Full-service restaurants face unique challenges when implementing a customer rewards program. Notably, they must consider a different set of criteria than their quick-service counterparts. Operators need to consider how their program will engage guests and how it will function within their operational environment.
Some key questions a restaurant should ask itself when launching a loyalty program are:
1. Is it visible? Even well-designed programs will underperform if customers do not know they exist. For full-service restaurants, this means getting the word out when guests come into the restaurant. Be bold and advertise your program with physical displays and signage. You may even consider introducing it to guests in your table greeting.
2. Is it accessible? The most effective loyalty programs are low-friction—they have very low barriers to participation. If customers have to jump through several hoops in order to join and participate, you may see underwhelming results. Make sure your program is designed to easily “onboard” new customers and encourages repeat interactions.
3. Is it usable? Once a guest has joined your loyalty program, you need to keep them engaged to drive results. Too often, loyalty programs are difficult and confusing to use. If your goal is to cultivate a strong loyalty relationship with your customers, then be smart and keep it simple. Best practice says to offer a straightforward currency format with clear rewards.
4. Is it meaningful? It may seem obvious, but the goal of a rewards program is to reward customers for their loyalty. Typically, loyalty members are also your best customers, so you should strive to offer meaningful benefits for participating. Try to avoid being stingy and instead use it as an opportunity to show customers how much you appreciate their business.
5. Is it efficient? This is one of the most overlooked aspects of many rewards programs. Your staff is busy and your customers have short attention spans. For a program to thrive, it should not create extra hassle for staff or consume more than a few seconds of a customer’s time. Make sure the process of using the program is streamlined for your restaurant.
An effective rewards program can deliver significant ROI, but the differences between successful programs and those that fall short are often subtle. This is why it is essential to get both the format and the formula right before investing considerable time and resources.
Developing a program in-house can be cost-prohibitive as well as risky if the program fails to meet expectations. Outside providers can provide guidance to ensure a loyalty program is effective. When evaluating an outside solution, be sure to consider how it measures up in each of the above areas. It might require some homework on your part to find a program that fits your and your customers’ needs.
Implementing a rewards program is an investment in your business. If done correctly, the payoff over time can be substantial. A rewards program should be part of a long-term strategy to enhance your marketing and increase your brand engagement. For best results, make sure your program dovetails with the rest of your restaurant’s marketing mix.
Will Orlewicz is the cofounder and c.e.o. of Jetti Systems, a provider of customer loyalty solutions to full-service restaurants.