It won’t surprise Canadian restaurant operators to learn that Canadian consumers frequently enjoy taking their meals outside of their homes. In fact, according to our recent food & beverage industry research, 71% of Canadians dine out up to 10 times per month.

How can restaurants ensure that one (or two, or three) of those 10 visits are to their establishment?  After all, with new food and beverage outlets opening every week, there’s an ever-expanding menu of dining options for Canadian consumers to choose from.  In this crowded and competitive environment, encouraging greater frequency is the key to maintaining positive margins and growing revenue.

While the Canadian food and beverage (F&B) landscape is thriving at the macro level, individual businesses report difficulties increasing customers’ visit frequency. Now more than ever, it’s important for F&B operators to offer customers the right incentives—in the right channels—to come back.

Give Customers a Reason to Return

Three Easy Ways Restaurants Can Encourage Repeat Customers

We surveyed over 2,000 Canadian consumers on their dining out behaviors, and the top-cited reasons for eating at home included:

  1. Enjoying meals in the comfort of their home
  2. Not having an occasion to dine out
  3. Being too busy

While F&B operators can’t directly influence their patrons’ busy schedules, or completely replace the comfort of their homes, they can capitalize on special occasions and events that provide a reason for consumers to dine out. To do this effectively, F&B operators must understand key factors such as: when, why, and how frequently customers visit, who they dine with, and even what their personal tastes and preferences are. When equipped with this type of customer insight, F&B operators can tie marketing efforts to the events and occasions that are relevant to their highest value customers therefore driving greater patronage when they might not have visited otherwise.

Here are three ways to encourage repeat business by understanding what your customers want, need and value:

Recognizing Special Moments

Three Easy Ways Restaurants Can Encourage Repeat Customers

Special occasions, such as anniversaries and holidays, can be used to generate highly-personalized repeat visits for all types of F&B establishments. To know what moments are relevant and to who, operators need to capture and connect customer data across multiple touchpoints, which can include email, social media, loyalty programs or at the point of sale.  Capturing data allows F&B operators to create a more complete understanding of the customer’s behaviors, preferences and purchases, as well as identify related trends among groups of customers. If an operator knows when a customer makes a reservation for their anniversary, they can send personalized offers and communications in advance of that date each year, to prompt another reservation; or, they can send a Father’s Day offer to the customer who always orders two adult entrees and one from the children’s menu every time they visit. When all customer data is accessible through one single view, operators can better track how their customers engage with their business to turn special moments into revenue-generating opportunities

Broadcast Event Tie-ins

Three Easy Ways Restaurants Can Encourage Repeat Customers

Not every F&B establishment broadcasts televised events, but for those that do, these events often represent an untapped opportunity to create new occasions that can drive increased footfall throughout the year. Operators who know what their customers’ viewing preferences are – their favorite team’s rivalry match, or their can’t-miss weekly serial drama – can encourage repeat visits by sending a personalized offer, timed to the date of the event, for example, a coupon for a discount on a complimentary or new food item based on what a given customer orders. Even in instances where there is a limited volume of customer data, targeting offers around ‘new item trials’ or similar experiences in this way helps marketing teams ensure they are able to incentivize the right kinds of actions while avoiding the risks of unsophisticated discounting. Preferences can be accessed when a customer connects with a brand online and via social media or F&B operators can run promotions before, during and after various televised events, capturing this information in real time to inform marketing decisions and targeting around future events.

Engaging in the Right Channels

Three Easy Ways Restaurants Can Encourage Repeat Customers

To incentivize customers to return, F&B operators need to share something of perceived value to the customer. This can range from exclusive access or specialty menu items, to more traditional points or product-based incentives. No matter what the reward, they also need to engage customers via the right channel for each specific type of communication. From messages delivered at the point-of-sale, to push notifications when someone is nearby a restaurant or bar, or even sending an email following a visit, knowing which channels will influence customers to return is key.

Developing repeat business from existing customers increases footfall and revenue without undue reliance on new customer acquisition. Operators who understand their customers’ behaviors and preferences, and can create more meaningful occasions, will be one step ahead in generating the repeat business they need, and the profits they deserve.



Sean Keith is the Director of New Business Development at Eagle Eye, a leading SaaS technology company that enables businesses to create real-time connections with their customers through digital and mobile promotion solutions. Recognised by the World Economic Forum as a Global Shaper, Sean helps brands in the retail, food & beverage and hospitality industries implement digital transformation initiatives to better understand customer behaviors and drive revenue growth among Canadian businesses.