So you’ve decided to put a restaurant loyalty program in place? Congratulations! This is one of the best ways to drive customers to your restaurant. However, there are so many reasons why loyalty programs don’t work. For every great loyalty program, there are countless bad ones.
So what can a restaurant do to make a better loyalty program that attracts new guests, but more importantly, brings old guests back?
Let’s start with the do’s and don’ts. Better yet, let’s start with the absolutely not’s!
DON’T start a loyalty program without giving your customers incentive to sign up.
Just asking them to join isn’t enough. Think about what’s in it for them! No one wants to get spammed with emails that are not pertinent to them or their needs. A customer will always be reluctant to provide you with their contact information; this shouldn’t be a surprise. But if there is an immediate reason for them to sign up – that’ll do it!
Most of your customers see it as a time waster: either they don’t want to spend the time filling out their email address, or they don’t want to read your emails. Providing them with immediate incentive, coupled with future incentive, is the best and easiest way to gain valuable customer data and start ramping up your loyalty program.
For example, imagine visiting your favorite coffee shop or baker. If your barista said, “Would you like to join our loyalty program?” the most common answer is most likely, “Not today.”
Now imagine that question was asked in a different way, providing incentives on the spot: “Did you know that if you join our loyalty program, you’ll receive 10% off today’s purchase?” You’re still asking them to give you their information, but you’ve also created a win/win scenario for you and the customer. Now you have their contact information and can create a targeted marketing campaign to get them back into your restaurant!
DON'T require customers to carry a punch card or remember a rewards number.
This strategy is old! No one carries around punch cards or memorizes their rewards account number anymore… Do you? Restaurant loyalty programs should make your guests' lives easier, not require them to do even more work.
The more tasks required of your guests, the less likely they are to sign up. Again, always ask: “What’s in it for them?”
The easest way to get around punch cards or rewards numbers is to tie their customer profiles directly to their credit card. This way, the customer doesn’t need to track anything, remember anything, or present anything in order to earn rewards. Every time that credit card is swiped, they are accumulating points.
DON'T reach out to your customers during your slowest times.
They know what you’re trying to do, and it can drive them crazy! Think about it in a different way – every business owner knows that they want their best customers dining at their busiest times. Think about the power of segmenting your list of customers by “biggest tipper,” or “biggest spender,” and telling them to make a reservation.
Here’s a simple example: if you are starting to fill up your reservations on Mother’s Day, you should reach out to your best customers and tell them! “Our tables are filling up fast for Mother’s Day; make sure to make your reservation early this year! Also, if you show this email to your server on Mother’s Day you’ll receive a delicious dessert treat on us!”
DO stand out from the crowd.
So what can you DO to make your rewards program a success? Stand out from the crowd! In a world obsessed with loyalty, coupons, daily deals, rewards, and incentives, everyone is aware of what’s out there – you should dare to be different.
Take your loyalty program and enhance it to set it apart from a saturated market of incentives. Make it your own! You know your customers, you know the type of people they are, and you know the theme/attitude of your restaurant – use it!
DO make your restaurant loyalty program tiered.
Make it tiered – reward your best customers in a way that let’s them know they are your best customers! For every $100 you can get $10 back, but for every $200 get $25 and for every $500 get $100. Providing many different ways to cash out your rewards creates a subconscious need to go back.
An easy way to get guests to come back is to set reminders. If you haven’t been back to a restaurant in a while, you probably don’t remember that you are one cheeseburger away from a free one, or two café latte’s away from free coffee for a month – LET THEM KNOW!
My favorite email is the one that a restaurant sends me when I’m close to my threshold.A local company here in Chicago let’s me know when I’m one or two transactions away from a reward. The email says something simple like, “Jeff, you’re only 2 purchases away from your free meal – come by today!” A simple reminder like this can make all the difference in the world. If you’re not doing this today, you’re missing out on easy revenue and great business.
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes; what would you want your favorite restaurant to send you? How would YOU like to be compensated for your many visits? The more you think like a customer, the better your loyalty program will be, and the better your loyalty program is, the better your business will be!
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