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Please Don't: 6 Things to Avoid in Restaurant Loyalty Programs

Jan 05, 2018

By now, you're probably aware of the benefits of starting a restaurant loyalty program: Higher traffic, higher average checks, etc. Truly, it pays to reward your best customers and keep them coming back.

But with these programs, as in so many other things, the devil is in the details. Here are a few missteps you should avoid to ensure your loyalty program is the success you want it to be.

  1. Don't charge your customers to participate. Yes, Amazon charges for Amazon Prime, but Amazon is Amazon, and the rewards they can offer; like streaming thousands of movies for free and free two-day delivery, have quite a bit more value than a free dessert. According to Technomic, 2 out of 3 consumers won't join a restaurant loyalty program that charges a fee, so make things easy on yourself and let that idea go. A well-designed loyalty program should pay for itself.

  2. Don't make it hard to join or understand. Consumers are concerned about volunteering personal information. Only require basic information to sign up in person, online or on your loyalty app (some platforms only require a phone number or email, for instance). Make sure the process for earning points and redeeming rewards is straightforward. Let customers decide and choose how and how often they want to be communicated with via email, text, push notifications on your app, etc.

  3. Don't skimp on your rewards... Chintzy rewards are one of the biggest reasons customers opt out of participating in loyalty programs. Technomic's research suggests 1 in 2 potential participants won't join if they perceive the rewards aren't valuable enough.

  4. On the other hand, don't go overboard either. With average restaurant margins running in the low single digits, you can't afford to overdo your rewards either. Consider including rewards where the perceived value is high, but the cost isn't, like priority reservations on busy nights for loyalty program members. Do the math to ensure your program is building your bottom line, not draining it.

  5. Don't make your rewards unattainable. Tier your program so participants can earn lower-level rewards early on. At the same time, make sure your heavy users are feeling with love with exclusive offers, experiences and privileges only they get.

  6. Don't forget to check back in. Getting patrons to sign up is only half the battle. Keeping them engaged is where most loyalty programs fall down. You have all kinds of reasons to reach out: to report latest points total, to notify when they've qualified for a reward, to let them know when points are at risk of expiring, to inform them of special deals, etc. Just be reasonable about the number of times you send messages or risk losing them.

Most of all, make sure your program is fun, interesting and relevant to your brand.