Creating regular guests is vital to any hospitality operation. First impressions are the only chance we get to create long-term loyalty and keeping that loyalty is a delicate balance between perception and execution. The truth is 70% of guests never return but if you can increase your regular guests by 5%, it has the potential to increase profitability by up to 125%!

There are many factors that go into guest retention and none more obvious than service. We’re not just talking about table service here, front desk service, or support staff service; every employee that touches the guest experience has the opportunity to make an impression. Daily pre-shift meetings are a great tool for keeping the service focused and finely tuned.

Beyond service, what is the overall experience you are trying to execute? Menu is such an important part of that experience. Ensuring there are options for everyone can be difficult and if done poorly it can create a muddy and confusing experience. On the other hand, limit your offerings and you run the risk of losing potential regular guests. Executing the menu is even more important because poor food quality will guarantee that a guest never returns.

Atmosphere is also a major factor in creating an experience. Creating an inviting and comfortable space has a lot of moving parts. Lighting is often an afterthought, but it should be the first thing you check before opening the dining room. Music and sound, in general, define a space and should be given careful consideration. Also, overall cleanliness will drive away a potential guest faster than anything. Make sure those restrooms are being checked regularly!

The trio of service, food, and atmosphere make up the experience and getting them all to work together is a well-choreographed dance that needs to be consistent. Regular guests are looking for that same experience they had on their last visit and in the current market, there are so many dining options as well as outlets for guest feedback that this has never been more important. Bad reviews and word-of-mouth live forever on the internet and are very hard to recover from. But in the event that service and execution do go off the rails, make sure to address the issue immediately. Ironically a guest with a negative experience that is resolved is more likely to return than a guest that has a positive one.

Get all this right and the rewards go beyond financial gains. Creating lasting relationships with your clientele is the definition of hospitality and recognizing and rewarding your regular guests helps to build those relationships. It also costs less than driving new business through the front door since a regular guest is more likely to leave positive online feedback and give you free word-of-mouth advertising.