Beyond the Plate: 11 Restaurant Perks to Elevate the Guest Experience
Come Saturday evening, the modern diner wants more than just a delicious meal; they crave an unforgettable experience they can tell their friends about on Monday.
Research shows that almost three out of every four millennials want to spend money on experiences rather than material goods. But to impress a generation used to getting anything they want delivered to their doorstep, you’ll need to do more than just offer great food.
In this post, we’ll discuss the importance and benefits of using restaurant perks to elevate the guest experience. You’ll leave with practical ideas for restaurant perks and how to deliver them to reap the benefits of creating more craveable and memorable moments for your guests.
The Importance of Creating Memorable Moments
It’s time to give the people what they want. Seven out of 10 millennials, for example, love attending food-focused events. Equip your staff to suggest a personalized recommendation during the event, and you can convince almost half of your customers to buy on impulse alone, according to research.
Memorable moments can be as simple as giving your guests exclusive access to an event or gifting them a freebie on arrival. It’s these special experiences, or perks, that drive loyalty and repeat business, along with a host of other benefits.
Stand out from the competition: Unique experiences give you a competitive edge over restaurants that don’t offer perks to their guests.
Drive off-peak reservations: Advertise restaurant perks in your marketing to book more reservations and drive business during slower times.
Bottom-line boost: Robust loyalty programs, shareable social posts and more reservations ensure multiple revenue streams (and repeat exposure).
11 Restaurant Perks Your Guests Will Love
Restaurant rewards and gift cards? Chains like IHOP, Chipotle and Starbucks have been there, done that. Sure, these perks incentivize loyalty, but they don’t “excite.” Restaurants that delight their guests with unique, well-planned experiences can encourage their core customer base to spread the word to new diners.
Let’s look at some specific ideas for creating memorable moments in your restaurant.
1. Welcome Cocktails
A complimentary cocktail upon arrival is a great way get started on the right foot, but it’s also a good strategy for driving business during slower times. For example, you might offer a complimentary cocktail before 6 p.m. or on Tuesday happy hours between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Bonus points if you can personalize your cocktail surprise according to guest preferences. Does Mr. Patterson always order the lemon tart for dessert? Offer him a lemon drop martini on entry as a delightful surprise.
2. Special Seating Areas
Add an air of exclusivity to a reservation by offering special seating areas, like an intimate restaurant corner, a private dining room or a terrace with an unforgettable view.
Casa La Femme in New York offers a variety of seating areas in addition to their exclusive tent tables, which guests can book when they make a reservation online. If your venue offers a similar special setup, you might offer a surprise complimentary booking to a guest on their birthday or anniversary.
3. Reserved Table Inventory
Make diners feel important by setting aside a certain number of tables for your most valued or VIP guests.
Special touches like these are especially impactful at fine-dining restaurants and steakhouses where premium experiences are all the more important. Advertise this feature through your restaurant loyalty program or via targeted email campaigns.
4. Exclusive Menu Offerings
Create limited-time or exclusive menu offers to entice both new and returning customers to your restaurant. These special offers can showcase unique dishes, seasonal ingredients or chef specialties. To generate excitement, limit how long you offer the menu items. Or, grant your most loyal patrons access to a “secret menu” with special pairings or upgrades unavailable to other guests.
Pro Tip: Collaborate with local suppliers or feature ingredients from nearby farms to create uniquely local menu offerings. You’ll support the local economy while also differentiating your restaurant and appealing to the growing desire for farm-to-table restaurant experiences.
5. Birthday and Anniversary Rewards
What better way to give your guests a smile than with a free dessert or appetizer to celebrate their birthday or anniversary? Go further and write a personal message on the plate or add a complimentary cocktail that pairs with the dish.
You can also design email marketing campaigns that encourage special occasion reservations. The more personalized the messages and offers are, the better.
FYI:SevenRooms’ email marketing software helps restaurants send automated birthday and anniversary emails and offers, using guest data from previous visits to personalize the messages.
6. Table Touch on First Visit
Restaurant perks don’t have to be complicated, pre-planned extravaganzas — sometimes the classics are the best. A table touch from the restaurant manager is a lovely way to welcome new guests to your restaurant and thank them for their visit. If your guests are first-time diners, introduce yourself and make it a point to remember their names for next time.
7. Holiday Packages
Special fixed-price menus can help you manage guest traffic and staff workload during times of high demand. Set a minimum spend and require advance booking. Guests get a multi-course experience, and you get more control over inventory ordering and planning during high-volume seasons. Encourage upgrades like wine flights and desserts to the package.
The flagship restaurant of the Altamarea Group in New York, Ai Fiori, capitalizes on the extraordinary holiday demand by offering special packages for popular occasions like Mother’s Day.
8. Early Access to Reservations
Reward your loyal customers by giving them early access to reservations, especially during holidays or special events. Let them know that they are valued, and allow them to book the best seats, first. For best results, send these segmented offers via email to drive traffic to your online reservations site.
To learn more about creating email marketing campaigns that drive repeat business and revenue, download our free guide.
Tap your sommelier for their expertise in crafting a wine pairing according to guest meal preferences. Recommend (or upsell) a few bottles that compliment their chosen appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Do this in-house or during booking. For example, Stokehouse in Melbourne allows guests to pair wines with its five-course menu to round out the experience.
10. Chef’s Table
Give your guests unparalleled access to the magic of the restaurant kitchen with a chef’s table in, or within view of, the kitchen. Allow the chef to chat with guests and talk them through each dish on a tasting menu for an unforgettable experience.
Guests can watch as all the elements of their dishes are prepared and plated and ask any questions directly to the chef. This restaurant perk gives guests an exclusive peek behind the curtain and lets them feel what it’s like to be part of a bustling kitchen team, an experience for which most are willing to pay a premium.
11. Personalized Tasting Menus
Allow your guests to choose their favorite cuisine or star ingredient and have your chef build a personalized tasting menu around it. It could even be a themed menu to celebrate a special occasion or life event. Or you could surprise a regular guest with a custom menu inspired by their dining preferences from previous visits. A personalized menu makes your guests feel special and is sure to boost loyalty in the future.
It’s important to note that a perk this exclusive will likely only work on a small scale and with enough notice for the chef.
How to Determine Which Perks Are Best for Your Restaurant
The best way to decide what perks will delight your guests is to know them better than anyone. What are their preferences? How do they use your restaurant to celebrate, relax and connect? Often, these answers lie within guest data and ordering preferences, which you can collect to gain powerful insights that inform your offerings.
Through the booking process, SevenRooms automatically creates detailed guest profiles based on contact information, order history, dining preferences, allergies and special occasions. You can add guest profile tags such as VIPs, positive reviewers and wine lovers to easily identify trends and opportunities for personalization.
Let the ideas come to you. Integrating reservations, online orders, your POS system and email will help you more efficiently collect and store guest data. You’ll uncover ideas and opportunities to delight your guests in ways other establishments can’t. To learn more about how SevenRooms’ restaurant CRM can help you identify and create memorable moments, check out this recent interview from our VP of Product or book a demo today.
Restaurant Perks FAQs
What Are the Benefits of Offering Restaurant Perks?
Restaurant perks can improve the customer experience and build loyalty. They can also be used as an incentive to maximize revenue at busy times and bring in more reservations during slower periods.
How Do I Spread the Word About My Restaurant Perks?
One of the best ways to communicate your perks to customers is via email. Send out personalized emails with a link to reserve a table online or a coupon to redeem the perk at the restaurant. Other channels to communicate perks are social media, SMS messages, push notifications and in-person.
What’s the Best Way to Come up With Ideas for Restaurant Perks?
Listen to what your customers want. You can better understand what will delight your customers by collecting data about their dining preferences, past ordering trends and visit history.