5 Ways Your Staff Can Create Guest Loyalty in a COVID 19 World

Turning every guest into a regular guest is more important than ever. Not all the restaurants around us reopened and others are still going to struggle and close. Rather than approaching the current situation as a struggle to survive, why not approach it as an opportunity to win over first-time guests? It is painful to see our favorite restaurants close, finding a new favorite place where we are known and appreciated helps to ease the pain. The struggle is not to survive but instead to get our staff to buy into the new challenge of growing sales and guest counts. Making your team members aware of what today’s guests want will arm them for success. Below are 5 important pieces in the effort to create guest loyalty and referrals.

Make Guests Feel Safe

For the first time in restaurant history, guests are checking for safety as they enter the building. They always checked for cleanliness but now they also look for face masks, hand sanitizers, proper glove use. They notice if the team seems healthy, and they easily spot them touching their face or playing with their hair. Eliminating areas where guests are forced into small spaces, like around a host stand or at the front door and the use of outdoor dining are also safety signals.


Masks form a barrier we have never had to deal with at a time when we crave human connection more than ever. Eye contact has to break down that wall. When interacting with guests it is now necessary to stop, turn to them, and make eye contact just to acknowledge that you are listening. Keep smiling, those wrinkles in the corners of your eyes show people that there is a smile under that mask. Speak louder, slower, and more clearly to be heard and use hand gestures to show enthusiasm. All of these things do the job that a simple smile has done in the past.

Provide an Experience

When restaurants first began to reopen, we all thought we were craving service, but when we returned to perfectly sanitized rooms with no personality and servers just going through the motions, we realized we still craved an experience. As we connect with our guests it is important to understand why they are there. They still want to be entertained, they still want to celebrate special occasions, they still want to taste everything on the menu, they still want to be offered a cocktail that no one else knows about. The more we focus on giving a personalized experience with a meal, the more loyal our guests become. This job does not fall just on the server. A visit from the chef or a thumbs up from a grill cook in an open kitchen are all part of creating memories.

Support Your Community

Guests are loyal to restaurants that are loyal to them. Understanding what is important to your community and supporting those things will make you invaluable to its members. Get to know your guests and learn where to throw your support. In some areas it is high school football and in other’s it is the annual 4th of July Street Fair. Remember that being involved does not always cost you money, sometimes it is as simple as providing free meeting space.

Provide Guests with a Reason to Return

Guests can leave your restaurant in three ways. With a negative impression because things did not go well, with no impression whatsoever because all you did was feed them, or with a positive impression because you went above and beyond. Those people in the last category are your free advertising. The goal is to give every guest something to talk about. Often, it is the simple things. A handwritten card saying thank you for coming out during such uncertain times, a candle in a birthday dessert, or directions to the nearest pharmacy are all things that can leave a lasting impression of kindness and caring.

These are 5 things that are a sure bet to grow sales, but they do not just happen. They must be taught, trained, and practiced daily. Every member of your staff needs to understand their role in creating guest loyalty and eagerly accept the challenge.

CARES Program blog contributed by:

Michael Maxwell, partner of Blue Orbit Hospitality Consulting, is a veteran marketing speaker and workshop leader with over 200 successful events under his belt. Event organizers and attendees frequently comment on the nature of the practical, actionable “takeaway” value of his presentations.

Learn more about Michael’s seminar: Recovering from the Pandemic in the Restaurant World and how to access customized consulting through the Collin SBDC CARES Program.