What customer retention strategies have proven effective across your locations?
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What customer retention strategies have proven effective across your locations?

What customer retention strategies have proven effective across your locations?

Customers—everybody wants them! They pay the bills. But with a limited number of customers in any given market, competition is fierce—especially with reports that average check sizes declined in the first half of 2024, despite traffic remaining fairly steady. Inflationary pressures on both food brands (cost of supplies) and consumers (rising prices) have resulted in a double-whammy for sales and profits. And with stories of $20 Big Macs in the air, watch for food brands to continue promoting more-affordable options. Last week, for example, Subway announced $3 flatbread wraps. Everyone knows that the cost of acquiring new customers is significantly higher than keeping the ones you have. Here’s what three successful multi-unit restaurant operators are doing to love the ones they’re with—and, more importantly, keep them coming back.

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SAM ASKAR

Company: COO, Askar Brands

Brands: 75 Dunkin’, 42 Church’s Chicken, 1 Papa Romano’s, 1 Blackjack Pizza. Askar Brands is also the franchisor of Papa Romano’s, Blackjack Pizza, Papa’s Pizza To Go, and Breadeaux Pizza

Years in franchising: 18

1. Technology Integration: Online ordering, text and AI ordering

Providing a seamless online ordering experience is crucial in today's digital age. This includes a website that is easy to navigate, mobile-friendly, and offers clear menus and ordering options. Implementing text and AI (chatbot) ordering options can significantly enhance customer convenience.

2. Repeat Business Incentives: Rewards and loyalty programs

Offering incentives for repeat business through rewards and loyalty programs encourages customers to return. These programs can include points accumulation for discounts, special offers on birthdays or anniversaries, and exclusive promotions.

3. Food Consistency and Accuracy: Quality assurance

Ensuring consistent food quality and accurate order fulfillment is paramount. Customers expect their orders to be prepared correctly and delivered promptly. Implementing quality control measures and training staff to maintain high standards will build trust and satisfaction among customers.

4. Personalized Customer Service: Building relationships

Going beyond transactional interactions to create personal connections with customers is crucial. This can involve remembering regular customers’ names, preferences, and engaging in friendly conversations. Eye contact and attentive listening demonstrate genuine care and enhance the overall dining experience.

By focusing on these customer retention strategies, businesses can foster loyalty, satisfaction, and repeat business, ultimately contributing to long-term success and growth. Each strategy contributes uniquely to enhancing the customer experience and strengthening the relationship between the business and its clientele.

DAVID BLACKBURN

Company: CEO, Southern Rock Restaurants

Brands: McAlister’s Deli, 155 in 13 states

Years in franchising: 12

David Blackburn was named the 2022 Single-Brand Leadership MVP (Most Valuable Performer) for achieving brand leadership with one brand. He is McAlister’s largest franchisee, was GoTo’s (formerly Focus Brands’) 2023 Developer of the Year, and has signed development deals for 69 more McAlister’s.

Don’t let anyone leave unhappy! It costs so much to acquire a guest, you could buy an unhappy guest 5 meals and still be way less expensive than acquiring a new one. We use a process called PLUS1: Personally apologize, Listen to what the guest wants, Understand the problem, Solve it with a sense of urgency, then go 1 step further than simply back to even.

LOUIS ASHER

Name: Louis Asher

Company: Owner/Operator, ANR Holdings

Units: 3 Little Caesars

Years in franchising: 22

Louis Asher has been with Little Caesars for more than 40 years, with the past 22 years as a franchisee in Michigan. He was also a franchise with Jersey Mike’s for 6+ years.

My philosophy is very basic when it comes to running my business. Everything we do is about people. I focus on three elements: product quality, guest service, and employee service. I start with a message of under promise and over deliver. We must give the guest an experience that, at minimum, meets their expectations. But to be truly successful, we must exceed their expectations. Oddly enough, in today’s environment it is easier to set yourself apart because the industry is struggling to meet the basic needs of our guests. That is not to say what we do is easy, but it is easier for our guests to recognize great service and quality.

I feel the biggest area that gets overlooked is the employee experience. Covid-19 highlighted the importance of taking care of your staff. It is difficult to create a culture that values the guest if you don’t start with your staff. Employee service can mean many things. Wages are important, but equally important are working conditions. We need to give our people the equipment necessary to meet our guests’ demands. They need to work in an environment where they are not overstressed. Being understaffed is at the top of the list for employee dissatisfaction and stress. An owner and/or operator must understand what they are asking of their people. When you’re not in your restaurants, sometimes you may forget what you are asking of your team. People have always been our #1 priority. We were able to grow our business by delivering on our promise of serving every guest their perfect pizza exactly when they want it, with a smile every time.

FRANCHISEE BYTES

What is one thing you’re looking to do better?

Focus on the details. I tend to try to do too many things at once and can miss the fine print. I’ve improved as my role has evolved but there’s still room to grow.
—Alex Carney, Vice President/Franchisee, TR Hospitality Group, 10 Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers (11 in August), 7 High Plains Brew (7 Brew Drive Thru Coffee)

Managing time with my family.
—Nadeem Saleem Bajwa, CEO, Bajco Group, 207 Papa John’s

Keep frustrations and stress under control.
— Stephanie Moseley, President, Pisa Pie Enterprises, 6 Marco’s Pizza

I am looking to be more open and share personal and professional goals with the leaders in my life as a way of inspiring them to vocalize their goals to me.
— Phillip Scotton, COO, Primo Partners, 23 Ben & Jerry’s, 2 Starbucks

Balance my time. Ideally, I would like to play more golf and work less. Maybe be in the office 4 to 5 days a week.
—Bill Mathis, Multi-Unit Franchisee, 3 Subway, 1 Caribou with 4 more in construction

I’m still trying to learn everything I can about retail marketing.
—Milo Leakehe, Managing Partner, Imbue Capital, 3 Crumbl Cookies, 1 PayMore Stores, 1 Tropical Smoothie Cafe, 1 Rolling Suds, 1 Solve Pest Pros

Routine! I am great at reacting. Always able to solve a problem or rise to a challenge, I struggle to stay in a consistent routine that drives the best results and focuses my time and energy on only the most important tasks. I want to be more proactive.
— Karl Malchow, Owner, Renegade Pizza, 5 Toppers Pizza

To listen better and more.
— Sam Askar, COO, Askar Brands, 75 Dunkin’, 42 Church’s Chicken; 1 Papa Romano’s, 1 Blackjack Pizza. Askar Brands is also the franchisor of Papa Romano’s, Blackjack Pizza, Papa’s Pizza To Go, and Breadeaux Pizza

Change our bonus system from subjective to a pay-for-performance structure.
— Steven Leibsohn, Owner, 35 Wetzel’s Pretzels, 2 food trucks, 1 Twisted by Wetzel’s

Published: June 24th, 2024

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