Restaurant Reward Programs: Further Thoughts
Successful restaurant reward programs identify the customers and reward them based on their loyalty. And though many restaurant reward programs are card-based (Panera and Qdoba, to name a few), some consumers expressed dissatisfaction with the number of individual rewards cards they have to carry. Whether its an old-fashioned punch (or stamp) card or a credit-card style swipe system, the sheer number of cards being carried can be annoying to customers. So what’s an entrepreneurial restaurant owner to do?
Well, one option seems to be mobile-phone based programs. There are a number of options here, though none are quite perfect. They’re limited in terms of what information you, as the restaurant owner, can track, and they also offer an unintentionally discriminatory way to get rewards — what about loyal customers who aren’t attached to their phones, who don’t use check-in programs like Foursquare, etc.?
According to the literature I referenced in yesterday’s post, an attractive option can be linking your rewards program to customers’ credit card usage. Credit cards often come with their own reward programs, and many companies link to them for programs like frequent flyer miles. Only recently have credit card-linked programs had the technology necessary to make the information trackable for business owners and managers. Now that they are, the potential is there for savvy business owners to craft the ideal reward program for their business and customers, all with the convenience of no added card to carry.
That’s not to say that you have to go all high-tech. Regardless of what my research shows, I think there’s value in the old-fashioned punch or stamp card reward programs, especially for local or family-owned restaurants that already have high customer loyalty — many consumers are disenchanted with the big chains and eating more locally or patronizing their favorite local joint more frequently, and I think the added boost of a reward card can make loyal customers feel an even closer connection to your restaurant. My coffee-cart example from yesterday illustrates this, I think — it’s not that I bought more coffee to get the free ones, but I certainly bought more at the locations offering me rewards. So consider the best option for your business to implement a reward program and try it out. Your customers will love you for it.
I’ll be back with a new topic next week. Until then, contact us here.