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In an interview with a Kentucky-based BBQ pit owner, marketing gurus and entrepreneurial giants Gary Vaynerchuk and Jon Taffer dropped practical advice on how restaurants can maximize customer retention and lifetime value. Taffer explains, “You have to market to three visits, not just one. This is the part everyone misses!” And Gary V demonstrates why using local social media “celebs” to promote your business “…is a no brainer.”.


First, Taffer breaks down the numbers. He explains that the cost of acquiring a new customer using traditional marketing media is between forty and eighty dollars.

He goes on to tell that if a new customer has a flawless first experience, the chances of him returning for a second visit is forty percent. If that same customer has a flawless second experience, his chances of returning for a third visit are about the same—forty-two percent. And if you can flawlessly serve your new guest for a third time, he’s coming back seventy percent of the time and “You own him.” So let’s talk about how to do that for less than forty to eighty dollars.


On a customer’s first visit, you want to get them in the door for free. “Don’t make ‘em pay until the end,” says Taffer. Offer first time customers a free dinner, or entree, or whatever you can afford. Then, once you get them in the door, identify them as a first-time customer, (Taffer used a red napkin instead of white as an example) something to let your staff know the situation. Next, you want to “connect with them, work to get ‘em back a second and third time.” Asking your manager to give the customer a personalized coupon or business card at the end of his meal is a great way to do this.

This personal touch connects and incentivizes a second visit, just make sure it’s of lesser value than the freebie you just gave him to show up. This wanes him off the discounts and the business card will also take the place of the red napkin on the second visit. Repeat this process on the customers second trip to your restaurant. And if you can execute flawlessly through the third and final visit, you’ve got yourself a regular for only the cost of your food. Now let’s talk about a simple social media tactic Gary V uses to get big, cheap exposure with powerful impact.


Open Instagram, and if you don’t have it, GET IT. Search the top posts in your area. Ideally, you want to find someone that lives in your area, hits your demographic, has a large following, and is posting regularly. There are three dots in the upper right hand corner of their posts, tap that and send him or her a message. Send something like “Alex, awesome shot! We see you are in the area, and we’d like to offer you and a date free entrees. Come by anytime.” Alex thinks, “Whoa, awesome” and he grabs a date and heads to your restaurant. You give them the new customer treatment, he posts emphatically on social media, and for the cost of two entrées you just reached a few thousand customers in your targeted demographic. Simple, cheap, and effective, “It will work.”, declares Gary.


In an industry that is getting increasingly more competitive, the need for every marketing dollar to be working like a hundred is imperative. The tactics and strategies here are practical and innovative examples of how to do this, proven by the worlds best. And they are ideas we can apply to our businesses today.  



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