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Win them over from the moment they walk in

Datassential’s Kelley Bailie Fechner on cultivating True Loyalty

NRN presents Consumer Picks, a comprehensive look at customer preference and restaurant brand strength. This annual special report is produced with Datassential. Get the full report>>

Customer loyalty starts the instant they walk through your door. From this moment on, it’s up to you — the restaurant chain operator — to turn this customer into a loyal, loving fan. There’s no set formula for it, but there are three moves that strongly correlate to True Brand Loyalty, a measurement by Datassential showing consumers’ true desire to visit a restaurant. These three methods are employing an excellent staff, offering craveable menu items and providing a unique experience, all of which must be replicated across locations.

At the recent MUFSO conference, I shared chains hitting the mark for True Brand Loyalty. The selections were found using data from Datassential’s BrandFingerprints tool, which uncovers the unique factors keeping the nation’s 200 most successful chains on top. (We’ve added 75 chains this year, plus a new grocery and c-store database.)

First impressions count. The first key to achieving high loyalty with consumers begins with the first interaction customers have with your staff. Leaders include In-N-Out Burger, Chick-fil-A, Red Lobster, Maggiano’s, Ruth’s Chris and La Madeleine. In the QSR category, Chick-fil-A and In-N-Out performed exceptionally with consumers. Nearly three-quarters of respondents rated the brand highly for service, while the average among quick-service chains falls under 50%. Chick-fil-A is a particularly good example. The Atlanta-based chain is well-known for its typical response of “My Pleasure” to your “Thank You.”  Even something as small as this is remembered.

The next important aspect in driving True Brand Loyalty is obvious: the food. Offering craveable items will keep customers coming back for more (and they’ll tell their family and friends). Standing out from the pack this year is Shane’s Rib Shack’s The Shaniac, a burger topped with chopped barbecue pork. Such an item doesn’t have to be one offered year-round. Seasonal items like La Madeleine’s carrot cake is the type of treat customers look forward to purchasing each fall. How can you determine if an LTO or new item will be irresistible before spending big time and big money? Test your concepts with Datassential’s SCORES, which provides six indicators for success, including purchase intent, uniqueness and value. 

The last key to increasing customer loyalty is to set your chain apart from the competition in a unique style.

A burger-and-fries fast-food experience is not unique.

A burger-and-fries fast-food joint using only the finest and freshest ingredients and going the extra mile to be the best is. In-N-Out Burger, one of the leaders in this area, exemplifies this. Fries are hand-cut right in the store. The “not so secret” menu has made people feel special for years. It is like you are part of a special club when you know you can order your burger or fries “animal” style.

Kelley Bailie Fechner is the director of customer solutions at Datassential.

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