By Evan Colborne | October 26, 2017

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The optimist in us would like to think that if our marketing efforts lead someone to attend our event, that our job is done. We tell ourselves that the event experience is so good, that they’ll be hooked and want to come back again and again. This is often used to justify giving away free tickets. If only this were the case.

I was listening to an older episode Gary Vaynerchuk’s podcast the other day where he had Jon Taffer as his guest. For those unfamiliar, Jon Taffer is the host of the TV Show Bar Rescue on Spike. The premise is Jon visits struggling bars/restaurants from around the United States and helps turn their business around. They usually have a marathon running every Sunday night if you’re interested. I find it a great way to relax  on a Sunday night, while also getting fired up for the week ahead!

Jon Taffer is considered one of the foremost experts on Bar  Science (yes, apparently that is a thing). Watching his show, what struck me is how similar the Bar & Restaurant business is to the Sports & Entertainment industry. Both are options for leisure time. Both require their staff to work while others play. Both require attracting people to physically come to a destination. Both historically struggle to generate enough revenue to fund their operations.


Getting back to the podcast, Jon mentioned that in the restaurant business, there is a need to market to four visits. He goes on to explain that a person who comes to a restaurant for the first time and has a flawless experience, has only about a 40% chance of returning. Meaning that the majority of your first time customers that you spend so much time and energy convincing to come try your restaurant will never come back, even if they had a great experience.

Say that customer falls in the 40% and actually returns for a second visit. He or she may once again have a flawless experience. The food is delicious and cooked to perfection, the ambience just what they are looking for, the staff friendly and inviting. Surely they must be convinced that your restaurant is worth visiting regularly. And yet after a second flawless experience, statistically still only a 40% chance of returning.

So now your down to  40% of the 40% who decide to try your restaurant for a third time. Their meal is perfect, the ambience just right, the staff friendly and inviting, the facilities clean. An all around perfect third experience. All of a sudden, the likelihood they come back jumps to over 70%. A tipping point is reached.

Keep in mind that this example requires three perfect visits just to get a 70% chance that someone will come back a fourth time. Imagine if one of those experiences is bad? Good luck getting them back now.


Jon explains that in order to build true fans and loyal customers, that we need to market to three visits not just one. In his example, he suggests when a customer is seated in the restaurant, to ask them politely if this is their first time. This question is often asked, but primarily as a means of making small talk. If it is their first time, place a red napkin in front of them instead of the standard white; this identifies to the entire staff that this is a first time customer. After the meal, have the chef come out and ask them how they enjoyed the experience, and offer them a personalized handwritten coupon to come back to try another menu item.

Upon the second visit, the customer uses the coupon which tells the staff that they are a second visit customer. After another flawless experience, the chef comes out to thank them for coming back and offers them another personalized handwritten coupon to return. At each visit, the patron is identified by what stage they are at in their journey, and the experience is adjusted to meet them.

When I heard this example, I thought “wow, that’s so simple yet so genius!”


Take this and apply it to your organization. How are you identifying your first, second and third time customers? What are you doing for your first time customers to entice them to come back a second time? How are you one upping yourself each time to give the customer reason to come back a third time?