3 Steps to Determining Your Ideal Customer

Family of five including young couple, older couple and young child toasting with red wine at a fine-dining restaurant. Table with food, wine bottle and white map.

3 Steps to Determining Your Ideal Customer

What Are Ideal Customers?

When your customers are debating where to go out to eat tonight, there are many factors that make up their decision. Besides the type of food, they’re also considering things like atmosphere, speed of service, is the restaurant reachable by foot, will there be traffic, and many other things. Whether they end up at your door or elsewhere depends on the fit between who they are and their dining preferences, and the style of your restaurant. 

To build a business that attracts the type of diners that are right for you, you first need to get to know your clients better. Here are 3 steps you can take to identify your perfect guest.

Gather Up Data 

Customer information is an asset you can use to promote many business-related issues, from choosing your restaurant location to coming up with marketing strategies to menu choices. One type of data you should be gathering is customers’ demographics. This includes facts about people’s age, gender, income level, and more.

Based on their demographics, customers can be roughly categorized and made up into four types of restaurant-goers:

  1. 15-35 year olds with lower income profiles. They are spontaneous and do things without too much planning. These customers will get hungry while shopping or after spending time with friends, and will simply stumble upon your place. If found in a high population area, your restaurant is likely to see heavy foot traffic from this group. 
  2. 24-45 year olds with high disposable income. This group gets home and spontaneously decides against cooking for a night. Most people in this group drink alcohol and enjoy a relaxed social ambiance. 
  3. Families with teenage kids. These mid-income households care for the safety of their loved ones, and will take that into consideration when carefully planning a night out. This means they do not mind driving, and might well make an evening out of it – catch a movie or do some shopping.
  4. 35+ year olds. Usually couples or business people with high-income. This group pre-plans and books its activities well in advance, which means they have high service expectations, including onsite parking, even if it means having to drive over 30 minutes for a quality restaurant.

Each of the four types of people listed above has a preferred style of dining. The younger group is likely to go for fast food that is quick, easily accessible and cheap, whereas families will prefer casual dining in less crowded or hazardous places. Young couples or business executives will either opt for a bar & bistro or a fine dining experience, depending on the occasion and their social and financial status. 

Of course, 40 year old couples also eat fast food and 20 year olds can certainly enjoy fine dining. These categories are not clear cut, but they are a useful tool that gives you a sense of your clientele. To attract the right kind of audience, be conscious of the  when determining the style of your restaurant.

Visit restaurants similar to yours to survey guests’ demographics and gather some vital information.

Ask the Right Questions

Now that you know what type of customer you’re trying to attract, you need to understand where they are and how many of them are there at a certain location. You might find the perfect community to support your restaurant, but if the place is not populated enough there simply won’t be enough activity. This greatly affects the process of choosing your restaurant location. To figure out whether a certain location is the right fit for you, there are several issues to consider. 

Understand what all your customers have in common. Start with some basic questions. Are they male or female? Are they single or in a relationship? Do they care greatly about the environment? are they religious? What does a typical day in their lives look like? Next, search for similar behaviors. Do they share habits, extracurricular activities or hobbies? What are their likes and dislikes? Do they typically dine in a group? How do their purchases compare to your menu offerings? Are they frugal with their money or do they spend it extravagantly, or somewhere in between?

Asking these questions will help you make up customer segments which translate into more informed business decisions. For example, a fine-dining consumer might be a couple in their 30’s, seriously dating, with a high income profile, who maintain a healthy lifestyle and who typically enjoy a fun and lively atmosphere like an outdoor activity or attending live events. Knowing this you’ll be better able to provide them with the experience they are looking for, and not waste money on things that are unsuitable for them.

Conducting a 1-on-1 research might be the most time-consuming method, but it is also the one that will get you the most information. Restaurants that have concepts similar to yours are a great place to visit. Take a few evenings to observe the mix of customers that frequent the place. Interact with the diners and ask them about their interests and lifestyle preferences. Remember to remain respectful of their privacy and their evening out. Check out your competitors’ websites to see how they market and who they’re target audience is. Finally, visit the chamber of commerce of your area to collect information and data from business and demographics experts.

Locate Them

Now that you’ve drawn up your ideal customer profiles, all that’s left is to open your restaurant in the proximity of your target market. The US Census Bureau is a useful resource precisely for this, as it provides a free public tool called Quick Facts to help you find the population information about your area of choice, including size, age and sex, race and origin, specific characteristics, education, health, and more. For example, if you’re opening a casual restaurant and know that your ideal customer is a young couple with 2 kids, Quick Facts will tell you exactly which zip codes have the highest density of this consumer, alongside other useful details.

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