Business and Operations
5 ways to keep your customers loyal
By Giorgio Taverniti
By Giorgio Taverniti
Customer loyalty should be a priority for every pizzeria owner. In this fiercely competitive market where amazing talent emerges every day, independents especially need loyal customers not only to stay afloat financially but also to grow the baby that is their business.
It’s not always easy to know how to win that loyalty. Sometimes we like to complicate things and forget that there are simple ways to keep customers coming back to you every time. These are some of the tips I apply to my business and life. They have helped me gain and retain a loyal following over the past 24 years.
1. Keep your product simple
You know what makes your spot special; it’s not the trendy new food items you added to the menu. It’s that your clients know every time they come in the food will taste the same as they remember. It’s ideal to add in a few extra items to keep your menu fresh, but it will be your food – not the latest thing – that keeps them coming back.
Your speciality might be your signature family secret sauce recipe or your Neapolitan pizza cooked in an imported oven straight from Napoli. Promote what makes your product and business stand out more than any other on the market.
2. Stay connected with your customers
It’s not enough to just post on social media: really engage your customers. Everyone wants to go where everyone knows their name! Talk to them. Get to know them. Ask questions about their family and find out how they heard about your pizzeria. Make a real effort to know your clients, whether they come in every week or it’s their first time.
3. Be an active member of the community
It’s your hood! Take pride in it and be involved. Join the BIA (business improvement association), take part in local school events or donate a sponsorship to a cause you want to help. The BIA operates on a strictly volunteer basis, with no fees involved. There are monthly meetings that provide opportunities to meet other local business owners, city councillors and other community members who all have the same goal: to improve business in the community. A great perk of joining is that often the group organizes events that help advertise all businesses.
We donate to Repair Café, a free repair service for local community members whose goal is to reduce the number of unnecessary items going to the landfill. I am also participating in a new and exciting program sponsored by the local police division to teach local high school students how to prepare a meal on a budget. This will potentially happen once a month with a different theme of cuisine each time. Overall it takes about two hours of my time and the cost of food is covered by the city. This is a great way to branch out without overextending yourself to too many commitments.
4. Offer customers a special-occasion perk
It’s important to keep your customers wanting to come back to you. But how do you stand out in a sea of restaurants? You personalize their special occasions. Everyone celebrates an occasion, so this can apply to everyone. We offer customers a complimentary dessert or drink for a customer’s birthday. You can take it one step further and offer an appetizer, or a round of shots or coffees. Never underestimate the power of a small gesture: it goes a long way.
5. Be humble
No matter how successful your business is, always stay true to yourself. Be present at your business and stay involved. Never be too good to tend the bar, roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty or even clean the bathrooms. I always make a point of connecting with the clients around me and try to wave a hello to everyone in the restaurant from the bar that overlooks the entire restaurant. The pizza station is open for all to see and I engage with everyone who drops by there to order and pick up their meals, even occasionally throwing a pizza in the air for their benefit. When I’m not pumping out orders I often serve and ask customers how their meal was. It’s a nice way to keep the business – and you – grounded.
Always remember that any success, whether little or big, is only possible when you have loyal customers.
Giorgio Taverniti owns Frank’s Pizza House in Toronto, which has been in his family since 1990. A graduate of George Brown College’s culinary management and Italian culinary programs, Giorgio helped found a popular pizza-making workshop at the college and ran it for three years.