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  • Writer's pictureMaya

Optimize Your Restaurant’s Loyalty Program

Loyalty programs are an extremely effective strategy for driving continued patronage at your establishment. They build a deeper relationship with customers by creating a symbiotic relationship. You benefit from them returning to do business with you and get incentives, rewards, and other perks for repeatedly buying with their loyalty card.

Reward programs have a significant impact on repeat sales. Large corporations like Starbucks and Dunkin’ have made millions this way, but any independent restaurant can see the instant material benefits. When you care about your customers, they care about you. It’s important to optimize your loyalty programs to drive repeat sales, and to do that, you need to find out what works best for your particular business.

Digital or Old School?

The first question you should ask when setting up a loyalty program is whether you want to integrate it with your existing restaurant technology or rely on more traditional methods record-keeping. In this regard, it’s more beneficial for restaurants to cater to modern customers with technological solutions.

Punch cards can be challenging to hold onto. No one wants to fill their wallet with even more of them, probably to forget about or struggle to find amidst the mess they never clean out. Physical cards are also easily lost and damaged, they’re difficult to keep track of, and if people forget them at home then they might choose to go somewhere else for dinner instead. It ultimately costs you money to replace cards, which is frustrating for guests when they end up losing the rewards points they had stored.

With digital loyalty programs, there’s no risk of loss. They’re ready to use so you don’t have to worry about missing out on business. Digital programs also give you access to invaluable customer data which your point of sale system can analyze to help track trends regarding when your regulars come in, what they order most often, and other details that you can use to figure out direct marketing strategies, which discounts and deals will work best at a certain time, and more.

Keep It Simple

People want a fast, easy way to spend their points. If your system is too convoluted, people will either opt out or simply not use it, which doesn’t lead to the anticipated ROI. The point is to get people to return to your business, so make it simple for them to do so: Accept all redemptions at any point during business hours to ensure that the greatest number of people use the program.


Staff should be equally knowledgeable about how the program works so that it runs smoothly no matter who’s working or when a customer wants to redeem their points. Employees should know when and how to offer the program, a script for if a guest refuses and what incentives they can contribute to rouse interest. For example, you might offer a discount on the current bill if a customer signs up on the spot.

Your staff should be just as knowledgeable about the technological aspect of loyalty programs. Train them on how to sign people up and redeem rewards, or else you risk hold-ups happening during peak hours and subsequently losing a lot of potential new members.


Advertise your program so customers know what perks are available and that you have a loyalty system in place at all. Getting the word out is the first step to garnering more customers. You can advertise it most effectively on your social media, but it doesn’t have to stop there: Put little informational cards on every table, incentive referrals by giving away bonuses for customers who get a friend to sign up, and join up with local businesses or influencers to cross-promote on each other’s platforms.

Greater Rewards

Just because it’s easy to use doesn’t mean that a loyalty program needs to be generic. You can add more incentives than a free appetizer or drink, especially by using that customer data that you’re able to garner via digital programs by forgoing punch cards. Offer a free dessert on their birthdays, add extra points to their account on certain holidays, make BOGO promotions, hold contests, and even host events at the restaurant that only cater to loyalty members. All of this can be promoted on your social media pages to add to the program’s exposure.

The important thing to remember when designing your loyalty program is to have fun with it. Be creative and design something truly unique that encompasses your brand identity.

Know Your Regulars

One of the upsides of designing loyalty programs is the ability to identify your regulars easily. People feel more valued by businesses that recognize them upon their return, and you can capitalize on the data you collect to offer them their favorite meal, reserve their favorite table, or send them special offers on their birthday. Value your regulars, and they’ll value you.

Reward programs are one of the best ways to guarantee that customers return to your restaurant and again. Use these tips to run and optimize a loyalty program that makes life better for you and your customers.


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