Blog Post / February 3, 2021 / Best Practices

Build a Better Restaurant Loyalty Program With These 8 Elements of Loyalty

by Bobby Khaleghian

Customer loyalty is a critical element of the hospitality industry. According to a study by the Harvard Business Review, a 5% increase in customer loyalty can boost sales by up to 95%. When the same customers return to your restaurant time and time again, they can help sustain your business and make it a long-term success.

But how do you entice guests to frequent your restaurant? A restaurant loyalty program can help turn your first-time guests into regulars, and influence regulars to visit more frequently and spend more with you. However, it takes more than just punchcards to keep guests coming back.

In order to create a rewards program that engages customers, you’ll need to go beyond a basic strategy. Incorporate these key elements of effective loyalty programs at your restaurant to boost customer lifetime value:

8 Elements of loyalty for an effective restaurant rewards program

Mix and match these elements to create a successful loyalty program.

1. FUN

Gamification has been shown to increase customer engagement by 47%. Gamifying your loyalty program will make it more effective.

Whether you’re starting with a traditional punchcard rewards program or an app-based customer loyalty program, gamify it with tiers or points. Points and tiers incentivize purchases because guests want to level up! Customers will want to visit your restaurant more frequently to reach the next level and get closer to their next reward. When your loyalty program makes guests think that they’re playing a game, they’ll find it easier to part with their money, and your revenue will grow incrementally.

Starbucks’s loyalty program, for example, has a two-tier system with a green level and a gold level. Customers want to reach gold because it helps them accrue rewards faster. Plus, when customers get enough points to reach this level, Starbucks sends them a physical gold card that looks cool and is a status symbol.

Levels and points gamify your customer loyalty program, make guests feel appreciated for their dedication, and incentivize guests to spend more.

2. REWARDS

Rewards are a critical element of loyalty programs that work. Rewards give guests an incentive to keep dining at your restaurant.

Give customers discounts, gift cards, or freebies after they spend a certain amount of money with you or join you for a certain number of meals. Keep your rewards strategy simple by equating dollars to points to make guests more likely to participate.

3. PERKS

In addition to giving guests rewards for their loyalty, you should also offer them perks when they reach a certain tier in your loyalty program.

For example, you can track lifetime spend and give regulars a special status when they spend a certain amount. With this status, they can access premier tables on high-demand days or get early access to holiday reservations.

When your restaurant loyalty program offers customers perks that money can’t buy, they’ll be more likely to spend money with you to get them.

4. CONSISTENCY

Don’t let guests sign up for your loyalty program and then forget about it. Stay top of mind by marketing to customers via email and SMS in a consistent cadence. Send your loyalty program members regular reminders about how close they are to their next reward. When you use guest management software to automate these reminders, you’ll increase customer loyalty and overall revenue with just a few clicks.

5. PERSONALIZATION

Surprise and delight guests with personalized offers. Use your restaurant’s customer management system to track guest preferences and send targeted offers to loyalty program members based on these preferences.

Let’s say your restaurant is planning a vegan dessert week. Email invitations to customers who have vegan tags on their guest profiles. They’ll be more likely to take you up on your offer than customers who haven’t already shown an interest in your menu’s vegan options.

Make targeted marketing a cornerstone element of your restaurant’s loyalty program.

6. LISTENING

Your customer loyalty program members are your restaurant’s most invested customers. Make them feel heard and appreciated by asking for their feedback.

Send guests a survey after each meal and ask them to review their experience. After reviewing the survey results, don’t just file these answers away and never look at them again. Use feedback to improve your restaurant. For example, you could add a guest-favorite special menu item to your regular menu, or promote a stellar server.

Record specific feedback from survey respondents on their guest profiles. Then, let them know when you’ve made the changes they requested. They’ll be delighted that you value their opinion.

7. STAR TREATMENT

Make loyalty program members feel like VIPs with exclusive experiences. Invite them to members-only events like wine tastings or live music performances that take place virtually or at your restaurant.

Customers will spend more money at your restaurant when they feel appreciated. When you show your loyalty program members your gratitude by creating special experiences for them, you’ll generate more revenue and create a sense of community around your restaurant.

8. FLAIR

Make your restaurant’s loyalty program stand out with your own flavor of flair. The language and imagery you use in loyalty program communications should be consistent with your restaurant’s branding.

If you’re using a loyalty program that automates emails and SMSes, take the time to customize the messaging your guests will receive from your restaurant. If your brand is funny, add some quirky jokes to reward status SMSes. If your brand is luxurious, include elegant imagery in your marketing emails.

Your loyalty program should match the branding, tone, and personality of your restaurant’s communications and guest interactions for a consistent brand experience.

Incorporate these elements of loyalty into your restaurant’s rewards program for maximum impact

Restaurant loyalty programs can go a long way in helping to grow revenue. Instead of imitating competitors’ rewards systems, make yours stand out by incorporating these effective loyalty program elements: fun, rewards, perks, consistency, personalization, listening, the star treatment, and flair.

When you use these restaurant loyalty program ideas, you’ll stand out from the crowd, increase guest engagement, and boost customer lifetime value.

Learn how SevenRooms’s guest engagement platform can help you drive more repeat visits by making every guest feel like a VIP. Request a demo today.

About the Author

Bobby Khaleghian is the Director, Product Marketing at SevenRooms, where he heads up client communications and go-to-market programming. Based out of Los Angeles, he’s always on the hunt for the city's best street tacos.

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