How to Create Loyal Customers in the Restaurant and Craft Beer Business

As a business owner or manager, your goal is to attract customers and keep them coming back for more. I believe making a personal connection with them, whether it is through you or one of your employees, is the easiest and best way to make a customer for life.

It can be done two ways: in person and online.

Step 1: Connect with your guests inside your restaurant or brewery whenever possible

This past weekend, I decided to try a new brewery that had just opened up in a space previously owned by a brewery that I enjoyed going to every once in a while. I was hopeful that this new brewery would be even better than the one from before. They had a big, open space to hold lots of customers and there was live music starting at 6pm. I love live music and craft beer so I was sold.

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Sure enough, the room was filled when we arrived. The live band had started – they seemed okay – and I ordered a cream ale that was right up my alley. On top of that, I enjoyed a food truck’s fried seafood and mac and cheese for dinner. The beer was good. The people were happy. What more could I ask for, right?

In the car on the way to the brewery, I had looked up their website to see their beer list and read their story. I saw photos of the owners and employees and read their bios. Ten minutes of sitting at a wooden table with my beer, I spotted the co-owners. One was sitting at the bar behind my table and the other was in and out of brewing. They seemed friendly, but I wouldn’t know because…

Not once did the owners come to our table to say hello or ask how our beers were. They didn’t even make eye contact. They were acting like regular patrons, hanging out enjoying the music and talking with the bartenders.

Now, I understand that not everybody who visits a restaurant or brewery wants to chit-chat with the owners or be recognized by any human (shy people, I totally understand you). However, I believe that many restaurant and brewery goers are looking for another place where they fit in. A place where the bartenders or the owners know their name. A place where they feel seen and appreciated.

You might think this sounds desperate. It’s really not. Consumers love being recognized by businesses/brands. Take Instagram for example: one instagram comment from a brand can truly be a surprise and delight for a customer.

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Another reason why owners should connect with guests: Americans are lonelier than ever. When guests come to your establishment, most of them want to converse and be present in the moment. They want to hear how your brewery got started, what you believe it, what your favorite beer is, and about the fun events you have coming up.

That’s what would have made my trip to the brewery so much better – hearing the story of the place straight from the owner’s mouth. Making a connection with the owner, or even the bartenders, would encourage me to return.

Yeah, okay, I could have walked up to the owner to start a conversation but I am a shy person. I believe an attentive restaurant manager should walk around to tables, if he or she has time, and ask how the guests are faring. The same applies to breweries too, especially if the owners are present.

One simple “hello” from the owner would have increased my affinity for the business in an instant.

Step 2: Connect with your guests online in real-time

If you can’t connect with your guests in person, make sure that you or your social media manager is engaging with guests on social media.

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Here are 3 ways to connect with customers across social media platforms you probably use:

  1. Comment on every check-in you see in your notifications with a personalized message, like: “Thanks for stopping by!” or “We’re so glad you enjoyed your meal. We hope to serve you again, soon.”
  2. Comment on every recommendation (the new name for reviews on Facebook) by a guest. If it’s positive, reply with a personalized message. If it’s a negative review, reply with a personalized message offering to make the situation right with the customer. Ask them to send you a private message or email (better yet, have them call you!) so you can make it up to them.
  3. Like and comment back every time a customer leaves a comment on your posts. It will encourage them to continue commenting in the future. Bonus points for clever or funny responses (if that’s your branding, of course).
  1. Search Instagram by Places and find your restaurant or brewery’s geotagged location. If a customer has tagged your location on their photo, it will appear in this feed. Check your location tag frequently to see if there are new posts. Like and comment on the photos taken and posted at your location.
  2. Like and reply to all comments left by customers on your photos.
  3. Were you tagged in a post or story by a customer? If the photo is share-worthy, repost it to your profile or story using the Repost app (Tip: Buy it for $1 to remove the “@username” that appears on every reposted image – it’s worth it). Make sure to tag the customer and thank them for the great photo.
  1. Search Twitter for mentions of your restaurant or brewery. If you find tweets about your restaurant, find opportunities to tweet back and start a conversation.
  2. If you do see mentions of your restaurant or brewery on Twitter, follow your customers on Twitter.
  3. Always reply back to tweets, even if they are negative. If you do encounter a negative tweet about your business, it’s best to show that you are polite, positive, and willing to listen to their opinion.

Is there anything that you would add to this list, or any customer engagement experiences you’ve had in your restaurant or brewery? Feel free to leave me a comment below. I’d love to know what you think.


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