Feeding Loyalty: 4 Ways to Win Hearts and Fill Tables!

Published on Jun 18, 2023

Creating an effective restaurant loyalty program is all about incentivizing repeat business, increasing customer engagement, and enhancing the dining experience. Here are some ideas that might be helpful:

Points program

This is the most common loyalty program methodology. Customers earn points for each dollar spent and can later redeem these points for discounts, free meals, or other rewards.

A points-based loyalty program offers numerous advantages for restaurants. Here’s why it can be a great choice:

  1. Encourages Repeat Business: The most significant advantage of points programs is that they motivate customers to visit again and again to accumulate points. The more they dine, the more points they earn, and the bigger the rewards. This creates a cycle of recurring business.
  2. Increases Spend per Visit: Such programs often encourage customers to spend more per visit. To earn more points, customers may choose more expensive items or add on extras they might not have considered otherwise.
  3. Enhances Customer Engagement: Customers feel a sense of achievement as they see their points accumulate. This engagement can lead to stronger emotional connection and loyalty towards the restaurant.
  4. Provides Valuable Data: By tracking a customer’s points, a restaurant can gain valuable insights into the customer’s preferences and habits. This data can be used to tailor marketing efforts, refine menus, and make other strategic decisions.
  5. Boosts Brand Loyalty: When customers are rewarded for their loyalty with points and subsequently with rewards, it fosters a positive image of the restaurant in their minds. This leads to higher customer satisfaction and cultivates long-term relationships.
  6. Creates Competitive Advantage: Having a robust points program can give a restaurant an edge over competitors. It differentiates the dining experience and offers a tangible value-add for choosing your restaurant over others.
  7. Promotes New or Less Popular Items: Points can be used strategically to promote new menu items or less popular dishes. Offering double points on these items can encourage customers to try them.

Tiered program

In this type of program, customers move up to different levels based on their frequency of visits or amount spent. Higher tiers come with more valuable benefits and rewards.

A tiered loyalty program, where customers earn more significant rewards the more they spend or visit, can be a highly effective strategy for restaurants. Here’s why it’s beneficial:

  1. Encourages More Spending: A tiered system incentivizes customers to spend more to reach higher tiers with better rewards. The prospect of achieving a higher status can drive customers to visit your restaurant more frequently or spend more during each visit.
  2. Fosters Long-Term Loyalty: Unlike a simple points system where customers might stop after earning a few rewards, a tiered program encourages long-term loyalty. Customers will be motivated to maintain their status or reach the next level.
  3. Allows Personalization: Higher tiers can come with more personalized rewards, like a dedicated server, reservations during peak times, or exclusive access to new menu items. This can make customers feel special and valued.
  4. Differentiates Loyal Customers: A tiered program helps identify your most loyal customers. These individuals can be targeted with special promotions or events, further enhancing their loyalty.
  5. Enhances Customer Experience: Offering customers exclusive benefits at higher tiers can significantly enhance the overall dining experience. This can lead to increased customer satisfaction and positive word-of-mouth promotion.
  6. Promotes Exclusivity: The allure of reaching an exclusive, higher tier with added benefits can make a loyalty program more attractive, encouraging more customers to sign up.
  7. Creates a Sense of Achievement: Moving up tiers gives customers a sense of progress and achievement. This can further engage them with the program and your restaurant.

Visit-Based Program

After a certain number of visits, the customer receives a reward. This could be a free appetizer, dessert, or even a free meal.

A visit-based loyalty program, where rewards are based on the frequency of visits rather than the amount spent, can also offer several key advantages for restaurants:

  1. Encourages Repeat Business: Visit-based loyalty programs provide a clear and straightforward incentive for customers to visit the restaurant more frequently. The more they visit, the closer they get to their next reward, encouraging regular patronage.
  2. Accessible to All Customers: Unlike spending-based programs, which might favor customers who spend more, a visit-based program rewards all customers equally, regardless of how much they spend per visit. This can make the program more appealing to a broader range of customers, including those who may not typically spend as much but visit frequently.
  3. Simplicity: Visit-based programs are easy for customers to understand – simply visit a certain number of times and get a reward. This simplicity can make the program more attractive to customers and easier for staff to explain and manage.
  4. Promotes Off-Peak Dining: By making each visit count, regardless of the time or day, you can encourage customers to visit during off-peak hours. For example, customers might choose to visit on a typically slow afternoon to get closer to their reward.
  5. Creates Predictable Patterns: If customers are coming in regularly to earn their rewards, you can start to predict patterns in customer behavior and adjust staffing, inventory, and other operational factors accordingly.
  6. Boosts Customer Satisfaction: The instant gratification of moving closer to a reward with each visit can boost customer satisfaction. When the reward is earned, it further enhances positive feelings about the restaurant, promoting positive reviews and word-of-mouth marketing.

Time-Based Loyalty Program

This could be offering discounts or freebies during off-peak hours. It would encourage customers to visit during times when business is usually slow.

A time-based loyalty program, where rewards or discounts are offered during specific periods, can be very effective for restaurants. Here are a few reasons why it’s beneficial:

  1. Shifts Customer Traffic: Time-based programs can help distribute customer traffic more evenly throughout the day. By offering incentives during typically slow periods, you can encourage more customers to visit during off-peak times, helping to increase overall sales.
  2. Promotes Frequent Visits: Like other types of loyalty programs, a time-based program encourages frequent visits. The more often customers visit to take advantage of time-based rewards, the more loyal they’re likely to become.
  3. Offers Flexibility: These programs are flexible and can be adjusted based on your restaurant’s needs. For example, if you find that Tuesday afternoons are particularly slow, you can offer double points or special discounts during that period to attract more customers.
  4. Drives Urgency: Time-limited offers create a sense of urgency that can motivate customers to visit your restaurant more often or try items they may not normally order.
  5. Enhances Customer Value: By offering special rewards or discounts during certain periods, you make your customers feel valued and appreciated. This, in turn, can boost customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  6. Attracts New Customers: If potential customers know they can get a special deal during certain times, they may be more likely to try out your restaurant, providing an opportunity to convert them into regulars.

Remember, the best loyalty programs are those that provide real value to customers and encourage repeated business. Always consider your specific audience and what would appeal to them most when designing your program.