Customers at dinner enjoying the restaurant loyalty programs

5 Effective Restaurant Loyalty Programs, Plus Tips For Success

One of the best ways to keep customers coming back to sample your fare is to implement restaurant loyalty programs into your workflow. But what type of system is right for your business?

In this article, the restaurant-management experts at Sling discuss some of the best ideas and give you tips for making your restaurant loyalty program great.

What Is Customer Loyalty?

Coffee shop with a restaurant loyalty program

Before we get to the place where the rubber meets the road, so to speak, it helps to get familiar with what’s driving that rubber.

In this case, we’re talking about customer loyalty.

Customer loyalty is the measure of a consumer’s willingness to do repeat business with your company or brand.

Defining characteristics of customer loyalty include:

  • Not easily influenced by availability or pricing of other brands
  • Willing to pay a premium for a familiar product or service
  • Provide feedback on how to improve products or services
  • Willing to try other products or services from the same business
  • Understanding when issues arise
  • Not actively searching for a different brand
  • Willing to refer your product or service to their friends and family

This may seem like a near-impossible task — and one customer may not exhibit all of these traits, no matter how hard you try — but there are steps your business can take to make it much easier to achieve.

Chief among those steps is restaurant loyalty programs.

Effective Restaurant Loyalty Programs

Customers eating lunch and enjoying the benefits of the restaurant loyalty programs

1) Loyalty Points

One of the most common restaurant loyalty programs is the point system.

With loyalty points, when customers spend their money at your establishment, they earn points based on how much they spend (e.g., 20 points for every $10 spent).

The customers can then use those points to purchase perks or items from your menu (e.g., 100 points for a free dessert).

2) Preferred Seating

Another easy and effective perk for your restaurant loyalty programs is preferred seating.

When you have tables to spare, earmark the sweet spots (e.g., on the patio, on the terrace, in a secluded booth) for any loyalty members who might come in.

This is a great way to make your returning customers feel valued.

3) Skip The Line

Loyalty programs that give members the ability to skip the line are a simple and effective way to generate return business.

Consider putting this perk into play on special days (e.g., Valentine’s Day, during the big game, or other sports final) or during high-traffic times (e.g., the lunch rush, Friday night, etc.).

The option to skip the line is also an effective advertisement for non-members — they’ll see program members walk right in and want to get that advantage, too.

4) Tiered Restaurant Loyalty Programs

Tiered loyalty programs are the perfect way to attract new members and encourage existing members to return while, at the same time, increasing order value and frequency.

The rewards can take any form, but here’s a common system you can implement in your business:

  1. 1-4 Orders: Earn points worth 10% off your order
  2. 5-9 Orders: Earn points worth 15% off your order
  3. 10+ Orders: Earn points worth 20% off your order

5) Secret Menu

Another perk that return customers love is the secret menu.

Create a secret menu that only those customers with a certain number of loyalty points can order from. Make it even more attractive by changing the options every so often.

Tips For Successful Restaurant Loyalty Programs

Top view of two people eating burgers

1) Go Digital

Where restaurant loyalty programs are concerned, one of the best tips is to go digital.

While punch cards and plastic key tags were once the go-to option, customers now want something they can access on their phones.

Consider building a simple app that gives members access to their points and rewards so they don’t have to keep track of a card or tag.

Digital options also make it easier to gather information, build a mailing list, and keep track of preferences so your team can offer the most personalized service possible.

2) Keep It Simple

Whatever system you choose to put in place, do your best to keep it simple.

Most consumers understand the concept of loyalty points and don’t need a lot of explanation to grasp that after five visits they can earn more money off their next order.

Anything more complicated than that could cause confusion and may deter customers from participating fully.

3) Train FOH Staff On Your Loyalty Program

A crucial aspect of every successful rewards system is ensuring that your front-of-house staff (FOH) understands, values, and promotes the restaurant loyalty programs whenever possible.

To do this, train your servers, food runners, bartenders, and all other customer-facing positions in the art of suggestive selling (upselling). Encourage them to promote the program at every opportunity.

4) Show Customers What They’re Missing

An effective way to drive enrollment in your restaurant loyalty programs is to show customers what they’re missing. This generates a fear of missing out that motivates non-members to get involved.

The perfect place to do this is on your social media accounts, on your website, and through email blasts that reach a large number of customers.

5) Use Your Receipts

Most customers want a record of their transaction (receipt), so take advantage of that fact and market your restaurant loyalty programs there.

There are many ways to do this, including:

  • Giving access to a website where they can sign up
  • Printing a QR code they can scan to download an app
  • Rewarding them with a discount on their next visit if they take a survey

The sky’s the limit on what you can do with your receipts, so make this a part of your restaurant loyalty programs as soon as possible.

6) Make It Fun

Another great way to boost enrollment in your program is by making the entire process as fun as possible. If you’ve got an app, consider making it interactive in some way.

For example, one business offers a scratch-off feature in which members can run their finger over a spot on their smartphone to reveal a prize underneath (just like the lottery option everyone is familiar with).

This is a fun way to get customers coming back to your app — and your restaurant — on a regular basis.

Perfect Your Restaurant Loyalty Programs

Inside sling app

One of the best tips for creating a successful restaurant loyalty program is making time to work on the program itself.

While it’s true that you can create a rewards program in just a few hours, that’s not the end of it. To cultivate real customer loyalty, you have to examine, revise, and perfect your system until it’s the best it can be.

That takes time.

And in a busy manager’s day, it can be hard to find a free moment to think, let alone try to come up with a reward that your customers will love.

But there is a solution.

Schedule your day wisely and set aside a block of time when you can think about your restaurant loyalty program without interruption.

The Sling app can help!

This powerful software suite is the perfect tool to keep you organized and on task so that when it comes time to focus on your business’s rewards program, you’ll have plenty of time to spare.

Plus, Sling can do wonders for the rest of your business.

Whether it’s workforce management, workforce optimization, or a long list of other activities, Sling makes it easy to:

  • Produce the best schedule possible
  • Communicate with your employees
  • Track and analyze numbers like labor costs, paid-time-off, and overtime
  • Keep your team on task
  • Track and report key workforce metrics
  • Export data for streamlined payroll processing
  • Organize team work hours with a built-in time clock and time and attendance tools
  • And much more…

These features give you unrivaled control over the many variables that make managing your business so complicated and chaotic.

And with more time on your hands for other tasks, you can take the responsibility of improving your restaurant loyalty programs more seriously than ever.

For more free resources to help you manage your business better, organize and schedule your team, and track and calculate labor costs, visit today.

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This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal, tax, HR, or any other professional advice. Please contact an attorney or other professional for specific advice.

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