restaurant rewards programs | 7 mins read

The Ultimate Guide to Implementing Restaurant Rewards Programs

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Sanchari Chatterjee

By Sanchari Chatterjee

What is a Restaurant Rewards Program?

The restaurant rewards program is a system designed to reward the loyalty of restaurant customers in the form of bonus points that can be redeemed for later purchases or freebies. Restaurants keep track of each of their customer and their purchase patterns and award points for every purchase that qualifies for the benefits scheme. This way, they can extend benefits to their loyal customers to show appreciation and prompt patrons to keep coming back.

Marketers have always maintained that it is much easier to retain an existing customer than net a new one. This is where loyalty programs come in. Some of the top restaurant loyalty programs help their businesses grow by expanding their customer base through discounts on menu items, free food and merchandise, and even access to special events like concerts.

Why Does a Restaurant Need a Rewards Program?

The Covid-19 pandemic has hit the retail business like a hurricane and restaurants, cafes, bars and other foodservice establishments have been dealt the biggest blow of all. In its aftermath, restaurants have struggled to draw back their old customers, many of whom were lost to competitors. Customer loyalty programs are just the ticket that can bring old regulars back.

According to the 2020 Bond Loyalty Report, 78% of customers surveyed said they were more likely to continue buying from businesses that had a customer loyalty scheme to reward purchases. Successful loyalty programs don't just bring back existing patrons, they draw in new customers too when word of their rewards goes around.

When a restaurant rewards members with bonus points for every dollar spent, or free food for their frequent visits, it is likely to win an edge over other brands that do not have loyalty programs to offer.

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How to Set Up Your Restaurant Rewards Program

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In order to make sure your customer loyalty program helps you stay ahead of the competition and improves your business, you need to build the following features into your platform.

1. Reward customer visits-
Find a way to reward each customer visit with bonus points, free food, free dessert, or birthday rewards. Even the smallest gestures count and if you cannot afford to give away freebies for every visit, let your loyal customers earn points with their bills.

2. Keep the loyalty program simple-
A simple and easy-to-use points system will help your customers pick up deals easily and stay with your restaurant for the long run, as they try to notch up more points. If the system is easy to understand and the rewards can be seen on demand, it will delight your customers and push them to keep coming back.

3. Offer unique rewards-
While it is a known fact that free food will reap benefits, try other innovative rewards that are personalized and appeal to individual customers and their choices. As part of the rewards program, try handing out experiences and exclusive access to special events, such as sponsored concerts, game nights, etc.

4. Use a mobile app-
Like they review their bank balance, people love checking out how many bonus points they have collected. A loyalty program that supports a mobile app, like Zip Loyalty by Hubworks, allows customers to check in and out of the program, keep track of events, offers, discounts etc. directly through their mobile app.

5. Seek feedback-
Engage with your customers. Establish a direct channel of communication with them and seek their feedback to improve not only your restaurant service, but also the loyalty program. Always address the concerns raised by your patrons, resolving them in a prompt and amicable manner and keep

Key Challenges of Establishing a Restaurant Rewards Program

1. It is very important in a Customer Loyalty program to accurately maintain the rewards logs, customer account details and reward calendars you plan to implement in the future. You cannot have a situation where you announce an offer but fail to deliver on time.

2. Personalization of the rewards program reaps great benefits, but getting the right rewards for every customer can be a challenge. Find a way to club different types of customers into groups and plan rewards according to these types.

3. Rewards such as free food, free dessert or other menu items can help you win loyal customers, but if this is overused, it can lead to losses that may eat into your revenue.

4. Another key aspect of running a successful restaurant loyalty scheme is keeping track of all the loyal customers and their visits and purchase patterns, so that you can push your menu items, rewards and special events accordingly.

5. It is important to establish an effective communication channel with your patrons. Be it through emails or text messages, phone calls, a valuable channel can help you get feedback and also run promotions whenever necessary.

How to Tell if Your Rewards Program is Effective

You will know when it's working when both, you and your customers are smiling!

  • Your existing customers keep coming back and are satisfied with your restaurant.
  • You have created a large number of new customers, who also prove their customer loyalty.
  • All your patrons are spreading the good word about your brand and your loyalty program.
  • The referral program, in which your customers can invite their friends and family in return for more benefits, is helping you expand your network.
  • You are receiving positive feedback on your communication channels.
  • Your tables are full on most days.

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Try it free for 14 days.

Top 5 Restaurant Rewards Programs

You may want the Best Loyalty program in the market, but you need to consider the individual needs of your business and the budget you have before you go shopping. In any case, here are the industry's top rewards programs to inspire you-

1. Starbucks Rewards-
Starbucks rewards members with Stars for every dollar spent on orders from its cafes and online stores. The company also has a pre-load Starbucks Card system that customers can use to make payments. The Starbucks Rewards program is one of the most popular loyalty programs today, covering a vast customer base around the world. From free refills, to birthday rewards and free food items, the different tiers of its rewards program offer different kinds of gifts that push customers to make repeat purchases.

2. Chick Fil A One by Chick-fil-A-
Fast food giant Chick-fil-A offers a tiered customer loyalty scheme for every online and offline purchase of its menu items. Chick fil A's rewards program is known for organizing special events like basketball tournaments, football games and concerts that members get access to. The four-tier rewards system hands out points per dollar; with more points, the levels go up and so do the rewards.

3. Fridays Rewards by TGI Fridays-
TGIF offers its new customers a free appetizer upon joining the loyalty program and awards one point for every dollar spent. The freebies keep coming even after joining the rewards program; there are always free chips or free salsa for every dining experience. There are more rewards if you get your friends and family to join the program too.

4. MyPanera by Panera Bread-
Panera Bread rewards program is also a popular customer loyalty scheme for bakeries and cafes that offers free treats, savings and a free dessert upon joining. You also get 30 days of free delivery with the MyPanera rewards program, along with special offers and surprises that keep coming in.

5. Red Robin Royalty Rewards Program by Red Robin-
Reb Robin hands out a free gourmet burger to its new customers who join the Red Robin Royalty Rewards Program. Win addition, every tenth item ordered is free. As a special gesture, the company offers U.S. Army officers and teachers special offers and rewards.

Restaurant Rewards Program FAQs

Q. Can customer loyalty programs be linked with other restaurant management software?
A- Yes, restaurant loyalty programs often come bundled with inventory management software or point-of-sale systems, such as Zip Inventory or Toast POS. It is a simple process to integrate restaurant management software with loyalty programs. This will help you keep track of your sales and maintain your customer database.

Q- Can small restaurants also have loyalty programs?
A- Restaurants of all shapes and sizes can afford to run a loyalty program if they are looking to broaden their customer base and nurture their existing customers.

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