The importance of strengthening restaurant loyalty programs during the pandemic

Published February 17, 2021

Going the extra mile to win over customers is nothing new to restaurant owners and operators. And during the pandemic—when consumers are dining out and socializing less—it’s even more important to nourish the customer relationship. 

That’s why a stellar loyalty program can be a restaurant operator’s best friend to help bridge the gap with their customers. And, personalizing customer experiences is an effective a way to enhance interactions (however distantly) and create positive experiences that leave lasting impressions on customers. Here are some tips to help.

A customer data platform for personalization


Knowing how to best engage your customers begins at the back end by collecting information on their interests, preferences and habits. By using a customer data platform (CDP)—a software that integrates data from a variety of sources, such as POS systems, online ordering and more—you can build more robust customer profiles.

Your CDP can include customer relationship management and data management platforms (DMP), web forms, social media activity and e-commerce data. With the use of the intelligence it gathers, you can better understand your customers to create more personalized loyalty, offers and interactions.

It's not just about the freebies


It’s important to realize that when it comes to offering rewards, you need to create personalized interactions that go beyond earning free items and services. Yes, your customers like discounts and savings (and they do value them), but when a personal touch is involved that’s even better. And maybe you already offer them a free meal or menu item on their birthday—what about going further and giving them something on an important anniversary, perhaps the very first day they ordered from your restaurant? Getting more personal is a good way to connect and gain loyalty—and technology can help.

Artificial intelligence tools can collect data you can use to tailor promotions to each customer. For example, knowing the specific item a customer has ordered can assist you with providing promotions. It’s just the kind of customization that can help you engage with customers in new and effective ways.

The ABC’s of engagement


A. Ascertain why they like your program. To foster a deeper relationship with your customers, it’s important to know what’s driving them to regularly use your loyalty program. Among other things, that might include rewarding their loyalty after each visit. For example, when a reward is earned you can apply real-time promotions related to how they earned it right on your POS, automatically.

B. Basic is better. Offering a rewards program that is easy to understand and use may also encourage your customers to get on board with it and your brand.

Easy-to-understand approaches include:

  • Frequency-based: earning credits based on the number of visits
  • Items-based: earning credits based on the items they purchase
  • Lottery-based: a sweepstakes-style plan that surprises your customers with a reward
  • Points-based: earning points for every dollar (or a particular amount) they spend
  • Smart rewards-based: historical data determines which customers receive a reward.

Whichever plan you choose, your customers will respond well if the program is intuitive and easy to grasp.

C. Choices, Choices, Choices. Similar to having options for the type of program they prefer, customers love choices, and that includes redemption options. They can choose between full redemption, partial redemption that includes giving change back to them, partial redemption with no change back, and partial redemption with a balance on their reward app. And making sure they can access your program with a mobile device is a smart idea, because your customers are increasingly online.

Strategies that target what they value


During a pandemic, it’s more important than ever to be in tune with your customers’ needs and preferences. So, it’s critical to be open to your customer’s feedback. You likely know all too well that there’s a direct correlation between happy and unhappy customers and your bottom line. Therefore, it’s important to fix any problems customers have or that they identify before they spread negative feedback (whether that’s online or by sharing with their family and friends).

To find out what’s keeping your customers from becoming fans of your loyalty program and receive referrals from the most loyal customers click here.

This post was originally published on Restaurant Business Online. Find it here.

Need more information?