70% Of Restaurant Customers Visit You Just One Time!

Explore why 70% of restaurant customers visit just once. Learn strategies to transform casual diners into loyal customers.
Publishing date 12/16/2023
Blog | Management
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The Startling 70% Statistic: Why Most Customers Only Visit Your Restaurant Once

The 70% statistic is startling but true – the vast majority of customers who visit a restaurant for the first time never return. Improving customer retention is crucial to the long-term success of any restaurant.

As a restaurant owner, you have put significant investment into attracting new customers through marketing and advertising. However, according to research studies, acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining an existing one. Existing customers also tend to spend more and provide free word-of-mouth marketing.

There are several reasons why a customer may choose not to return to a restaurant:

  1. Poor quality or taste of food: The food and overall dining experience failed to meet expectations.
  2. Slow or inattentive service: Customers felt that the service was inefficient, that their needs were not met promptly, or that the server was inattentive.
  3. Unpleasant atmosphere: The restaurant environment, decor, noise level, temperature, cleanliness, or other factors did not contribute to an enjoyable experience.
  4. Lack of value: The perceived value of the meal did not match the price. Customers did not feel they received good value for their money.
  5. Difficulty getting a reservation or long wait times: The process of making a reservation or getting seated without one proved frustrating. Excessively long wait times diminished the experience.

By focusing on the factors within your control – food, service, atmosphere, and value – you can significantly improve customer retention and turn that startling 70% statistic on its head. With some targeted changes, you’ll soon see many of those one-time customers become loyal regulars.

Enhance customer loyalty through effective online reputation management.

Implementing an Effective Customer Retention Strategy for Restaurants

A successful customer retention strategy is key to improving the lifetime value of your restaurant’s patrons. Consider implementing the following tactics:

Offer a loyalty program

Create an incentive for customers to return by starting a loyalty program that rewards them for repeat visits. Provide perks like discounts, free menu items, or priority seating after a certain number of visits. Studies show loyalty program members visit 41% more frequently and spend 67% more.

Improve customer experience

Pay close attention to the overall experience customers have dined at your establishment. Ensure high-quality food, quick and friendly service, clean facilities, and a welcoming ambiance. Little details matter, so train staff to engage meaningfully with customers. According to research, an increase in customer retention can increase profits by 75%.

Gather feedback

Connect with your customers to better understand their needs and desires. Distribute short surveys via email or your website, monitor online reviews, and empower staff to report common compliments and complaints. Then take action on the insights to enhance your offerings and service. Studies confirm that 70% of customers will return if their feedback is implemented.

Stay in touch

Build ongoing communication with your customer base through a regular email newsletter, social media interactions, and in-person conversations. Promote current and upcoming menu items, special events, and exclusive deals to give people a reason to come back soon. Research shows that engaged email subscribers visit 67% more often and spend 138% more money.

Improving retention is challenging, but focusing on the customer experience through loyalty incentives, high-quality service, feedback opportunities, and consistent communication is key to building a base of regular, lifelong patrons. With the right strategy, you can turn one-time visitors into repeat customers.

Tips for Building Customer Relationships in Restaurants

To improve customer retention, focus on building meaningful relationships. Provide exceptional customer service by training staff to greet customers warmly, make eye contact, smile, and engage in genuine conversation.

Learn your regular customers’ names and personal details, like their favorite drinks or meals. Address them personally when they enter your establishment. Loyal customers will appreciate your effort to get to know them.

Offer incentives for customers to return, such as a loyalty program that provides discounts or free items after a certain number of visits. Send personalized promotions on special occasions like birthdays or anniversaries.

Monitor reviews on sites like Yelp and Google to address any complaints promptly and professionally. Respond publicly to both positive and negative reviews, taking the feedback as an opportunity to strengthen relationships. Dissatisfied customers who feel heard are more likely to give your business another chance.

Continuously gather customer feedback through surveys or conversations. Ask open-ended questions to determine how you can improve their experience. Making changes based on their valuable input shows you care about their needs and opinions.

Building authentic connections and loyalty will turn one-time customers into regulars. With effort and consistency, you can overcome the odds and build a thriving community of repeat visitors. Focusing on customer relationships will set your restaurant apart and boost your bottom line.

How Milagro’s Helps –

Customer Data Platform

To improve customer retention, consider implementing a customer data platform (CDP) and waitlist management system. A CDP like Milagro’s helps collect and analyze customer data to better understand their experiences and preferences. By gathering information on your customers’ ordering history, favorite menu items, special occasions they’ve celebrated at your restaurant, and more, you gain valuable insights into their dining habits and can personalize their experience.


With SmartWAIT, your host or manager on duty will recognize repeat customers, know their preferred seating area or server, and be able to provide a warm welcome. They can also access the customer’s order history to recommend their favorite cocktail, appetizer, or entree. Using data to personalize each customer’s experience will make them feel valued and encourage repeat business.

The long-term benefits to your customer retention and relationships will prove well worth the effort.


You have worked hard to build your restaurant and attract customers in the door. Don’t let them slip away after a single visit. Review your customer data and look for patterns in who is returning versus not returning. Make meaningful connections with customers when they dine with you. Ask for feedback and show them you value their input. Continually improve your food, service, and overall experience. Reward loyal customers and make them feel appreciated. With some focused effort, you can turn those one-time visitors into lifelong regulars and build a sustainable business. The 70% doesn’t have to be the norm for your restaurant. Take action today to boost your customer retention and thrive.

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