Loyalty programs used to be simple and straightforward. Get a punch card, buy 10 ice cream cones, get an 11th cone free. Times have changed…a lot, and that’s a good thing. Mobile payment systems offer a unique chance to gather data from our customers and use that data to deliver the best experience and turn those customers into longtime regulars.
When launching a new loyalty program, think about what you can implement easily into your current system to use for both your employees and your customers. Everyone is fighting for regular customers, so really think about what your restaurant can offer customers in exchange for their loyalty.
What is unique to you and your business? What do your customers want?
Loyalty programs don’t need to be solely about free stuff any more, but surprising your customers with one every now and then doesn’t hurt, especially in the beginning. When new customers sign up to participate, use the opportunity to gather as much data about them as you can, and use that data to give them a better experience. When is their birthday? When is their anniversary? Make sure you are their special occasion place by acknowledging that special occasion with a free dessert, glass of Prosecco, or the best table in the house. Send a special birthday email along with a coupon. Beyond special occasions, make their regular visits extra special. Review the data you have on them to see what they like to eat and drink. If you know they love to order Napa Valley Cabs, which mobile payments can also tell you, offer them a taste of a new bottle that you just added to the wine list.
Loyalty programs are not all about the stuff, they’re also about making your customers feel like they are part of a special club. Offer them exclusive access such as advance notice of special events or a chance to make a reservation to a special event before the general public. Think beyond the dining table and see if you can off a tour of the kitchen with the chef or a special baking class with the pastry chef. If you’re getting ready to switch your menu over to a new season, offer a small taste of a new dish the chef is working on.
Start to think of your regulars as free market research. Engage in conversations with them, and get their feedback. Train your servers to ask them questions about what they like or would like to see on the menu. Listen to them and pay attention. When they feel more personally invested in your business, they’ll be more likely to come in often and help be a part of that success. An open flow of conversation also helps turn them into your best advocates, who are talking about your business in their social circles when they’re not in your restaurant.
Remember to always think of your most loyal customers as a long term investment and not as a one time transaction. Each visit shouldn’t be thought of only as how big their bill will be, but how their entire experience has been and how your relationship can continue to grow.
If you would like to learn more about easily building a successful loyalty program for your restaurant check out Split, an innovative solution for restaurants that helps connect restaurants with their customers through mobile technology.
Writer Bio: Kristin Crane is a writer and designer living in Providence, Rhode Island. She works with small businesses to help them promote themselves in various industries including food, wine, and the arts. She also contributes as Travel Editor to The Lady Project blog.