growing food tech startup. A businessman by nature, Alzaini is an app aficionado, developing businesses in Saudi Arabia within several industries. Today, Foodics has extended to new markets across the MENA region, processing over 1 billion transactions, and offering the latest technology in POS and restaurant management.