15 Restaurant Loyalty Program Ideas Designed For the Modern Customer

Before social media and the pandemic, restaurant loyalty program ideas consisted of punch cards, one-size-fits-all deals (also known as “spray and pray” marketing), and sometimes using newer forms of technology to send emails, or apps.

Today, restaurants have had to implement major shifts in their business practices to deal with recent times. From going online to becoming take-out only, many restaurants even had to shut down.

What did the successful restaurants do? And why does it matter now that restaurants are open again for in-person customer interactions?

The bottom line: the modern customer wants a strong relationship with their favorite restaurant brands, and restaurants need guest loyalty – returning customers are essential to restaurants.

Customer expectations have changed as well as technology, which means you need to get creative when it comes to your restaurant’s loyalty program. Read on to learn how restaurants can use loyalty program ideas to get more guests who become raving fans.

Getting Customer Loyalty For Restaurants In 2022

When it comes to racking up a sizable loyal customer base in 2022, restaurants need to think about a few things. What if you could keep each individual customer excited from the first moment of interaction throughout their whole journey? Keep reading for ideas.

What is a restaurant loyalty program?

It may not be what you think. When you think of a restaurant loyalty program, there may be certain kinds that come to mind, like punch-cards and simple points programs.

But there’s so much more you can do with loyalty programs to get people excited about coming to your restaurant, especially when you employ the concepts of hyper-personalization and gamification, which are entirely possible by using data to give your customers exactly what they want from you – it’s basically customer service for the modern customer.

Gamification has proven to grow customer loyalty

Do restaurant loyalty programs work?

In short, yes, restaurant loyalty programs work. More than that, loyalty programs are a necessity for any restaurant that wants to succeed and grow in today’s food service economy.

How do loyalty programs help restaurants? Here are some ways loyalty programs help restaurant businesses and show that they do, indeed, work:

  • 69% of guests return to restaurants that have loyalty programs;
  • During most of 2020, the majority of restaurants’ loyalty profits were from their top 10% of members of their programs;
  • Loyalty programs enhance the guest experience and follow customers on their entire journey with your brand.

The good news is, it’s not difficult at all to design a loyalty program that works for your restaurant and customers by gaining access to data that informs your program and personalizing offers to guests.

With technology, you can add communication via email and text messages timed to when each customer typically visits to buy their favorite item, for instance, to make the ordering process easier.

Customers are excited about great loyalty reward programs.

Three Laws Of Loyalty

The main fears restaurant owners have when it comes to upping their loyalty program game include things like gathering customer data, sending emails and texts, and wondering if it’s worthwhile for their business to add a loyalty program.

The three laws of loyalty will turn your fears upside down:

  • People will exchange information for rewards

When people already buy from you (or even your competitors), 87% are willing to exchange access to some information in order to get those personalized offers.

For instance, if a customer typically comes into your smoothie shop on weekdays at 10am for their favorite smoothie, they don’t mind you knowing their info and tracking their visits if it means they’ll get a text some weekdays around 9 am giving them 15% of their smoothie that day.

  • Loyalty programs make people more likely to make repeat purchases from you

When guests know they’re getting rewards for their favorite items, it makes 75% of them more likely to make additional purchases beyond their reward redemptions, which increases your overall ROI.

  • People who use multiple brands like yours are more likely to become raving fans of your brand and be more exclusive to you

18% of people who go to both you and your competitors for similar products will switch to being more exclusive to your brand when you have a loyalty program that personalizes offers to them – which means you’ll get more repeat customers, more often, and more word-of-mouth sales.

 

Examples of successful restaurant loyalty program ideas

We all know and love loyalty programs at favorite restaurant brands like Chipotle, Chick-fil-a, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Domino’s.

A lot of these restaurants upped their loyalty program game during the pandemic to include personalization – Chipotle, for instance, surpassed Starbucks in its loyalty program revenue.

The personalization of loyalty programs at some companies like Starbucks, Netflix and Amazon has gone above and beyond most businesses, and in the past this wasn’t easily accessible.

Today, however, GoGoGuest, a restaurant loyalty program provider and so much more than that as well, has a platform that makes all of this both easy and affordable. It helps restaurants who are ready to scale increase opportunities and customer experiences. The best part is that it does everything in one place.

GoGoGuest uses data that it collects from all sources, including WiFi, POS, online ordering from your store and third-party vendors, and more to reach guests online, in store or wherever they are and to personalize offers.

The platform goes beyond basic personalization – which has relied on segments of customers versus purely individuals – to hyper-personalization, with predictive technology that allows offers to be sent in a timely manner, and that changes with your guests.

Let’s say a customer changes from always ordering a burger to ordering a burger and fries, or to ordering the chicken sandwich. Their offers will reflect that because the platform will pick up on those changes in real-time.

A graphic describing how restaurants can use data from different data sources for hyper personalization of guest offers and communication.

15 Ways Restaurant Loyalty Programs Deepen Guest Relationships

How, exactly, do restaurant loyalty programs connect with guests on a deep level, helping guests feel seen and known and making them become loyal to your brand? Here are 15 ways that the right loyalty program can make that kind of connection with your guests:

1. Loyalty programs make sure your focus is on customer service

Digital loyalty programs are actually trackable, meaning you’ll know when guests aren’t happy. You can track when they haven’t come to see you in a while and you can send them an offer saying you’ve missed them, or you can ask them about it in a poll.

The data your program gathers can also be used to inform restaurant decisions like menu offerings, upsells and cross-sells so you can always put your guests at the forefront of your decisions.

2. Create exclusivity

Using exclusivity can bring you more business without sending too many discounts, and turn your loyal customers into raving fans of your brand. How? It’s human psychology.

People simply love feeling special, and for your guests who bring in the most value, you can return the favor by offering them access to higher tiers or exclusive offers, such as early access to new food items or products, for instance.

Exclusivity adds to the perceived value of your brand and offerings, as well – the more you create engagement and experience that is personalized and matches the value people give you, the more they’ll value you.

3. Increases visit frequency from split customers

Almost 20% of guests who are loyal to both you and other brands will switch to being more loyal to you when you give them more perks.

Sending people personalized offers shows you know them best, and gives them more reasons to buy from you because there’s mutual appreciation. They’ll know you value your relationship with them on an individual level – and who doesn’t want that?

4. They meet guests where they are - in the digital space

Going digital means a lot of things. Using the digital space to build your restaurant loyalty programs includes more than one avenue, but here’s one fact that can tell you why it’s worthwhile:

Mobile pay users are now more frequent visitors to restaurants overall, which means using technology to reach guests is now more important than ever.

GoGoGuest is a digital platform, which means you don’t have to know much about technology to meet your consumers in the digital world. GoGoGuest gathers the data from digital (and in-person) spaces, then organizes it for you to understand so you can use it to manage your loyalty program, email, SMS marketing and more, all in one place.

This is important because the same data is used to create customer profiles that inform what you’re sending your guests, which can all be tracked in one place. This can also keep you from sending wrong information or getting overwhelmed with the data.

5. Loyalty programs show you appreciate guests’ every purchase and visit

Going digital with your loyalty program means you can track when guests come into your store, when they order online and even when they interact with your brand on social media or open an email.

You can then send tailored emails or SMS messages based on those actions. If a customer writes you a negative review online, you can quickly catch that and make up for it by sending them a “We’re sorry” offer with a free item or special discount, for instance.

You can also have a loyalty program that lets people level up as they buy certain items or spend more, adding to the amount of rewards they have access to the more they spend or visit.

6. They’re easy to use

When you use a data platform that integrates with all systems, changes when customers do, and keeps track of everything for you, it’s easy to create a loyalty program that’s interesting for customers, that you can easily change to keep guests from losing interest.

It’s also easy for guests to take part in restaurant loyalty programs with easy sign-ups, because the digital platform can track their info (with their permission, of course), so it takes little effort from them – just an easy sign-up and the next thing they know, they get a text with a welcome discount!

7.They give highly personalized brand experiences

Ah, the power of personalization – it’s taking the world by storm. Instead of a simple punch-card mentality, or “spray-and-pray” marketing that sends the same offers to all your guests, you can now personalize offers to each guest based on their spending and visiting patterns.

All this information is trackable (with their permission) and goes toward sending them offers they’ll be excited to use, plus giving them perks like badges they can earn that add more perceived value.

More than ever, people want experiences. They also expect personalization, so traditional advertising methods no longer work. People are sick of seeing ads, and also the digital relationship has replaced personal relationships in many circumstances. However, smart brands are using digital information to improve in-person interactions.

8.When employees understand the program, they can connect with guests more

Your employees can be trained to use information about a guest to create a personalized interaction with them both in store and online. This can look like:

  • Greeting guests by name
  • Offering guests their usual order before they tell you what they want
  • Offering a discount on an upsell specifically for them, that day
  • Using the same information for online chatting on orders

Training employees to understand the loyalty program lets them answer questions effectively, help people with issues in apps or online, and to problem solve in the moment, all of which make for happier customers and increase your ROI.

9.You can personalize more to guests the more loyalty they have with you

They’re called “rewards” for a reason: you’re rewarding guests more often, the more they buy from you. That’s why certain kinds of rewards programs, like tiered ones for instance, are valuable; they allow guests to level up the more they visit and spend.

The more information you have about guests, the more you can hyper-personalize offers to them and create that exclusivity they crave. You get more information each time a person visits and buys from you, or when they participate in surveys, write reviews or interact with your brand on social media.

Restaurant loyalty programs allow you to offer opportunities and incentives to get more engagement in these ways, plus it gives you the platform to hyper-personalize offers at the same time.

10. Programs know to change it up when guests do

With loyalty programs that are connected to your data and systems (POS, WiFi, online ordering channels and more), you can be flexible. This means you can change up your program when:

  • Guests change their habits and visit frequency
  • Guests are getting bored
  • You change your business plan
  • You just want to create more interest and attract new guests
  • The competition is doing something new and you want to do better to compete
  • Something isn’t working, or you just want to test and see if a change can improve your ROI

11. They allow you to have a cross-channel guest engagement strategy

That data you’re collecting for your loyalty program? It can be used for all kinds of outreach and engagement strategies, from social media to emails, to menu options online versus in-store, to SMS marketing and ads strategy.

12. Focus on highlighting products and services unique to your brand

Have something that differentiates you and makes you stand out? Highlight it and make sure your guests know. Your loyalty program can help get the word out and promote new items, or under-appreciated items, with personalized offers.

Or, if you add a service like a new online ordering or delivery app, you can make it known to the guests who love you most, and even get them to switch over to your app from third-party apps.

13. Create more ways to know what your guests love and leave

You can also use the same data that informs your loyalty program to let you know:

  • Which food items are costing you more than what they’re worth
  • Which dishes aren’t selling enough
  • Reduce waste based on what’s not getting consumed enough
  • What your most profitable items are
  • What your most under-rated items are, that you can promote and make more profitable
  • Which items are popular, but not profitable, so you can increase ROI all around by making changes to your overall business

14. Give communication opportunities with guests that impact other areas of the relationship to your brand

Make sure your guests don’t just get one-way communication with you – otherwise, it’s not really a guest relationship, is it?

You can give guests the opportunity to:

  • Chat online with your brand or email you and get a personal response
  • Fill out polls and surveys to know more about what they like, in exchange for something of value like a giveaway entry
  • Social media interactions with questions and contests
  • The ability to send testimonials and be interviewed
  • The opportunity to help decide new menu items and products you’re selling

An exclusive opportunity example here would be to send your most loyal guests a survey, and let them know they’re one of the few being asked, and that in exchange for completing the survey you’re offering them 50% off their favorite burger on their next visit.

15. You can test which offers work for each guest - and keep growing

A data platform that’s flexible gives you the opportunity to tweak your program as you learn more about what works for your guests.

Maybe you have something that’s working fine, but could be better – you can easily test new ideas to see where you can make improvements, which will make for happier guests and more ROI for you.

The Most Successful Restaurant Loyalty Program Ideas

What are the 3 types of loyalty programs? There are multiple ways to do a loyalty program, but the main thing you want is to find one that fits your brand and your guests, plus allows you to personalize offers and communication. Here’s a list of the three main categories of loyalty programs for restaurants, to give you ideas for what’s possible: new ideas to see where you can make improvements, which will make for happier guests and more ROI for you.

Earn and burn programs

This type of program is a popular favorite of many restaurants, and is a points-for-dollar loyalty program that allows people to simply get points based on their monetary spend, like a digital punch card. However, it’s much more than that because you can personalize offers to specific guests.

It allows for leveling up in the program, incentivizing guests to get to the next level to earn more rewards.

You can offer high-value customers rewards in-the-moment based on trackable information, and you can change up the program every so often to see what works best.

Tiered Programs

Tiered programs are like they sound; they’re organized to be like a quest and to create exclusivity for guests. When customers spend more or visit more often, they can achieve access to higher “tiers” of the program, in which they’ll earn more per spend, get more exclusive offers and more perks. They also have to maintain their higher status by keeping up their visits and spending.

You can use this program to offer guests more personalized brand experiences. This program can also be flexible, and you can change it every so often to create new excitement and increased interest, plus to test and see what works best for your brand and customers.

Perks Programs

The perks program is an equal-for-all program where you send the same types of offers to everyone. This can be used for cross-channel engagement as well, and it allows you to focus on promoting the specific products you want to promote to your guests.

This program can also be changed every so often to see what works for you, and is great for restaurant brands starting out with loyalty programs.

more per spend, get more exclusive offers and more perks. They also have to maintain their higher status by keeping up their visits and spending.

You can use this program to offer guests more personalized brand experiences. This program can also be flexible, and you can change it every so often to create new excitement and increased interest, plus to test and see what works best for your brand and customers.

Recap: 15 Ways Restaurant Loyalty Programs Deepen Guest Relationships

The data is clear – restaurant brands that use their data for personalized guest loyalty programs are winning in today’s digital environment through strengthened guest relationship experiences.

Whether your restaurant is full-service or fine dining, fast casual or quick-service, bar or taproom, food truck or something else, all food service brands can benefit from a loyalty program that helps them get to know their guests on a personal level.

 

In today’s digital world, we have to be more personal, and data can help – why not use it to make our lives better?

GoGoGuest is a digital platform made exclusively for the restaurant industry that can help you start gathering your data, creating your perfect loyalty program with its restaurant loyalty program software, and getting you more repeat guests today, without you having to pay for an expensive data scientist or multiple services. It integrates with your existing software and programs to let you do what you want, and to harness the power of data.

Schedule a free assessment to see how GoGoGuest can help your loyalty program reach your guests on a deep level today. Book a demo.

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