Customers want your business to be fresh, not stale; inspiring, not gloomy. The love you put into it will be contagious and will contribute to your success, writes Ken Burgin. 

You want your restaurant or caf to be 'the local'. The first one families think of when deciding where to eat for the little one's birthday, or to celebrate a new job. To ensure your business is front of mind for these occasions, you need to make your patrons not just feel welcome, but feel like they're part of the family.  

Here are some great ways to establish and nurture a warm and fuzzy personal connection between staff, managers and customers.  

1. We love to have hard work rewarded. Has a local business completed a mammoth project, or students achieved excellent results? Offer a special treat for winners of the school sports carnival, debating competition or best achievers in exam results. Ask local bosses to nominate a winning worker for special commendation. 

2. People love to be inspired. Share the story of one of your workers who's overcome the odds to hold a job or achieve something special – customers give extra points to you for supporting them. Put a photo and a brief story on the noticeboard, and get staff to wear name tags so connections can be made. If there's a local organisation you support that's done something special, ask them to share a story.  

3. We love our town. Regular support for sporting teams, the school and charity groups keeps customers loyal and connected. Get behind local causes like parking issues, over-development and conservation – now you're one of us. 

4. People love to laugh. Add a weekly quote about food on the noticeboard – like the one from baseball player Yogi Berra, "You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I'm not hungry enough to eat eight" or '"There's no better feeling in the world than a warm pizza box on your lap". Google restaurant or cafe quotes and jokes – there's no shortage! 

5. People love the owners. If you're an independent or family-run business, when's the last time you shared a photo of your family, or one of you (without grey hair) when you opened all those years ago? Pictures make stories easy to share, with milestones, awards and staff events. Add a news diary (blog) to your website and keep adding more. People love to hear 'how we made it' stories – they won't make the TV news, but you do make thousands of people happy each year. Share your pride. 

6. People love photos. Snap, snap, snap with your mobile phone or a camera kept at the shop to record parties, special customers and behind-the-scenes activity. But don't post them up without checking and editing – easy to do with free software like Picasa (PC and Mac) or Snapseed on your phone. Take several shots of each scene and choose the best, then brighten them and post to your Facebook page  – this will drive constant visitor traffic. 

7. Share about pets. No, don't bring them into the shop, but regardless of whether your customers are 'cat' people or 'dog' people, they will no doubt love hearing stories, seeing them and even getting life lessons from them. Could Henry the dog be the one that offers a Tip of the Week on your noticeboard? Could the best pet photo earn a prize in a random competition one month?  

8. People love events. Beyond the usual ones on Valentine's Day and Mother's Day, every month has possibilities. Here are a few ideas for October, so you can be prepared: 

  • Oktoberfest – think German flavours and great beer. 
  • Sputnik launched on 4 October, 1957 (one for the baby-boomers) 
  • World Teachers' Day – Monday, 5 October. Make friends with your local schoolies. 
  • Halloween is on Saturday, 31 October – find new ways to be creative with pumpkin!

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