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October 6, 2023

How to Increase Customer Counts at Restaurants in 2024

Tony Treadway

Increase customer traffic at restaurants blog article.
Pal's Sudden Service happy child customer image.

What’s the number one issue facing restaurants heading into a new year? We’re hearing the same question from multiple clients of late. How do I increase my customer count?

Here are tips for restaurants as a solution and some helpful ideas from food manufacturers to serve food faster and more efficiently.

Building Traffic with Value Beyond Price

Inflation is driving consumers to rank price as their top definition of “value”. However, service, consistency, and quality of the food items aren’t far behind. Operators can use these insights to build menus that offer lower cost menu items in tandem with premium upgrades. The barbell menu strategy promotes a dollar menu item with a premium item with equal fanfare. Combined, the strategy offsets dollar menu items with lower margins with near-equal sales of higher-margin items.

Red Gold ketchup packet image 1Red Gold ketchup packet image 2
Something as ubiquitous as a ketchup packet can play a role in promoting customer counts.

Customer loyalty and traffic counts are closely tied. Getting a loyalist to visit your restaurant just one more time per week has tremendous value. Suppliers can help. For example, Red Gold® offers two types of ketchup, one tied to a well-known social cause, Folds of Honor, supporting families of fallen first responders and the military. Serving Folds of Honor Ketchup enhances loyalty for those who care. Even offering a ketchup that uses real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup can add a perception of value to a customer who cares about the ingredients they eat.

Training staff to consistently produce the same, reliable quality menu items time after time with a customer-oriented smile can many times overcome price and promote loyalty and increased traffic.

Menu Change Up

Increased use of limited-time offers (LTOs) to increase traffic is another important tactic. Look at past sales of LTO items and recycle your best to bring back lapsed customers and add new LTO items to attract both new and loyal customers.

Appetizer product image 1Appetizer product image 2
This client’s new guacamole bites and queso tots help operators serve trendy one-of-a-kind menu items that are fully prepared for heat and serve ease.

Many operators are now more open to ideas for winning ingredients or new, easy-to-prep items from suppliers who have broader knowledge of winning menu items for LTO and regular menus.

Additionally, manufacturers can bring trend-forward prepared items to a menu that reduces the demand on training and labor while shortcutting menu development. One client has been successful in promoting a line of gastropub appetizers featuring loading queso tots and guacamole bites.

Texas Pete simple recipe image
The Texas Pete® Simple As Gallery demonstrates menu versatility on easy-to-prep menu items.

Client Texas Pete® takes ease of prep and ingredient versatility to the forefront with operators with its gallery of trend-forward menu items that are as simple as five ingredients that can be prepped in 10 minutes or less. Kitchen efficiency is directly tied to consistency and quality as value adds over price.

Johnsonville ad image
This ad tells operators that superior taste from a leading brand sells when added to a menu.

Promoting national brands can likewise add value to the menu as a symbol of quality. For example, Johnsonville is the leading sausage brand that is well-known and loved at retail. Adding a leading brand logo to a menu item is a worthy tactic to build loyalty and traffic counts.

Red Gold ketchup signature sauce ideas image.
This client smartly is promoting multiple uses of a kitchen staple…ketchup. Look for SKUs with multiple uses for kitchen efficiency.

Meanwhile, delete slow-moving regular menu items and eliminate SKUs that are of single use. Look instead for multiple use SKUs that have applicability in appetizers, main entrees, and snacks for kitchen efficiency. Red Gold even goes so far to teach operators how their ketchup is a key ingredient to multiple sauces they can serve.

Turn Up the Volume on Social

It’s the lowest-cost form of advertising, so optimize your social media platforms to drive loyal customer engagement. Use paid ads within the zip codes of your restaurants to bring in new customers.

Pal's Sudden Service social media post image.
The return of a straw that went missing during COVID evoked a positive engagement with nearly 3,000 loyalists on social media.

For one Creative Energy client, the simple return of a red and yellow-striped straw that vanished during COVID due to supplier issues was enough to evoke a huge response by thirsty customers who jumped at the opportunity to visit a restaurant to say hello to an old friend—a straw.

Pal's Thought of the Day imagePal's Spread Kindness image
Thought of the Day is a simple way to stay top of mind by customers online and on the street.

Linking social with the street is another tactic for encouraging traffic counts. Client, Pal’s Sudden Service has leveraged its “thought of the day” which is shared frequently by followers via social from the client’s website and on reader boards on street signage to build loyalty that makes the regional chain a leader in customer visits per month.


Activating tactics to drive traffic is a specialty of Creative Energy. We’re not just bringing fresh ideas to the market for restaurants and manufacturers, we’re helping to make it happen. If you need help, we’re ready to listen.