Hosting classes can be a unique way to enhance and personalize patron connection to your restaurant. While customer experience has always been king when it comes to food service, a new study suggests it will overtake price and product as the key differentiating factor for any business by 2020. Designed strategically, classes can be used to drive sales, reward loyalty, and generate word of mouth—all of which keep you front-of-mind with customers and a cut above competitors.
Classes can work toward your business goals in a number of ways. Charging for classes could serve as a revenue stream on its own, or free classes may be packaged as VIP rewards. Either way, hands-on and face-to-face interactions will offer customers a look behind the scenes they won’t soon forget. Here are a few key ways to make sure you get the most of your syllabus.
Target repeat customers.
Patrons who’ve proven their loyalty will be first in line to learn how the sausage is made. If you offer classes free of charge, reserving them for VIPs can incentivize more casual customers to step up their game. Learning how a favorite dish or cocktail is prepared will only boost the personal connection felt by returning patrons, and encourage them to spread their enthusiasm to family and friends.
Invite new guests through the door.
Special offers set small businesses apart. Any cafe or wine store can deliver customer favorites, but not every shop offers tastings or workshops on pairing or preparation. Classes can be a great way to spark interest in new customers, particularly with modest free samples of what’s on offer.
Show off your top products.
Integrating the finest of what you have to offer is the best way to entice customers to your core business. Classes can also serve as a free and easy avenue for market research. Have a new product or recipe to test out? Take advantage of captive and interested parties to solicit feedback you can use prior to rollout.
Reveal your secrets.
Got a top-secret ingredient or special sauce? Taking customers into your confidence can pay off big time in redoubled loyalty. Host a brief demonstration to tell late-night pizza patrons what goes into the perfect crust or teach java connoisseurs how to draw designs in foam. Customers won’t be tempted to try these feats at home—that’s why they come to you. But they’ll appreciate the rare candor and insight into your culinary craftsmanship.
Partner up with neighbors.
Classes can also present fun opportunities to cross-pollinate with neighboring businesses. Think of hosting a flower-arranging class in your wine bar or cafe during off-peak hours, or linking with a brewery for pairings with your QSR menu. Encouraging customers to spend quality time in places where they’re typically in and out can help them slow down and appreciate everything you offer them.
Create a group experience.
Families and co-workers are often looking for ways to bond, and learning to cook or decorate a cake sure beats bingo night. Package classes as a group outing for anything from baby showers to college graduations. There are many life skills to be learned inside the walls of a restaurant—capitalize on them and bring people together in the process.
Market as a unique gift.
Similarly, a group class can be an outside-the-box gift for birthdays, anniversaries, or any special occasion. Loyal customers may particularly appreciate the opportunity to invite friends and family for an insider look at their favorite spot. Clover Gift Cards make seamless work of issuing and redeeming certificates and designing specialty cards.
Every student likes a reward. Encourage enrollment by offering special incentives. Sampling during class could lead to a reduced rate on buying the full product to take home, or a discounted sit-down meal to cap off the evening. Cookbooks or face time with the chef can further strengthen customers’ bonds with your restaurant.
Be sure to keep track of what works, so you can adjust your strategies with the season and tailor them to your customers.
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