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Musings on the Foodservice Industry

Use Loyalty Programs to Build Your Success

Loyalty programs have been around forever.  We recall in our youth going to our favorite sub sandwich joint and collecting one of those punch cards that offered a free sub after 10 purchases.  The only thing is did we remember to use the card when we returned?  Could we even find it?

Today’s loyalty programs are far more sophisticated and easier to use.  They are tied to every bit of your technology and social media marketing so there are no physical cards to lose or forget.

The most successful loyalty program on the planet, My Starbucks®, allows customers to load cash on the card in addition to gaining “stars” for each purchase.  The process makes it seem as if their drinks are free when they redeem credits.  When customers register, they immediately gain a free “Birthday Beverage.”

Wherever there is a restaurant these days, there is a program: Customers at TGI Fridays get to rate menu items, Outback Steakhouse gives out memorabilia, Menchie’s yogurt chain has 3.2 million members in its mySmileage campaign, Zoe’s Kitchen ties its program to life goals and eating right.  And the list goes on.

There are a number of reasons to create a loyalty program including driving same day sales, celebrating birthdays, mobileencouraging repeat visits, and consolidating social media and in-store promotions.  Your POS system should allow you to integrate Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and other platforms so you can connect with guests in a variety of forums in order to build personal and brand recognition.

Similarly, your online ordering program should be tied to your loyalty program so that the more times customers order from a computer or smartphone, they earn credits or some sort of a benefit.

When choosing the right program for your restaurant, consider these factors:

  1. Multiple features – Your system should be able to integrate your program with newsletters, marketing lists and email campaigns.
  2. Rewards and Promotions – An effective program will be hassle-free and be tailored to your type of cuisine and demographic. It should help provide a unique experience through favorite dishes, discounts and events. Be creative and specific with your promotions to encourage repeat customers.
  3. Fun Factor – Everyone loves a good game. Turn trivia, skill games, culinary knowledge and sports contests into points and future discounts as a way to win customers.

Stay committed to your goals, train your staff and promote your loyalty program across the board and ultimately you and your customers will be winners.

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