Pick Your Most Effective Rewards Method
Whether it’s making an app for your restaurant or going a more traditional route (punch card, key tag, POS program, email marketing), know what your customer base likes best. For example, if your customers are less tech-savvy, building a loyalty app won’t work as well as a punch card. If you’re a modern fine-casual restaurant catering to Millennials, creating that app for returning customers may help expand your program faster than email marketing.
Penn Station East Coast Subs made an app for their restaurant that’s integrated into their online ordering system. This allows customers to order quickly and automatically earn points. Sarah Baker, marketing coordinator at Penn Station, says because everyone has their smartphone with them nowadays, loyalty program apps make it easier for their customers to feel special while getting rewarded. Once you’ve figured out the method that suits your customer base, next comes implementation.
Decide on Your Rewards, Then Educate Staff Ahead of Program Launch
“If a brand doesn’t invest the time and effort to make sure that managers and staff understand [the loyalty program] intimately, then they’re going to create a lot of potential problems with your customers,” explains Craig Dunaway, president of Penn Station East Coast Subs.
It’s crucial your employees know, ahead of program launch, the reward levels and program fundamentals, how customers can join, and anything technical that may trip them up. The more staff know, the better they can explain your loyalty program’s value to your customers and increase sign ups.
Don’t Run Straight For Discounts
“We never discount…we choose to surprise and reward fully,” explains Kyle Gordon, owner/founder of Dillas Quesadillas, “Don’t get into the price wars like [other restaurants] have, and constantly try to bring customers back with only discounts.”
Dillas Quesadillas grew their “Dillas Diehard” loyalty base to 30,000 email subscribers through campaigns that offer value over cut-rate prices. Consumers immediately receive free chips and queso when they sign up for the loyalty program, and free Dillas from time to time.
When your restaurant loyalty program is built on a foundation of discounts and coupons, it can quickly crumble because of the impression of your brand. Think about how you want to portray who you are as a brand, says Dunaway. If you’re always discounting to drive loyalty, what does that say about your food quality? What’s the feeling your customers get about how much you believe in your restaurant? He adds, if you’re always enticing return trips through low prices, are your customers truly loyal to your brand, or just a good deal?
Learn From the Masters
“Chick-fil-A and Starbucks are my heroes because they create loyalty by acting as their customers’ wallets,” explains Gordon. “It’s easy for consumers to pay, and then these brands become embedded in the rhythm of customers’ lives.”
“Because loyalty is an extension of habit,” he adds, “If you can create some level of consistency, ease, one less thing to worry about, and brew the loyalty, it makes it that much easier [to create return visits].”
Brands with exceptional customer loyalty program ideas like Chipotle, McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Chick-fil-A, crafted programs worthy of customers’ attention. It’s not just a loyalty card, it’s a credit card with loyalty perks, explains Gordon. Those bigger brands are integrated into how customers pay for products, earn points, redeem, and view return visits.
If you can create an experience that’s essentially automatic for your customers, like an email drip campaign or app that offers superb rewards for returning customers, you’ll see your loyalty program boom.
Honing into Long-Lasting Loyalty
Customers are only as loyal as the brand is consistent, explains Gordon, which trickles down to quality food, hospitable staff, and a unique experience. If you’re failing on these metrics, experts say you’re squashing your restaurant’s loyalty program potential.
“That’s what drives loyalty…the consistency of the whole experience. It’s constantly clean. It’s constantly good. I constantly get a thank you,” says Gordon. Plus, if you keep your customers in the loop about how you’re giving back to the community, that makes them feel even better about return visits and rewards, he adds.
Your staff needs to talk up your loyalty program at all touchpoints as well. From the first interaction to when customers receive their meal to when they leave, Baker says it needs to be a constant part of your everyday business.
“With loyalty, it’s, ‘Hey, we understand you tried that new place, but don’t forget about us…just make sure you keep us in your circle of friends,’” explains Gordon. “That’s how I look at it, and that’s the reason to do it. Do it for the right reasons. Don’t do it because it’s a checkbox.”
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