7 Ways to Create Restaurant Loyalty Programs That Actually Work

Do customers even care about loyalty programs? A 2019 study conducted by Bond found that loyalty programs do, in fact, influence consumer behavior and stimulate “positive momentum.”

  • 79% said that loyalty programs make them more likely to have repeat business with a brand.
  • 73% said they are more likely to recommend a business with a good loyalty program.
  • 66% will spend more in order to maximize loyalty benefits.
  • On average, a consumer will enroll in 14.8 loyalty program memberships, but only actively participate in 6.7 of them.

In any given community, restaurants tend to cluster and bloom, meaning the area becomes a prime location and so more will set up shop. 

It becomes more challenging to get repeat business when there are so many dining options offered. Giving customers the opportunity to opt-in to a restaurant loyalty program both nurtures long-term relationships and incentivizes repeat visits. 

Here are seven ways to create an effective restaurant loyalty program.


1. Create a Digital Restaurant Loyalty Program

We are creatures of convenience. Expecting customers to keep up with restaurant loyalty cards is an up in the air arrangement. People lose cards, change wallets, forget to put them on their key chains, etc.

Many have turned digital by registering users in a database using phone numbers and email addresses. This opt-in makes it more convenient for them to track their patronage without the hassle of having to have a card on them at all times. They simply enter their phone number or email address when checking in. 

This also gives you more marketing power. You can gain insights with who is using the system and how often. It also allows you to get opt-ins for email and text communications. 

Being able to email or text a customer about a special at a key time during the day can influence their decisions. They weren’t craving your food before they saw the message, but now they are!

Also keep in mind the age of your customers. If your patronage is a mix of older and younger people, you might offer a hybrid of both tangible cards and digital op-in.

The good news is that you don’t have to build this system from scratch. These programs are already created and designed to work with your business. Depending on what kind of POS system you use, you may already have this capability. 

Contact your POS system representative and ask if they have a rewards system set up already. If they don’t have this feature, you can choose from a variety of options.


2. Getting the Customer to Dip Their Foot In

It’s understandable when people do not want to hand their information over. From pestering emails, phone calls, and texts to discovering their information has been sold, people are leery of sharing their contact info.

So, how do you wear down those defenses? Use reassurance and/or rewards. 

Make sure the system you are using is respectful of privacy and tell your customers that you do not allow their information to be used for any other purpose or passed on to a third party.

Next, offer a gift for first-time sign ups. This could be a freebie or a discount coupon for their next visit.


3. Make Your Program As Easy and Simple as Possible

Put yourself in your customers shoes. Would you want to fill out a long application or have to answer a lot of questions when you’re hungry?

Some systems will allow the patron to enter their email address and phone number themselves so they don’t have to read them aloud to the cashier.

Incomplete applications will stay… incomplete. Making the application process quick and user friendly means more completed opt-ins. More members enrolled means more participation. Participation makes the program successful.

4. Train Staff About the Rewards Program

Getting the best ROI on a rewards program means spearheading it in your customer service space. You’ll need the help of your workforce to make this happen.

  • Evangelize: Make your staff fully aware of how this program benefits both the business and the customers. A kickoff party would build excitement!
  • Mobilize: Make it part of the script. Have them ask everyone if they are a member and instruct them on how to introduce the program to potential new members.
  • Enable: Make sure your staff knows how to apply rewards to transactions, how to answer questions, troubleshoot, and simplify the process. It should be quick and painless for both customers and staff.

The goal is to make it easy for your staff so that it’s easy for your customers. If it becomes a hassle, your staff may be reluctant to implement it and your customers will be turned off by it. Seize this prime opportunity to get repeat customers by enabling the entire process to be user-friendly. 

5. Promote Rewards on Social Media

You don’t have to wait for patrons to visit to tell them about the rewards program. Blast it on your social media channels!

Consider an ads campaign to launch your new loyalty program. Perhaps offer a little extra to sweeten the deal with social media rewards. 

Offering a separate incentive for social media loyalty program prospects may encourage initial visits and build interest in the program. Those who already know what it’s about may be more likely to say yes.

Some local establishments will reward social media check-ins with an offer of some kind. Check ins or posts that tag your location are free influencer advertising. Everyone on their friends list will have seen your brand.

6. Use Your Loyalty Program to Celebrate Your Guests

People love to be recognized. Celebrate their loyalty and celebrate them as individuals. 

Consider a longevity reward. If they’ve been a member for (let’s say) 5 years, you could offer them a freebie or discount. This gets them back in your restaurant if it’s been awhile.

Make it personal. When you register their date of birth, you can then offer them a gift to redeem in your restaurant when the time comes. Maybe they weren’t planning on doing anything for their birthday but you gave them a reason to go out and celebrate. 

Maybe they were weighing their options of where to go for a birthday dinner, and knowing they get a free treat prompted them to invite their friends to meet at your place. A birthday reward has a good chance of bringing a group in that could not only turn into a bigger tab, but also creates an opportunity to generate more program subscribers.

7. Offer Free Wifi to Those Who Sign Up

Free WiFi is everywhere but some businesses don’t like to give it to just anyone. Ask for something in return for this amenity by prompting people to register their email address as a login. 

Remember to ask for permission to use the email for marketing purposes. Those who agree to it are better to market to than those who don’t want it.


Best Restaurant Loyalty Programs Examples

But don’t take our word for it. Here are some wildly successful loyalty programs examples!

1. Starbucks:

According to the Bond study, “gamification drives program enjoyment.” With Starbucks you earn free products based on a tiered points system. The more drinks you buy, the better the prizes. 

While Starbucks has a reputation for being overpriced, this rewards program offers customers a better value for repeat patronage. It also serves as a status symbol. 

Starbucks saw a revenue of $2.65 billion, and noted that the rewards program was mostly responsible for this surge. Over two years their membership expanded 25%, and a base of 16 million reward members made up 40% of retail sales. 


2. Chili’s

From over 1,600 locations, Chili’s was able to build a loyalty program of over 6 million members. Chili’s has gone with a highly personalized design. 

  • Patrons have the option of free chips & salsa or a non-alcoholic beverage on each visit.
  • Rewards with the user’s needs in mind such as a free kids’ meal, appetizers, desserts, etc.
  • A free birthday dessert!
  • Saving user’s favorites with 1-tap reorder on the loyalty mobile app.


3. Chik-fil-a

This chicken spot has surged in popularity. Perhaps you’ve seen the one in your neighborhood with long lines wrapped around it. Patrons are not only coming back in droves, they are earning points while doing it. With the Chik-fil-a system, you earn points that lead you through a tier system. It’s gamification meets status as you move up in levels. A goal of customer lifetime value makes it one of the best food rewards programs.

Chik-fil-a One sets itself apart with a spirit of giving. Those who

reach Silver or Red status have the option to gift rewards to friends or donate a meal through a Chick-fil-A partnership with Feeding Children Everywhere. And of course, you get an annual birthday treat!

Above is just a small sample of the best restaurant loyalty programs. A food rewards program that gives back keeps them coming back!


Building the Best Restaurant Loyalty Program Means Knowing Your Customer

Building relationships with customers can be tricky, but it’s necessary. When you invite a customer to opt-in to a loyalty program, you’re inviting them to join a community and begin a relationship with your business. It’s up to you to nurture that relationship.

Customers want value and they want to feel valued. A restaurant reward program loyalty program does both. They get something in return for repeat patronage and they belong to a special club.At Restaurant & Cafe Supplies Online, we seek to provide customer value over a lifetime every day by providing the very best in furniture quality. We hope you’ll take a minute to look over our visually stunning and long wearing restaurant table tops!

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